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Sackler Gallery Welcomes “An American in London: Whistler and the Thames” with Sneak Preview Open House May 2

Other Free Public Programs Include Film Series, Curator Tours and ImaginAsia “London Nights” Family Workshop

MEDIA ONLY: Allison Peck, 202.633.0447, Press Asia

ONLINE: asia.si.edu/press
@FreerSackler, #americaninlondon

MEDIA PREVIEW: Wednesday, April 30; 10 a.m. RSVP to Press Asia

April 8, 2014

“An American in London: Whistler and the Thames,” on view May 3–Aug. 17 at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, is the first major exhibition ever devoted to American artist James McNeill Whistler’s early period in London, and it is the largest U.S. display of his work in almost 20 years. To celebrate this unprecedented experience, the museum and adjacent Freer Gallery of Art will host an evening open house Friday, May 2, offering visitors a sneak preview of the exhibition and the opportunity to step into Whistler’s London.

“To Whistler, nighttime in the city was a source of endless artistic inspiration, culminating in his famous Nocturnes,” said Lee Glazer, associate curator of American art at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. “Experiencing the galleries and the art during the evening will be magical for our visitors as well.”

From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., the garden, gallery and courtyard spaces of the Sackler and Freer galleries will remain open, embracing the moody dusk and nighttime atmosphere that Whistler treasured. Visitors can don a dandy-worthy hat and moustache, listen to music of the period, mingle with the exhibition’s curators and take in scenes by Victorian playwrights performed by local favorite The British Players. At 8:30 p.m., they can enjoy a screening of Night and the City, a London-based film noir that kicks off the museum’s Cinema Nocturnes series featuring films set at night.

“An American in London” showcases changing views of the capital city’s iconic riverbanks and waterways, revealing how Whistler emerged as one of the most innovative and original artists of the 19th century while London evolved into a modern city. The exhibition is joined by the related “Kiyochika: Master of the Night,” on view through July 27, which showcases startling views of late-19th-century Tokyo by Japanese woodblock printmaker Kobayashi Kiyochika.

Other public programs include curator lectures, a webinar about the significance of the night in art and a family art workshop where kids create their own London nightscapes.
A full listing of events follows; click here for the latest updates.

Special Event

City Nights Open House
Open house, Friday, May 2; 5:30–8:30 p.m.
Film screening, Night and the City, 8:30 p.m.

Visitors can experience the modern city in its best light: at night. The Freer and Sackler galleries stay open late to showcase major exhibitions of works by Whistler and Kiyochika, two artists who focused on London and Tokyo at night. They can mingle with the curators of “An American in London: Whistler and the Thames” and “Kiyochika: Master of the Night,” don a dandy-worthy hat and moustache, listen to music from the period and stroll through the urban world of the mid-19th century. Then, they can kick off the museum’s Cinema Nocturnes film series with a screening of London-based film noir Night and the City. The second City Nights Open House will be held Friday, July 25.

Lectures and Tours

Curator lecture: Whistler, London, and the Thames
Sunday, May 4; 1 p.m.
Join Margaret MacDonald and Patricia De Montfort, curators of “An American in London,” as they follow Whistler’s explorations of changes in Victorian London and the development of his style.

Curator tour: An American in London: Whistler and the Thames
Tuesday, May 6; 12:15 p.m.
Curators of “An American in London” discuss how Whistler, an American expatriate, made London his own, navigating the evolving urban environment and mapping out new ways of depicting it.

Webinar: Whistler and Kiyochika: Modernity, Melancholy, and the Nocturne
Wednesday, May 14; 8–9:30 p.m.
This interactive webinar explores the significance of night, light and city landmarks in the London subjects of American expatriate artist James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) and the Tokyo imagery of his Japanese contemporary Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847–1915). Supported by a grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art. Advance registration is required.

Tour: An American in London
Starts Sunday, May 10; click here for full tour schedule.

