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Sylvan Sounds: Freer, Dewing, and Japan
May 28, 2013 - May 28, 2014
Museum founder Charles Lang Freer’s taste for Japanese art grew out of his affection for American tonalist paintings. Illuminating this connection, landscapes by American artist Thomas Dewing (1851–1938) are juxtaposed with Japanese works that Freer acquired in the late 1890s, just after his first tour of Asia. On view are such Edo-period works as Moon over a Moor alongside Dewing’s paintings, including The Four Sylvan Sounds. Freer’s idealized notions of “old Japan” paralleled the nostalgic, pastoral aestheticism of Dewing’s atmospheric landscapes. Dewing often acted as Freer’s buying agent at the New York branch of Yamanaka and Company, helping his patron select Japanese prints, hanging scrolls, and screens that both reflected and affected his own artistic production.
Old Tales Retold: Chinese Narrative Painting
Now - October 20, 2013
More than 20 paintings relay lively stories about famous people and events in Chinese history. The primary intent behind many of the paintings was to promote certain Confucian moral principles and ideals. Consequently, these works often focus on individuals who exhibited positive character traits in their lives, such as humility, loyalty, studiousness, or dedication to the greater good, and who are recognized as paragons of virtue or exemplars of ethical behavior. Along the way, viewers meet emperors and kings, officials, scholars, philosophers, and sages and become acquainted with the particular incidents, acts, or encounters that illustrate their especially admired personal qualities. Many of the stories present unexpected insights into both the particular values espoused by traditional Chinese culture and the universality of human experience.
Poetic License: Making Old Words New
Now - August 4, 2013
Poetric License shows how the interpretation of classical Japanese and Chinese literary traditions, previously the domain of an educated aristocracy, was absorbed into the merchant and artisan classes during the Edo period, producing energetic reconsiderations of time-honored themes.
Now - August 4, 2013
Edo Aviary traces how depictions of birds, long part of the Japanese visual repertoire, were influenced by natural history painting in the Edo period. Great attention was given to physical accuracy, but the tendency to give birds anthropomorphic qualities also came to the fore.
Promise of Paradise: Early Chinese Buddhist Sculpture
The Freer's collection of stone and gilt bronze Buddhist sculptures highlights two flourishing ages, the 6th century and the High Tang (6th-8th century). The exhibition's focus is the monumental Cosmological Buddha: a life-size stone sculpture covered in intricate representations of the realms of existence, ranging from hell to the abodes of the devas (Buddhist gods).
Whistler's Neighborhood: Impressions of a Changing London
Now - September 8, 2013
James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) lived in London’s Chelsea neighborhood from 1863 until his death. Bordering the Thames, Chelsea was home to artists, aristocrats, tradesmen, and paupers. In the 1880s, a period of great social and topographic upheaval in Chelsea, Whistler depicted the storefronts and street life outside his door. Historic buildings were razed and replaced by mansions for the upper class, forcing the poor into squalid conditions. The diminutive etchings in Whistler’s Neighborhood, which also features watercolors and small oil paintings, underscore the immediacy of the artist’s quick impressions of his evolving neighborhood. Together, the works form a time capsule of a rapidly changing city
Silk Road Luxuries from China
A vast network of caravan trails has long linked the oasis settlements spread across the Central Asian desert. For nearly two millennia these trade routes, now collectively known as the Silk Road, facilitated the spread of Buddhism and provided a course for the long-distance exchange of luxury goods between merchants and traders in China and the West. The impact of foreign imports on the arts of China is particularly apparent in objects dating from the 6th century through 8th century, when Chinese artisans explored new materials (e.g., silver and gold), techniques, forms, and decorative patterns. Exceptional examples of objects and tableware -- most made in the vicinity of the Tang capital at Chang'an (modern Xi'an) -- are featured. In addition, on view are portions of an elaborate stone burial couch that was apparently made for the tomb of one of the traders from Sogdiana (modern-day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan).
Chinese Ceramics: 10th-13th Century
Potters in both north and south China perfected the skills needed to control and modulate ceramic glazes—in shades of white, green, blue, brown, and black—during the Song dynasty (960–1279). In some modes, the glaze complemented carved or incised decoration; in others, its purity of color became a focal point on its own. Two dozen Chinese ceramics from the Freer collection highlight these glazes and the skills of Song dynasty artisans.
Cranes and Clouds: The Korean Art of Ceramic Inlay
The Korean Gallery features an exhibition embodying the evolution of the distinctive Korean ceramic decoration know as sanggam. Originally, sanggam involved inlaying white and black pigments into stamped or carved motifs to create images of cranes, clouds, ducks, lotuses, and willows that appear to float within a limpid green glaze. This technique appeared in Korea by the mid-12th century; it would adorn tableware and ritual vessels used by the court and nobility for two centuries. Once porcelain replaced celadon as the elite ceramic, however, the appearance of inlaid decoration changed radically. White pigment, applied in dense patterns to cover everyday bowls and dishes, approximated the snowy appearance of porcelain.
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The Peacock Room Comes to America
Peacock Room, Gallery 12
For the first time, the Freer Gallery's renowned Peacock Room has been restored to its appearance in 1908, when museum founder Charles Lang Freer used it to organize and display more than 250 ceramics from all over Asia. The first special exhibition in this room since its conservation in 1993, The Peacock Room Comes to America highlights Freer's belief in "points of contact" between American and Asian art and underscores the relationship among the museum's diverse collections. Note: Starting August 18, 2011, the shutters in the Peacock Room will open from 12 noon until 5:30 PM on the 3rd Thursday of every month to December 2015.
