Exhibition Type: American Art

78 objects



The Washington Post, “A change in visual language signals a bigger cultural shift,” by Philip Kennicott The Wall Street Journal, “Whistler Along the Thames,” by Lance Esplund Town & Country, “Whistler on the Thames: The Witty Painter Who Could One-Up Oscar Wilde,” by Kevin Conley The Economist, “A river runs through it” The Art Newspaper, “’Bumpy’ canvas reveals hidden portrait of Whistler’s mistress,” by …

Whistler in Watercolor


Freer galleries 10 and 11 (next to the Peacock Room) James McNeill Whistler reinvented himself as an artist in the 1880s and painted his way into posterity with the help of watercolor. Beginning in 1881, he created a profusion of small, marketable works over the next fifteen years. “I have done delightful things,” he confided, …

The Peacock Room in Blue and White


Freer gallery 12 Blue-and-white Chinese porcelains once again fill the shelves of the Peacock Room, just as they did in the 1870s, when Frederick Leyland, a shipping magnate in London, dined there. Blue-and-white porcelain dating to the Kangxi period enliven the east and north walls of the Peacock Room. These pieces from the permanent collection …

The Peacock Room Revealed


Freer, gallery 12 James McNeill Whistler’s Peacock Room has served as a backdrop for displays of Asian ceramics since the mid-nineteenth century. For a limited time, you can enjoy the room as Whistler saw it—as a work of art in itself. Whistler painted every surface of the room, from the decorative ceiling to the walls …

Symphonies in White


In 1867 Liverpool shipping magnate and art collector Frederick Richards Leyland attended an art exhibition at the Royal Academy in London. There, he admired Whistler’s painting Symphony in White, No. 3. It was the artist’s first work to bear a musical title. Music provided Whistler with a metaphor for his own experiments with color and form, …

Whistler’s letter to Fantin


Whistler to Henri Fantin-Latour 16 August [1865] Je voudrais tant te montrer mes dernières choses! J’ai fait un progres vraiment enorme – Enfin je crois toucher au but que je me suis proposé – je me rend clairement compte de tout ce que je fais! Aussi tout devient de jour en jour plus simple – …

Symphony in White, No. 3


James McNeill Whistler 1865–1867 Oil on canvas The Barber Institute of Fine Arts  

Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl


James McNeill Whistler 1862 Oil on canvas National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Harris Whittemore Collection, 1943.6.2  

The White Symphony: Three Girls, ca. 1868.


This study for The Three Girls represents the early, optimistic stage of Whistler’s work on the painting that Leyland commissioned. It may be the “final oil sketch” he mentioned in a letter late in 1867, when the artist assured his patron that the work was “getting on.” Whistler painted The White Symphony on millboard, a coarsely textured, inexpensive support …