Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sylvan Sounds: Freer, Dewing, and Japan

Where: Freer Gallery of Art

When: through May 18, 2014

"For those who have the power to see beauty, all works of art go together, whatever their period."  - Charles Lang Freer

Or, as a friend of mine put it when discussing furniture, "good goes with good."

Freer liked to combine Asian and American art; the painted screens and hanging scrolls he purchased were meant to complement his collection of Whistler and Dewing paintings.  The courtesans of the floating world were similar to Dewing's American models.

I found Dewing's works, of which the above is quite typical, a bit too pre-Raphaelite for my taste.  Any of the women appearing in his art could model for the character of Marianne in Sense and Sensibility.  Perhaps all the green backgrounds reminded me of the paintings in the National Gallery show earlier this year.

What I found most interesting about this one-room show is that I was able to find out a bit more about Freer himself.  Grateful as I am to him for his generous gift of art and money that's given me so many happy hours, I like to know a bit more about him: why he chose the things he did.  In the same way that he traveled in order to escape "the harness of business," he wanted art to be soothing, to transport him away from his daily cares.  Although I appreciate art's ability to speak truth to power and questions society's assumptions, I also like paintings that take me to a more relaxing and quiet place.

Verdict: A lovely small show, with both American and Asian art.

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