Originally designed by architect Thomas Jeckyll, the Peacock Room was once the dining room for British shipping magnate Frederick Leyland, who wanted a place to showcase his blue-and-white Chinese porcelain collection in his London home. When American artist James McNeill Whistler redecorated the room in 1876 as a "harmony in blue and gold," he too was inspired by the delicate patterns and vivid colors of the pots. Their slick surfaces did not appeal to Freer, however, who favored complex surface texture and subtly toned glazes. When Freer purchased the Peacock Room in 1904 and moved it from London to Detroit, he filled the shelves with pots he had collected from countries as diverse as Egypt, Iran, Japan, China, and Korea. Freer's ceramics are absorbing individually and as part of the full installation, which he thoughtfully designed to form a harmonized whole. After Freer's death (1854-1919), the Peacock Room was installed in the Freer Gallery of Art and is on permanent display.
Catalog: The Peacock Room Comes to America
Ancient Chinese Jades and Bronzes
Galleries 18 & 19
More than 100 of the Freer's jades and bronzes -- among the greatest treasures of Chinese art outside China -- return to public view after almost a decade. Featured are 80 astounding objects illustrating the remarkable jade production of the Liangzhu culture (ca. 3300-2250 BCE) and its influence on other Chinese Neolithic and Bronze Age civilizations. Also highlighted are powerful animal motifs and forms featured on some 40 ritual vessels, as well as fittings from the late Shang dynasty (ca. 1300-1050 BCE) to the early Western Zhou dynasty (ca. 1050-900 BCE).
Arts of the Indian Subcontinent and the Himalayas
Galleries 1 & 2
This long-term rotating exhibition showcases the extraordinary range of South Asian and Himalayan art, including sublimely beautiful Buddhist, Jain, Hindu, and Islamic objects, as well as masterpieces of Mughal and Rajput paintings and lavishly decorated court arts and daggers made for the Mughal emperors. Divided into several sections, the Buddhist art charts the emergence of the Buddha image in India and its transmission throughout Asia. It includes Budhhist images from Nepal, Tibet, Southeast Asia, and China. Also on view are several Rajput paintings on the theme of love, which demonstrate the bold colors and rhythmic compositions of the Hindu court. Late 19th- to early 20th-century examples of exquisitely crafted gold jewelry complete the exhibition.
The Religious Art of Japan
Works from the Freer's collection of Japanese religious art are exhibited in several thematic rotations. Buddhist iconography was first introduced to Japan from the Asian mainland in the 6th century. The complex belief systems and sacred cosmologies of diverse Buddhist sects have since continued to find expression in Japanese art. Internationally noted works of Buddhist sculpture on view include delightfully animated representations of the Guardians of the Four Directions and a serenely poised image of a bodhisattva. A group of masks used in temple dance rituals and a selection of paintings created by monk artists for Zen Buddhist temples are also on display.
Arts of the Islamic World
Galleries 3 & 4
The arts of the Islamic world flourished in a vast geographic area extending from Morocco and Spain to the islands of Southeast Asia. Although distinct in their cultural, artistic, ethnic, and linguistic identities, the people of this region have shared one predominant faith, Islam. The works on view here represent the three principal media for artistic expression in the Islamic world: architecture (both religious and secular), the arts of the book (calligraphy, illustration, illumination, and bookbinding), and the arts of the object (ceramics, metalwork, glass, woodwork, textiles, and ivory).
The works date from the 9th century to the 17th century. On view are brass bowls and candlesticks, folios from the Koran, earthenware and ceramics, and paintings representing the traditions of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and other parts of North Africa, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan.
This permanent rotating exhibition features a selection of Japanese screens from the nearly 200 screens held by the Freer Gallery. Ranging in date from the 15th century to the 19th century, the screens represent the major thematic and stylistic examples of this popular format. Works from the collection feature detailed representations of daily life, in forms ranging from visual quotations from classical literature to celebratory depictions of bustling urban life of the 17th century.
Outdoor Sculpture: Twisted Form by Shiro Hayami
Outdoors near Jefferson Drive entrance
Twisted Form (Traveler's Guardian Spirit), 1981, an Agi stone and Peruvian granite sculpture by Shiro Hayami.
North corridor at northwest and northeast corners (Jefferson Drive entrance):
• Two huge Kongorikishi (also known as Ni-o) warriors: Japan, Kamakura period, early 14th century, wood
Inside south doors (near Independence Avenue entrance):
• Vimalakirti: A huge 6th-century stone Buddhist sculpture: China, from the Binyang cave at the Longmen Grottoes in Henan Province
Korean Tea Bowls for Japan
Tea bowls made in Korea—known in Japan as koraijawan—were the implements of choice in the avant-garde tea ceremony known as wabicha. Translated as “poverty tea” or “rustic tea,” wabicha arose in the 16th century, in part as a reaction to the ostentatious displays of brown- or celadon-glazed Chinese bowls seen in earlier presentations. Wabicha participants instead were drawn to the subdued glazes and relaxed forms of Korean bowls. Initially they were imported tablewares, but they were soon made to order for Japanese taste. From 1639 to 1717, a kiln operated within the Japanese enclave in Busan, with a second source of order-made tea wares identified recently at Beopgi-ri in Korea. Though Korean kilns could no longer compete with Japanese potteries in the difficult economic climate of the early 18th century, Korean styles continued to be mainstays of Japanese kilns.