Freer comparing Whistler’s Venus Rising from the Sea (F1903.174) to an Islamic glazed ceramic pot (F1905.61), 1909. Photograph by Alvin Langdon Coburn.

Freer comparing Whistler’s Venus Rising from the Sea (F1903.174) to an Islamic glazed ceramic pot (F1905.61), 1909. Photograph by Alvin Langdon Coburn.

This Saturday: Reconsider Freer’s Asian Ceramics

Charles Lang Freer acquired his first cache of Asian ceramics in 1892. That initial haul—a hodgepodge of nineteenth-century Japanese wares—did not contain many masterpieces, but it presaged an enduring obsession with ceramics that grew to include examples from the Islamic world and all of East Asia.

Renowned for a sharp eye and connoisseurial prowess, Freer’s taste was nevertheless far from prophetic. Guided by his belief in a “universal art spirit,” Freer’s collecting was limited by the influence of the art market and a lack of specialized knowledge. Even as he acquired ceramics from Japan, China, and the Islamic world that are among the best of their kind, Freer overlooked key areas of Asian ceramic production, while overvaluing or misattributing others.

This Saturday at 2 pm, curators Massumeh Farhad, Louise Cort, and Jan Stuart reflect on the legacy of Freer’s ceramics collection, putting the museum founder’s hits and misses into context. Hosted by curator Lee Glazer, this free talk is part of the series The Freer Story, celebrating the reopening of the Freer Gallery of Art. Join us in the Meyer Auditorium.