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Opening May 3, "An American in London: Whistler and the Thames" is First Major Exhibition of Whistler's Influential Early London Period

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Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery Hosts Largest U.S. Display of American

Master James McNeill Whistler in a Generation

Media preview: Wednesday, April 30, 10 a.m.; RSVP to

WASHINGTON, March 3, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- "An American in

London: Whistler and the Thames," opening May 3 at the Smithsonian's

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, is the first major exhibition ever devoted

to American artist James McNeill Whistler's early period in London,

and it is the largest U.S. display of his work in almost 20 years. The

exhibition showcases changing views of the capital city's iconic

riverbanks and waterways, revealing how Whistler emerged as one of the

most innovative and original artists of the 19th century while London

evolved into a modern city.

"Whistler was one of the most influential painters of his time, and

now in a single show we're able to look at the transformation of his

work and the transformation of a city," explained Julian Raby, The

Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and

Freer Gallery of Art. "This is a huge opportunity for the U.S. public

to celebrate one of their greatest artistic figures."

On view through Aug. 17, the exhibition features more than 80 works

from major museums in the U.S. and Britain, including 20 important oil

paintings of Chelsea and the Thames, masterful prints and rarely seen

drawings, watercolors and pastels. The exhibition culminates with an

ensemble of the artist's famous Nocturnes, including the iconic "Blue

and Gold: Old Battersea Bridge." Other highlights include the daytime

industrial landscape "Brown and Silver: Old Battersea Bridge," the

schooners at rest captured in "Wapping"and selections from the Thames

Set, an early series of etchings depicting the river's seedy dockyards

and dubious characters.

The Sackler's presentation is the final venue of a three-city tour

(previously at Dulwich Picture Gallery in London and the Addison

Gallery of American Art, Massachusetts) and will be enhanced by the

addition of nearly 50 masterpieces from the Freer Gallery of Art,

which holds the world's largest and finest collection of the artist's

work, including the famous Peacock Room. Museum founder Charles Lang

Freer met Whistler in London in 1890 and became his most important

patron. This is the first time since the Freer Gallery opened in 1923

that these works will be on view with Whistlers from other


Changing Art for a Changing City

"An American in London" focuses on the period during the 1860s and

'70s when Whistler (1834-1903) adapted the realist style he developed

in Paris into a more personal aesthetic: "art for art's sake." He

transformed scenes of gritty contemporary life, especially along the

Thames riverbank, into moody and poetic views of the city, layered

with color and atmosphere. It was during this time that he started to

give his works musical titles such as "arrangement," "symphony" and

"nocturne" and drew inspiration from the composition and flattened

forms of Japanese prints, some of which are included in the


"Whistler developed radically new modes of expression as a response to

the changing world outside his window in London'sChelsea

neighborhood," said Lee Glazer, curator of American art at the Freer

and Sackler galleries. "Through the visual poetry of his

'arrangements' and 'nocturnes' he reasserted the value of beauty,

providing aesthetic compensation for the loss and alienation many

Victorians associated with modern life."

During this time, London was in a near-constant cycle of destruction

and rebuilding. Historic landmarks-such as Battersea Bridge, a

Whistler favorite-were altered or torn down to make way for mansions,

factories and other modern structures. The river, however, maintained

its central importance both as Whistler's subject and as part of the

lifeblood of the city itself.

"An American in London" also features portraits of Whistler and his

associates, bringing to life the personalities surrounding the artist

during this crucial time in his career, as well as historic

photographs and maps that detail the London neighborhoods where he

lived and worked.

The exhibition is joined by the related "Kiyochika: Master of the

Night" (on view March 29-July 27), a series of woodblock prints from

the same period featuring Tokyo's rapidly changing urban landscape.

Created by self-taught artist Kobiyashi Kiyochika (1847-1915), the

prints combine traditional techniques and starkly dramatic

compositions to show the Japanese capital city transformed by

railroads, steamships, gaslights and brick buildings. Whistler and

Kiyochika embraced artistic exchange between East and West and

explored new ways to represent modernity and the city at night.


"An American in London" is organized by the Freer Gallery of Art and

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Dulwich Picture Gallery and Addison Gallery

of Art, and is co-curated by Margaret F. MacDonald, professor emerita,

and Patricia de Montfort, lecturer, at the University of Glasgow in

Scotland. Exhibition support is provided by the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond

J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts and the Friends of the Freer and

Sackler Galleries. Additional support for programming is provided by

the Terra Foundation for American Art.


A beautifully illustrated catalog, "An American in London: Whistler

and the Thames," ($40, softcover; $60, hardcover, Philip Wilson

Publishers, 2013, 191 pp.) contains detailed analysis of several of

Whistler's most important works and is available for purchase in the

Sackler store.

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue

S.W., and the adjacent Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street

and Independence Avenue S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington,

D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day (closed Dec. 25), and

admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian

Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information

about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs

and other public events, visit For general

Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.

Photo -

SOURCE Freer|Sackler, Smithsonian

-0- 03/03/2014

/CONTACT: Allison Peck, 202.633.0447,


AP PhotoExpress Network: PRN2

PRN Photo Desk,

CO: Freer|Sackler, Smithsonian

ST: District of Columbia England



-- DC74897 --

0000 03/03/2014 14:45:00 EDT

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