The personal papers of Charles Lang Freer, the industrialist and art collector who founded the Freer Gallery of Art. The papers include correspondence, diaries, art inventories, scrapbooks of clippings on James McNeil Whistler and other press clippings, and photographs.
The personal papers of Charles Lang Freer, the industrialist and art collector who founded the Freer Gallery of Art. The papers include correspondence, diaries, art inventories, scrapbooks of clippings on James McNeil Whistler and other press clippings, financial material, architectural drawings, and photographs.
Correspondence, circa 1860-1921, includes Freer's correspondence, 1876-1920, with artists, dealers, collectors, museums, and public figures; letterpress books contain copies of Freer's outgoing letters, 1892-1910; correspondence collected by Freer of James McNeill Whistler, and his wife Beatrix, 186?-1909, with Lady Colin Campbell, Thomas R. Way, Alexander Reid, Whistler's mother, Mrs. George W. Whistler, and others; correspondence of Whistler collector Richard A. Canfield, 1904-1913, regarding works in Canfield's collection; and correspondence of Freer's assistant, Katharine Nash Rhoades, 1920-1921, soliciting Freer's letters from his associates, and regarding the settlement of his estate.
Also included are twenty-nine pocket diaries, 1889-1890, 1892-1898, 1900-1919, recording daily activities, people and places visited, observations, and comments; a diary kept by Freer's caretaker, Joseph Stephens Warring, recording daily activities at Freer's Detroit home, 1907-1910. Inventories, n.d. and 1901-1921, of American, European, and Asian art in Freer's collection, often including provenance information; vouchers, 1884-1919, documenting his purchases; five volumes of scrapbooks of clippings on James McNeill Whistler, 1888-1931, labeled "Various," "Peacock Room," "Death, etc.," "Paris, etc.," and "Boston...London" ; three volumes of newsclippings, 1900-1930, concerning Freer and the opening of the Freer Gallery of Art.
Correspondence regarding Freer's gift and bequest to the Smithsonian Institution, 1902-1916; and photographs, ca. 1880-1930, of Freer, including portraits by Alvin Langdon Coburn and Edward Steichen, Freer with others, Freer in Cairo, China and Japan, Freer's death mask, and his memorial service, Kyoto, 1930; photographs of artists and others, including Thomas Dewing, Ernest Fenollosa, Katharine Rhoades taken by Alfred Stieglitz, Rosalind B. Philip, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Abbott H. Thayer, Dwight Tryon, and Whistler; and photographs relating to Whistler, including art works depicting him, grave and memorial monuments, works of art, the Peacock Room, and Whistler's memorial exhibition at the Copley Society.
Organization of the Papers:
This collection is organized into twelve series.
Series 1: Genealogical and Biographical Data
Series 2: Correspondence
Series 3: Diaries
Series 4: Freer Colleague Materials
Series 5: Art Inventories
Series 6: Financial Materials
Series 7: Exhibition Loan Files
Series 8: Biblical Manuscripts and Gold Treasure Files
Series 9: American School of Archaeology in China
Series 10: Printed Material
Series 11: Outsize Material
Series 12: Photographs
1854 February 25 -- Born in Kingston, New York
1873 -- Appointed accountant and paymaster of New York, Kingston and Syracuse Railroad by Frank J. Hecker (1846-1927)
1876 -- Moves to Indiana to work, with Hecker, for the Detroit and Eel River and Illinois Railroad
1880 -- Moves to Detroit, participates in organization of the Peninsular Car Works with Hecker
1883 -- Becomes vice president and secretary of Peninsular Car Company when it succeeds Peninsular Car Works
1883 -- Begins collecting European prints
1884 -- Peninsular Car Company constructs plant on Ferry Avenue
1887 -- Meets Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)
1887 -- Acquires proofs of 26 etchings, Venice, Second Series(1886), by James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
1887 -- Purchases a small Japanese fan attributed to Ogata Karin(1658-1715)
1887 -- Buys land on Ferry Avenue
1889 -- Meets Frederick Stuart Church (1826-1900) and Dwight William Tryon (1849-1925) in New York
1890 -- Commissions Wilson Eyre (1858-1944) to design house on Ferry Avenue, Detroit, Michigan
1890 -- On first trip to London, meets James McNeill Whistler(1834-1903)
1892 -- Moves to Ferry Avenue house
1892 -- Tryon and Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938) undertake decoration of reception rooms
1893 -- Lends American paintings to World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago
