The Freer|Sackler Galleryis exhibiting Empresses of China’s Forbidden City, 1644–1912 thru June 23.The exhibition is the first-ever about the lives of the Qing dynasty empresses and offers a view of their opulence and influence.
The exhibition features royal portraits, paintings depicting court life, seals and symbols of imperial power, Buddhist sutras and other objects of religious devotion, along with costumes, jewelry, tableware, and furniture that was used by the empresses in the imperial complex known as the Forbidden City. The empresses’ significance in shaping Qing history is told through the objects made for, about, and by them. The exhibition shows how the empresses exerted influence in the arts, religion, politics, and diplomacy. Most of the artworks displayed are from the Palace Museum in Beijing, China, and many have never been exhibited outside of China. Image below:Empress Xiaoxian, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period, 1777, with repainting possibly in 19th century, Ignatius Sichelbarth (Ai Qimeng) [China (born in Bohemia), 1708–1780], Yi Lantai (active about 1748–1786), and possibly Wang Ruxue (active 18th century), hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, Peabody Essex Museum, gift of Mrs. Elizabeth Sturgis Hinds, 1956, E33619. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM.
The Freer Gallery of Art reopened The Peacock Room in Blue and White on May 18 for an indefinite period.The room is filled with blue-and-white Chinese porcelains, inspired by the room’s appearance in 1876 when it was the dining room of Frederick Leyland, a shipping magnate in London. "With the sinuous patterns and brilliant blue and white colors of Leyland’s Kangxi ware in mind," James McNeill Whistler painted over the room in blue and gold. The intricate blue, green, and gold patterns "invoke the plumage of the peacock, creating a tonal counterpoint to the bolder patterns and colors of the porcelains."
The Freer|Sackler Gallery is exhibiting Whistler in Watercolor, thru October 6. Artist James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), reinvented himself with watercolor in the 1880s and “painted his way into posterity. Museum founder Charles Lang Freer was captivated by Whistler's work and amassed the world’s largest collection of watercolors by the artist.He included the watercolors in his bequest to the Smithsonian in 1906, including more than fifty examples—figures, landscapes, nocturnes, and interiors. The watercolors have never left the Freer Gallery of Art. The exhibition “introduces museum visitors to the artist’s vast creative output and provide wide access to a rarely seen segment of his work.”
Image below: A Watercolor by James McNeill Whistler
The Freer Sackler Gallery is exhibiting Shaping Clay in Ancient Iran, through September 2019.The exhibition of ceramics produced in northwestern Iran“highlights animal-shaped vessels as well as jars and bowls decorated with animal figures. The ceramics, the most common objects to survive from ancient Iran, date from the Chalcolithic period (5200 BCE–3400 BCE) to the Parthian period (250 BCE–225 CE). Their distinct shapes and lively decoration illustrate the creative attempts of potters to experiment with clay and to lend originality and even whimsy to utilitarian vessels thousands of years ago.”
Ongoing exhibitions at the Freer|Sackler include: Now- thru October 2020: Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice across Asia - The exhibition expands the understanding of Buddhism in Asian art through both beautiful objects and immersive spaces. Image below: Detail, The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room from the Alice S. Kandell Collection Photograph: 2010 Objects: Tibet, China, and Mongolia, 13th–20th century Mixed media Gifts and promised gifts from the Alice S. Kandell Collection
Open indefinitely: Feast Your Eyes: A Taste for Luxury in Ancient Iran - works dating from the first millennium BCE, beginning with the rule of the Achaemenid kings (550–330 BCE), to the early Islamic period. The installation explores the meaning behind these objects' over-arching artistic and technical characteristics.
Open indefinitely: Bells of Ancient China– An interactive exploration of ancient Chinese bells.
Image below: Bell (bo) with birds and tigers China, Yangzi River valley, ca. 1050–900 BCE Gift of Arthur M. Sackler Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Chase F. Robinson, who is president of The Graduate Center of the City University of New York and a professor of Middle Eastern history and culture, has been named the Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian.The two museums comprise the Smithsonian’s national Asian art museums. Mr. Robinson succeeds Julian Raby, who retired in December 2017. Richard Kurin has served as Acting Director of the museums since Raby’s retirement.Robinson will assume his new position on December 10. Mr. Robinson earned his bachelor’s degree from Brown University, having also studied at the American University in Cairo, the University of Cairo and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He received his doctorate from Harvard University’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Mr. Robinson was a member of the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford andchaired its faculty board from 2003 to 2005.A scholar of Islamic history and culture, Robinson has authored or edited nine books and more than 40 articles that span the geographical and chronological breadth of the pre- and early-modern Islamic Middle East. A recent book, titled Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives: The First 1,000 Years (2016) was translated into Arabic and Portuguese. Mr. Robinson has commented that “The collections in the Freer and Sackler galleries, embedded as they are within the encyclopedic resources of the Smithsonian Institution, are extraordinary in their own right and powerful tools for fostering cultural understanding.”