The Charles Hosmer - Morse Museum of American Art



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“Heirloom of the Artist”: Rethinking Whistler’s Peacock Room

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

2:30 pm

Lee Glazer
Associate Curator of American Art
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

This talk will look at the ways in which the Peacock Room, James McNeill Whistler’s famed decorative interior, has intersected with the history of collecting Asian ceramics in the West. The room began its life as a Victorian dining room filled with blue-and-white porcelain of the Kangxi era. It later became an aesthetic laboratory where the Gilded Age collector Charles Lang Freer juxtaposed a wide variety of roughly textured, subtly glazed ceramics from all over Asia. Since 1923, it has been on display as one of the great treasures of the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Far from being a static icon of Victorian aestheticism—an “heirloom of the artist,” as Whistler termed it— the Peacock Room has had a dynamic, international history. And the stories that it can tell us are as much about Asian ceramics and shifting points of contact between East and West as they are about Whistler’s decorative harmonies.

Glazer is associate curator of American art at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Since coming to the Freer and Sackler in 2007, Dr. Glazer has organized a number of exhibitions including Winslow Homer: Four Views of Nature; Seascapes: Tryon and Sugimoto; Chinamania: Whistler and the Victorian Craze for Blue-and-White Porcelain; and An American in London: Whistler and the Thames. She is the author of A Perfect Harmony: The American Collection in the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art (2013) and co-editor of James McNeill Whistler in Context (2008), East West Interchanges in American Art (2012), and Palaces of Art: Whistler and the Art Worlds of Aestheticism (2013). In 2011, she reinstalled the Peacock Room to its appearance in 1908, when its shelves were filled with Asian ceramics collected and arranged by museum founder Charles Lang Freer, and is the author of the accompanying publication, The Peacock Room Comes to America (2012). She holds a doctoral degree in art history from the University of Pennsylvania; a master’s degree in English literature from Yale University; and a bachelor’s degree in art history from George Mason University.

  • Lee Glazer
  • Lee Glazer