Whistler (1834–1903) arrived in London in 1859 and discovered in its neighborhoods and inhabitants an inexhaustible source of aesthetic inspiration. His images of the city created over the next two decades represent one of his most successful and profound assaults on the contemporary art establishment.

In the Sackler’s first major Whistler exhibition, more than 70 works—paintings of famed London sites in Chelsea and along the Thames River, as well as prints and rarely seen drawings, watercolors and pastels—present a captivating survey of the artist’s unique depictions of a rapidly changing urban environment. The exhibition culminates with some of Whistler’s stunning, iconic nocturnes, including Blue and Gold—Old Battersea Bridge (1872–77).

Tour: Whistler’s London and Kiyochika’s Tokyo
Starts Monday, May 12; click here for full tour schedule.

On Sept. 3, 1868, the city of Edo ceased to exist. Renamed Tokyo (Eastern Capital) by Japan’s new rulers, the city exemplified the nation’s drive toward modernization. Railroads, steamships, gaslights, telegraph lines and large brick buildings radically changed the cityscape. Kiyochika set out to record his views of Tokyo in a series of 93 woodblock prints.

The modern urban scene was also the chosen subject of Whistler. When the young American artist arrived in London in 1859, urban modernization was already well underway. For the next 20 years he explored new ways of seeing the city and the river Thames, and in the process he developed a balance between realism and abstraction that presages the advent of modernism.

As seen in “Kiyochika: Master of the Night” and “An American in London: Whistler and the Thames,” these Japanese and American artists expressed common themes and concerns in their artworks. Kiyochika, a painter and printmaker, excelled at atmospheric, moody images of Tokyo after dark, while Whistler adapted his approach to reflect a new and shifting reality.

Tour: Whistler and the Peacock Room
Thursday, May 15; 2:15 p.m.
Visitors can hear the story of Whistler’s controversial decoration of the Peacock Room, originally in the London home of shipping magnate Frederick R. Leyland, and explore other works by Whistler in the Freer’s American art galleries, and find out how he influenced Charles Lang Freer’s aesthetic sensibility.

Film Series

Here Comes the Night: Cinema Nocturnes
This series explores how filmmakers have been inspired to create visions of cities at night, much like the scenes featured in “Kiyochika: An American in London” and “An American in London: Whistler and the Thames.”

Night and the City
Friday, May 2; 8:30 p.m.
An American grifter prowls the London night in this classic noir film. He becomes a wrestling promoter to earn cash—but the gangster in charge proves more dangerous than expected. Held in conjunction with the City Nights Open House. (Dir.: Jules Dassin, United Kingdom, 1950, 96 min., B&W, D-Cinema)

Lost in Translation
Sunday, May 4; 2 p.m.
Abandoned in a Tokyo hotel by her aloof husband, Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) befriends Bob (Bill Murray), an American actor. A moving and funny relationship develops between these two lonely people as they wander the city. Intended for mature audiences. (Dir.: Sofia Coppola, United States, 2003, 101 min., 35mm)

Friday Night
Sunday, May 11; 1 p.m.
A young woman is stuck in gridlock on her way to dinner. After offering a ride to a handsome stranger, she ditches her plans and embarks on an all-night adventure with him. Intended for mature audiences. (Dir.: Claire Denis, France, 2002, 90 min., 35mm, French with English subtitles)

Night and Day
Sunday, May 11; 3 p.m.
A young couple moves to Paris. While he drives a cab at night, she wanders the city, infatuated with its nocturnal wonders—until she meets and falls for another man. Intended for mature audiences. (Dir.: Chantal Akerman, France, 1991, 92 min., 35mm, French with English subtitles)

Friday, May 16; 7 p.m.
A rogue on the run shows up unannounced at a friend’s London apartment, seduces and abandons her roommate and roams the city seeking stimulation for his addled brain. Intended for mature audiences. (Dir.: Mike Leigh, United Kingdom, 1993, 131 min., 35mm)