1893 -- Purchases first piece of Chinese art, a small painting of white herons by an anonymous Ming dynasty (1368-1644) artist
1894 -- Begins yearlong trip around the world, which includes visit to the Whistlers in Paris and first trip to Asia, stopping in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India, China, and Japan
1896 -- Meets Matsuki Bunkyo (1867-1940) in Boston
1899 -- Takes part in consolidation of railroad-car building companies then retires from active business
1900 -- Attends Exposition International Universelle in Paris
1900 -- Buys villa in Capri with Thomas S. Jerome
1901 -- Meets Siegfried Bing (1838-1905) in Paris and Ernest Fenollosa(1853-1908), who visits Freer in Detroit
1902 -- Meets Dikran Kelekian (1868-1951)
1902 -- Spends summer in Britain building Whistler collection
1902 -- Views Whistler's, Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room
1904 -- Purchases Whistler's Peacock Room
1904 -- Offers his art collections and funds to build a museum in which to house them to the Smithsonian Institution
1905 -- Smithsonian committee visits Freer in Detroit
1906 -- United States government formally accepts Freer's gift on January 24
1906 -- Freer signs Deed of Gift to Smithsonian Institution on May 5
1907 -- On second tour of Asia, meets Hara Tomitaro 1868-1939) in Yokohama, Japan
1908 -- Takes third trip to Asia, specifically to West Asia to study Rakka ware
1909 -- Tours Europe to study art museums
1909 -- On fourth trip to Asia, attends memorial ceremony for Fenollosa (d.1908 September) at Miidera, Japan, and meets Duanfang (1861-1911) in China
1910 -- On last trip to Asia, visits Longmen Buddhist caves in China
1911 -- Suffers stroke
1912 -- Lends selection of objects for exhibition at Smithsonian Institution
1913 -- Meets Eugene (1875-1957) and Agnes E. (1887-1970) Meyer
1913 -- Commissions Charles Adams Platt (1861-1933) to design museum building in Washington
1914 -- Meets Katharine Nash Rhoades (1885-1965) in Detroit
1915 -- Settles in New York City
1915 -- Site of future Freer Gallery of Art is determined
1916 -- Platt's plans for Freer Gallery are approved by Smithsonian Regents and Commission of Fine Arts and ground is broken in September
1918 -- After falling ill in Detroit, Freer travels to New York for treatment
1918 -- Work on the museum building is delayed by the war
1919 -- Freer appends codicil to will permitting acquisitions of Asian, Egyptian, and Near Eastern (West Asian) art
1919 -- Dies in New York City on 25 September and is buried in Kingston, New York
1919 -- Construction of Freer Gallery completed
1920 -- John Ellerton Lodge (1876-1942) is appointed director of the Freer Gallery
1923 -- Freer Gallery opens to the public on May 9
1930 -- Memorial ceremony for Freer is held at Koetsuji, Kyoto
Charles Lang Freer was an American industrialist who founded the Freer Gallery of Art. He was a well-known collector of Asian art, and strongly supported the synthesis of Eastern art and Western art. One of his most famous acquisitions was James McNeill Whistler's Peacock Room.
Index to cross-referenced correspondence in the series Whistler correspondence
Bell, William See: Unidentified correspondents
Brown, Ernest See: Painter Etchers' Society, Committee
Cowen, John T. See subseries: Charles Lang Freer Correspondence
Ford, Sheridan See: Reid, Alexander
Haden, Francis Seymour See: Painter Etchers' Society, Committee
Haden, Francis Seymour, Lady See: Haden, Deborah Whistler
Leighton, Frederick, Baron See: Campbell, Lady Colin
Moore, Albert See: Reid, Alexander
Morley, Charles See: Pall Mall Gazette
Morris, Harrison S. See: Reid, Alexander
Pennell, Joseph See: Miscellaneous typescripts
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts See: Reid, Alexander
Prange, F. G. See: Reid, Alexander
Societe des Beaux-Arts See: Reid, Alexander
Society of Portrait Painters See: Reid, Alexander
Stevens Fine Art See: Reid, Alexander
Studd, Arthur See: Miscellaneous typescripts
[Vanderbilt?], George, Mrs. See: George, Mrs.
Whistler, William McNeill, Mrs. See: Whistler, Nellie
Whistler Memorial Committee See: Miscellaneous typescripts
The Archives of American Art microfilmed portions of the Freer papers in 1992. The microfilm is available at the Archives of American Art's Washington D.C. office, the Freer Gallery of Art Library, and through interlibrary loan.
Gift of the estate of Charles Lang Freer.
Access is by appointment only, Monday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please contact the Archives to make an appointment: AVRreference@si.edu.
Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository.