Freer and Sackler Galleries
Conservation and Scientific Research

Through conservation and scientific research, the department contributes to the overall efforts of the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery to achieve the highest standards for the collection, preservation, study, and exhibition of Asian art.

Care of the collections began before the museum came into existence as Charles Lang Freer, the founder of the Freer Gallery of Art, hired Japanese painting restorers to care for his works and to prepare them for their eventual home as part of the Smithsonian Institution. In 1932, the Freer Gallery of Art hired a full-time Japanese restorer and created what was to become the East Asian Painting Conservation Studio. The Technical Laboratory, and the first use of scientific methods for the study of art at the Smithsonian Institution, started in 1951 when the chemist Rutherford J. Gettens moved from the Fogg Museum at Harvard University to the Freer. The East Asian Painting Conservation Studio and the Technical Laboratory merged in 1990 to form the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research.

A permanent staff of fourteen works hand-in-hand with a large, changing group of term employees, contract workers, fellows, interns, and visiting scholars. (See staff list). Our work is focused on three areas: conservation of the Freer and Sackler collections, the use of scientific methods of research for the study of Asian art, and educational efforts, particularly in the field of East Asian painting conservation.

Edo Masters From The Price Collection Patterned Feathers PIERCING EYES
November 10, 2007–April 13, 2008
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

The Etsuko and Joe Price Collection

The Etsuko and Joe Price collection is regarded as one of the world's finest collections of paintings from Japan's Edo period (1615-1868).

Ironically, within the more than two centuries of imposed national isolation, Japan's traditional painting ateliers witnessed both continuity and unprecedented splintering, the emergence of individual talents, and degrees of eccentricity, variety, and creativity unmatched in previous centuries. The results are featured in the Price collection, which recently completed a highly acclaimed one-year tour of four major Japanese museums (July 2006-May 2007).

A variation of that exhibition is now presented at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery as Patterned Feathers, Piercing Eyes: Edo Masters from the Price Collection (November 10, 2007-April 13, 2008). The collection next will be on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (June 22-September 14, 2008), where the Prices have been instrumental in advancing the study and appreciation of Japanese art.

While the Price collection offers exceptional examples of the traditional and divergent styles of the Edo period, it was assembled with an eye to beauty rather than encyclopedic aims. Thus, it can be presented in multiple ways. We have chosen here to explore three major areas: the manifestations of legend, spirit, and myth in everyday life; the multiple meanings of landscape; and the preternatural presence of birds and beasts.

Although arbitrary, these divisions reveal an overall phenomenon: during the Edo period (1615-1868) in Japan, paintings began to incorporate a new sense of intimacy, even jocularity, with the divine and the revered past. In addition, birds and animals moved from having largely symbolic, heraldic roles to assuming more complex functions with highly individualized personalities. Images of the land reverberate with spirit and layers of meaning. In a sense, vertical hierarchies of the universe begin to tilt toward the horizontal.

The paintings of the Edo period announced that the alert eye could expect wholly new ways of encountering the world. By paying heed to the structure of nature, the structure of beauty would be revealed.

This exhibition has been made possible through the generosity of the Anne van Biema Endowment and Nikkei, Inc.

Tales of the Brush Continued: Chinese Paintings With Literary Themes
February 9 - July 27, 2008
Freer Gallery of Art

From the ancient times to the present day, Chinese artists have always turned to literature for inspiration for their paintings and works of calligraphy, and other objects. By creating a close correlation between image and text, artists over the centuries have depicted famous mythical scenes, illustrated significant events in Chinese history, and interpreted beloved poems and stories. Among the major literary themes on view are the mythical "Nymph of the Luo River," the historical tale of "Lady Cai Wenji Returns to Han," the legendary "Female Immortal Chang E," and the poetic "Thoughts on Ancient Sites by Du Fu."

Tours Talks & Lectures

Arts of the Indian Subcontinent & Himalayas
Thursday, February 28, 2008, 1:15 pm

View and discuss the Freer Gallery's important collection of sculpture, paintings, and drawings created in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet. Discover how the arts of this region are closely intertwined with many religious traditions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Jainism.
       Arts of China
Tuesday, February 12, 2008, 11:15 am
Monday, February 25, 2008, 1:15 pm

Chinese art has flourished from the Neolithic period into the twenty-first century. Discover the richness and diversity of Chinese art, from ceramics, lacquerware, painting, and calligraphy to ancient bronzes and jades. Meet at the Freer information desk.

Images © Freer Gallery of Art / Arthur M. Sackler Gallery • Smithsonian Institution • Washington, D.C

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