Originally designed by architect Thomas Jeckyll, the Peacock Room was once the dining room in the London home of Frederick R. Leyland, a wealthy shipowner from Liverpool, England. Although the architect merely asked for advice about what color to paint the shutters and doors, James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) transformed the entire room. Between 1876 and 1877, he enhanced the space with golden peacocks, painting every inch of the ceiling and walls to create an elegant setting in which Leyland could display his ceramic collection as well as Whistler’s painting The Princess from the Land of Porcelain. Purchased by Charles Lang Freer in 1904 and installed in the Freer Gallery of Art after his death, the Peacock Room is on permanent display.
One afternoon per month, we open the shutters of the Peacock Room so you can see it in a whole new light. When the shutters of Whistler’s “harmony in blue and gold” are open, a flood of natural light turns the Peacock Room into a glowing jewel of blue, green, and gold tones. Details, colors, and textures are revealed in the sunlight—and a special filtering film on the windows minimizes fading.
Changes Coming to the Peacock Room
Starting on Friday, January 19, you can view the Peacock Room as Whistler did—as a work of art in itself. The Peacock Room Revealed provides a rare chance to examine the colors and peacock patterns Whistler used to transform a dining room into “a harmony in blue and gold.” Shelves are empty into mid-April, when they will once again be filled with Chinese blue-and-white porcelain of the type that enlivened the room in the nineteenth century. For a limited time, you can see and appreciate the Peacock Room as Whistler designed it.