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Charles Lang Freer


Charles Lang Freer made his fortune in the railroad car manufacturing industry in the mid to late nineteenth century. His interest in the Aesthetic Movement helped to shape his tastes in art, and in the late 1880s, Freer began to actively collect paintings and works on paper by James McNeill Whistler. Freer would collect more than one thousand works by Whistler, who, through his own interest in the arts and cultures of Asia, turned Freer's attention East. Whistler introduced Freer to the arts of Asia, and by 1906, Freer had amassed a considerable amount of paintings and ceramics from Japan and China, and artifacts from the ancient Near East.

Charles Lang Freer knew exactly what his art gallery should look like. In fact, in a meeting with architect Charles Platt at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, Freer jotted down his ideas for a classical, well-proportioned building on a napkin. An Italianate structure with a porticoed courtyard would reflect his ideas about art and aesthetics, including scale, proportion, harmony and repose. When the building opened to the public and until the 1970s, live peacocks roamed the courtyard, creating, in effect, a living peacock room to rival the painted masterpiece by James McNeill Whistler.

Freer Gallery Closure

From January 2015 through 2016, the collections storage areas of the Freer Gallery of Art will be unavailable for research or visits due to the replacement of the building’s heating, humidification, and ventilation systems. Throughout 2016 the Freer’s galleries and Meyer Auditorium will be closed to visitors. Concerts, films, and other public programs will be held at sites around the Smithsonian.

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Library, and Archives will remain open during this period.

Contact with inquiries

Collections access: duleyel@si.edu

Public programs: publicaffairsasia@si.edu

Scholarly research: micklewrightn@si.edu

Media inquiries: pressasia@si.edu



Freer Gallery of Art

History and building
Charles Lang Freer

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

History and building
Arthur M. Sackler, Collector


Freer Gallery Closure

Please note: The collections storage areas of the Freer Gallery of Art will be closed in 2015 and 2016. The museum itself will be closed to the public in 2016. Learn more.