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The Freer Gallery of Art

Plan your trip: The Freer|Sackler is currently closed for renovation and reinstallation. Join us for our weekend-long reopening celebration IlluminAsia: A Festival of Asian Art, Food, and Cultures on October 14–15, 2017!


When the Freer Gallery opened to the public in 1923 it became the first art museum on the Smithsonian campus. The Freer story, however, began in 1906, when Charles Lang Freer gave his collection of Asian and American art to the nation, a gift he had proposed to President Theodore Roosevelt a year before. By exploring the differences in arts from around the world, the Freer Gallery of Art would unite, in Freer's own words, "modern work with masterpieces of certain periods of high civilization harmonious in spiritual suggestion..."

The museum's galleries enable visitors to view American paintings from the Aesthetic Movement of the late nineteenth century, as well as the arts of China, Egypt, India and the Himalayas, Japan, Korea, and the Islamic world.

The Peacock Room
James McNeill Whistler titled his famed creation Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room, but its early life seemed to have more to do with peacocks than with harmony. The Peacock Room was originally a drawing room, designed by architect Thomas Jeckyll, in the home of British shipping magnate Frederick R. Leyland. It housed Leyland’s collection of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain as well as Whistler’s painting Princess from the Land of Porcelain. While Leyland was out of town, Whistler took it upon himself to redecorate the space, which left the owner a bit out of sorts and put an end to their friendship.

After Leyland’s death, Freer acquired the painting and then the Peacock Room, which he had installed in his Detroit home. It was subsequently installed in the Freer Gallery of Art, where it has captivated countless visitors who have come to see this famous, if not infamous, artwork.

Freer Gallery of Art

History and building
Charles Lang Freer

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

History and building
Arthur M. Sackler, Collector


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.