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detail, The Music Room. 1858; Etching on paper. F1898.249


Symposia and Conferences

Upcoming Events


Whistler and Kiyochika: Modernity, Melancholy, and the Nocturne

Wednesday, May 14, 8–9:30 pm

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). James Ulak, senior curator of Japanese art, and Lee Glazer, associate curator of American art, lead five international scholars in an examination of the artists’ shared pictorial language, overlapping themes, and cross-cultural networks of writers, critics, dealers, and collectors. The program will be translated live into Japanese and French. It also includes a Q&A session and discussion between the audience and presenters. Supported by a generous grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art. Advance registration is required. For more information and to register, visit smithsonianconference.org/WhistlerKiyochika.

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Whistler Object Study Workshops

June 9–12, 2014

In conjunction with the Lunder Consortium for Whistler Studies, the Freer Gallery of Art is offering a four-day (June 9–12, 2014) object study workshop for advanced graduate students and recent PhDs in American or British art history. The workshop provides an immersive experience in the study of paintings, prints, and other works on paper from the Freer’s unparalleled collection of art by James McNeill Whistler. Space is limited. Participants are selected through a competitive application process that closes March 3, 2014. A generous grant from the Lunder Foundation covers travel within the continental United States and hotel accommodations for four nights.

Sophisticated visual analysis—a hallmark of the study of art history—depends on taught and practiced skills that are acquired through the direct study of objects. Yet as graduate art history curricula have expanded to include training in methodology, historiography, and theory, training in object study has all but disappeared. Student participants in this workshop will work and study with curators and conservation staff at the Freer to develop skills necessary for engaging with objects. They will also become aware of conservation issues not readily encountered in typical graduate art history curricula. Throughout the workshop, participants will consider how focusing on the object might reinforce and/or problematize existing theoretical and contextual assumptions about Whistler’s place in the history of art.

Learn more and apply »


Chinese Object Study Workshops


Sophisticated visual analysis is a hallmark of art history and depends on skills acquired through the direct study of objects. These skills must be taught and practiced. Yet as graduate art history curricula have expanded to include training in methodology, historiography, and theory, training in object study has all but disappeared. The problem is exacerbated for students of Chinese art history, whose graduate curricula must also include language courses and related subjects such as religion, literature, and history.

Chinese Object Study Workshops is a pilot program that will provide graduate students in Chinese art history an immersive experience in the study of objects—in particular, those belonging to the great collections of Chinese art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Freer|Sackler). The workshops will help students develop the skills necessary for working with objects, introduce them to conservation issues not readily encountered in typical graduate art history curricula, and familiarize them with important American museum collections.

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Past Events

Medical and Modern Yoga
January 11, 2014

Yoga and Visual Culture: An Interdisciplinary Symposium
November 21–23, 2013

The Legacy of Cyrus the Great: Iran and Beyond
Saturday, April 27, 2013

Crossroads of Culture: The Archaeology of Saudi Arabia
Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Art of Itō Jakuchū
Friday, March 30, 2012

Imperial Exposure: Early Photography and Royal Portraits across Asia
December 5–6, 2011

Palaces of Art: Whistler and the Art Worlds of Aestheticism
October 27–28, 2011

Art and Material Culture of the Northern Qi Period
June 3–5, 2011

Piety, Poetry, and Politics: Sufi Muslims in South Asia
April 28–30, 2011

Historians Of Islamic Art Association (HIAA) Second Biennial Symposium: "Objects, Collections, And Cultures"
Thursday, October 21–Saturday, October 23, 2010

Forbes Symposium
October 28–29, 2010


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Please note: The Freer Gallery of Art will be closed to the public from January 2016 until summer 2017. The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Library, and Archives will remain open for the duration of the renovation. Learn more »