Freer, Charles Lang

Freer, Charles Lang

(frēr), 1856–1919, American art collector, b. Kingston, N.Y. He gave to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., his entire collection and the building (designed according to his direction) that houses it, called the Freer Gallery of Art. A railway and industrial capitalist, he retired from active business in 1900, devoting the rest of his life to art collecting. His taste for the works of Whistler and of Asian masters, and discovery of a close kinship between the two, resulted in a warm friendship with Whistler and the development of an unrivaled collection of his works; this included the Peacock Room from the Leyland house, London, which had Whistler decorations. The gallery also contains a fine collection of Chinese and Japanese paintings and art objects and a remarkable collection of antique glazed pottery with examples from Egypt, Persia, India, China, Korea, and Japan.

Bibliography

See H. Gregory's The World of James McNeill Whistler (1959); The World of Whistler by T. Prideaux et al. (1970).

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Freer, Charles Lang

(1856–1919) art collector, businessman; born in Kingston, N.Y. After graduation from high school he worked as a clerk, paymaster, and accountant for various railroads. In 1879 he moved to Detroit and was a founder of the American Car & Foundry Company (1899). He traveled often to Europe and collected oriental art, ancient glazed pottery, 19th-and early-20th-century paintings, and most notably, the work of James McNeill Whistler. He donated funds and his collection to the Smithsonian Institution for the construction of the Freer Gallery (1906).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.