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Charles Lang Freer was a self-made millionaire and a self-taught aesthete. After amassing his initial fortune in the manufacture of railroad cars, Freer began to acquire art in the mid-1880s. Like other novice collectors of the day, he started by purchasing moderately priced engravings by living artists, quickly focusing on works by Whistler. Freer made his first trip outside the United States in 1890, traveling to London where he introduced himself to Whistler. This meeting changed Freer's life. Twenty years older than Freer, Whistler had been one of the first westerners to collect Japanese woodblock prints and Chinese blue-and-white porcelain. By the early 1860s, he had begun to incorporate Asian motifs and designs into his work. In later years, Freer recalled that it was Whistler who first "called his attention"Charles Lang Freer, as quoted in Agnes E. Meyer, Charles Lang Freer and His Gallery Washington D.C.: Freer Gallery of Art, 1970, 5 to the arts of Asia, and encouraged him to collect masterpieces of earlier Japanese and Chinese art not yet being exported to Europe or the United States. From 1890 until his death, Freer actively collected both contemporary American and older Asian art. Indeed, Freer soon came to believe that Whistler's work marked the point where the two previously separate traditions merged. For Freer, Whistler stood at the vanguard of the history of art, uniting "the art of the Occident with that of the Orient."Charles Lang Freer to John Gellatly, March 30, 1904. Charles Lang Freer Papers, Freer Gallery of Art, Archives.

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Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony
Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony
by James McNeill Whistler (American, 1834–1903)
Oil on panel
61.4 x 48.8 cm (24 1/4 x 19 1/4 in.)
Gift of Charles Lang Freer    F1892.23
The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art
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