Two Men in Manhattan
Sunday, June 1; 1 p.m.
A reporter accepts a mission to find the French delegate to the United Nations, a known womanizer who has gone missing in the New York night, in this French film noir. (Dir.: Jean-Pierre Melville, France, 1959, 84 min., B&W, D-Cinema, English and French with English subtitles)

The Day He Arrives
Sunday, June 1; 3 p.m.
The nighttime streets of Seoul become conduits for nostalgia, painful reunions, and chance encounters when a lapsed filmmaker returns from the countryside for a brief visit. (Dir.: Hong Sang-soo, Korea, 2011, 79 min., B&W, 35 mm, Korean with English subtitles)

The Exiles
Friday, June 6; 7 p.m.
Introduced by Jesse Wente (Ojibwe), Toronto International Film Festival Bell Lightbox
This recently restored independent film chronicles one night in the lives of young Native Americans living in the Bunker Hill district of Los Angeles. Copresented with the National Museum of the American Indian. (Dir.: Kent MacKenzie, United States, 1961, 72 min., B&W, 35 mm)

In the Mood for Love
Friday, June 13; 7 p.m.
Neighbors who suspect their spouses of cheating begin falling in love with one another in this visual tour-de-force, which celebrates the nights of early 1960s Hong Kong. (Dir.: Wong Kar-Wai, Hong Kong, 2001, 98 min., 35mm, Cantonese with English subtitles)

The Lodger
Sunday, June 15; 1 p.m.
Based on a novel inspired by Jack the Ripper, this thriller follows a mysterious stranger suspected of a spree of gruesome murders. London’s nighttime fog plays a central role in this tale of terror. (Dir.: Alfred Hitchcock, United Kingdom, 1926, 90 min., B&W, silent, D-Cinema)

Sunday, June 15; 3:30 p.m.
Live musical accompaniment by Burnett Thompson
Set in Edo-period Japan, this story of sexual obsession unfolds in the decadent Yoshiwara pleasure district, where a young man falls for a woman tied to several ruthless, powerful men. (Dir.: Teinosuke Kinugasa, Japan, 1928, 80 min., B&W, silent)


Entertaining Whistler’s London: The British Players
Saturday, July 19; 2 p.m.
Meyer Auditorium
Pre-concert gallery tour, “An American in London: Whistler and the Thames”; 1:15 p.m.

Visitors can experience London’s most popular entertainment in Whistler’s day, as The British Players recreate songs, dances and comedy acts from the Music Hall tradition. In period costumes and with live musical accompaniment, these singers and actors perform hits from the vaudeville-like variety shows that filled more than 200 London halls within a decade Whistler’s arrival in the city. The event is free, but tickets are required and can be reserved through Ticketmaster beginning at 10 a.m. Monday, July 7, through ticketmaster.com, by calling (800) 551-7328 or visiting one of Tickmaster’s outlet locations. Tickets are also available beginning one hour before showtime on a first-come, first-served basis.

Family Programs

ImaginAsia: London Nights with Whistler
Saturdays, June 14 and 21 and Sundays, June 15 and 22; 2 p.m.
Participants can explore the impact of gaslights and electricity on nightlife in the 19th century and examine Whistler’s paintings and prints of London. Using paper, cutouts, pastels and wax gilt, they can create nightscapes of your favorite outdoor nighttime activities.

“An American in London” is organized by the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Dulwich Picture Gallery and Addison Gallery of Art, and is co-curated by Margaret F. MacDonald, professor emerita, and Patricia de Montfort, lecturer, at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Exhibition support is provided by the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts and the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Additional support for programming is provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue SW, and the adjacent Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue SW, are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day (closed Dec. 25), and admission is free. The Galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information about the Freer and Sackler Galleries and their exhibitions, programs, and other public events, visit asia.si.edu. For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.

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The Freer|Sackler is closed for renovation and reinstallation. The popular exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan is still on view in the International Gallery. (Enter through the Ripley Center.) Join us for our reopening celebration on October 14–15, 2017.