Where: Freer Gallery of Art
When: through November 1, 2015
one thinks of the Freer, one thinks primarily of Asian art, and with
good reason. The collection is wonderful, as anyone who's followed this
blog knows. The pottery, the paintings, the screens, the sculpture,
what I call beautiful things, beautifully displayed.
Freer collected American art as well as Asian, and it's this part of his collection that is on display in the show entitled, "Fine Impressions: Whistler, Freer, and Venice."
was initially unimpressed with Whistler and was at a loss to understand
his popularity. Then he what I can only describe as a "Paul on the
road to Damascus" moment in a fellow collector's apartment, and started
buying Whistler pieces the next day. Eventually, the two men became
friends, and Whistler helped Freer amass what is arguably the finest
collection of Whistlers in the world.
show is of Whistler's etchings of Venice. Not the touristy Venice, so
beloved of "view painters" and post card photographers, but the other
Venice - that inhabited by its ordinary citizens. People in these
pieces go about their daily lives, including hanging out an
extraordinary amount of washing. Shirts seem to hang from every
window. There's an intimacy that I like in these works, a universality
of human experience; it's only the water-filled streets and the gondolas
that put you in Venice and not in another city.
Whistler did all of his own printmaking, something artists often left
to others. His involvement in every aspect of the creation of these
pieces gives you a sense of a single vision in these pictures. No one
else has super-imposed his or her ideas of how the scene should look.
This is how Whistler wants you to see his Venice.
show also includes a fan and a ceramic bottle, which Freer said
reminded him of Whistler's work. I could not help but be reminded in my
turn of the Barnes, with its juxtapositioning of "flat art" and
A small show, easily managed in a lunch hour; it's on the ground floor
of the museum, so head downstairs from the main entrance.