Saturday, November 2, 2013

Charles Freer and the Arts of Japan

Where: Freer Gallery of Art

When: through February 9, 2014

Between 1895 and 1910, Charles Lang Freer visited Japan four times.  That's neither a cheap nor short trip even today, but at the time, it was tremendously expensive and time-consuming.  To have gone four times in 15 years shows how interested he became in Japanese art.  On his first trip, in 1895, Freer was a knowledgeable tourist, but nothing more than that.  By the time he made his second trip, in 1907, he was a world-class collector.

Freer was able to obtain Japanese art in Europe and America due to the increased interest in all things Japanese in the mid to late 1800s.  This is the same craze that brought us "The Mikado."

The paintings on display are lovely.  There's one of a peacock that Freer described as "delightful," and I agree with his assessment.  Another that caught my eye was one of a crane - it's so realistic, you can see each feather delineated.  The technique is exquisite.

The show also highlights the work of Ernest Fenollosa, a great friend of Freer, who sold him a vast deal of Japanese art.  Fenollosa helped Freer to cull and shape his collection, to make it ready to give as a gift to the nation.  There's a wonderful sake ewer in this room with a copper glaze - the colors are muted, but grand nonetheless.

Verdict: A lovely way to spend some time.  Nothing like getting some information on how such a wonderful collection came to exist. 

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