Freer, Charles Lang 1854-1919
Whistler, James McNeill 1834-1903
Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art Peacock Room
Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (Exhibition)
Number of Images: 1; Color: Black and white; Size: 10w x 8h; Type of Image: Art Work/Interior/Exhibit; Medium: Photographic print
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Historic Images of the Smithsonian
The Peacock Room was once the dining room in the London home of Frederick R. Leyland, a wealthy shipowner from Liverpool, England. It was originally designed by a gifted interior architect names Thomas Jeckyll. Jeckyll constructed a lattice of intricately carved shelving to display Leyland's prized collection of Chinese porcelain. American-born artist James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) was asked for his advice to paint the dining room.
What began with advice on colors escalated into a complete makeover, accomplished in Leyland's absence and without his knowledge. The walls and ceiling were painted with iridescent blues and greens, and covered with gold leaf, reminiscent of peacock feathers. Between 1876 and 1877, Whistler brightened the room with golden peacocks, painting every inch of the ceiling and walls to create an elegant setting in which Leyland could display his blue-and-white porcelain as well as Whistler's painting, "The Princess from the Land of Porcelain." Leyland was not happy with the artist or his fee, but he did keep the room intact. The room was purchased by Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919) in 1904 and installed in the Freer Gallery of Art after his death.
Opposite Whistler's painting "The Princess", the south wall of the Peacock Room, also called "Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room" in the Freer Gallery of Art shows a pair of peacocks aggressively confronting each other. The room was purchased in 1904 by Charles Lang Freer from a London art gallery who had removed the Peacock Room from the Leyland house. After Freer's death in 1919, the Peacock Room was dismantled, moved and reassembled for a third time at the Freer Gallery of Art.
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 02-082, Box 1, Folder: Photographs - Peacock Room at the Freer