For the Buddhist Art Collector: 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.


A Taste For Japanese Art
Through January 1, 2007

This exhibition celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of Charles Lang Freer's gift of his collection and museum to the United States features a selection of 31 paintings, calligraphy, wood sculpture, lacquer, and ceramics from Freer's Japanese art collection.

For two decades from 1887, when Freer bought his first Japanese painting, his interest in Japanese art grew deeper, as he sought to increase his knowledge of Japanese and Asian art and to understand the aesthetic harmonies between art of different historical periods and cultures. Although he was encouraged in these interests by his friends, the artist James McNeill Whistler, and the scholar Ernest Fenollosa, Freer relied on his own judgment and consciously resisted the decorative porcelain and gold lacquerware popular among Western collectors. Instead, he focused on painting, ceramics, Buddhist sculpture, and lacquerware from earlier periods, forming a collection of some 1100 Japanese works of art dating from the eighth through the nineteenth centuries.

Highlights of this exhibition include a Heian period (794–1185 Buddhist sculpture, a thirteenth-century Buddhist narrative handscroll, Miracles of the Bodhisattva Jiz?, Moonlight Revelry at Doz? Sagami, by Kitagawa Utamaro, Fisherman and Woodcutter by Katsushika Hokusai, calligraphy by Hon'ami K?etsu, paintings by Ogata K?rin and ceramics by his brother, Kenzan.


Facing East: Portraits From Asia
July 1–September 4, 2006

"Facing East: Portraits from Asia," on view July 1 through September 4 at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, explores how portraits expressed identity in Asia and the Near East. Paintings, sculpture, and photographs of Egyptian pharaohs, Chinese empresses, Japanese actors and a host of other subjects, reveal the unique ways that the self was understood, represented, and projected in Asian art.

The exhibition includes approximately 70 masterpieces from the collections of Chinese, Japanese, South Asian, Islamic and Ancient Near Eastern art at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art. A number of the works from the Sackler and Freer galleries will be on view for the first time.

Popular and academic surveys of portraiture deny that Asia had a portrait tradition. "Facing East" reveals rich and diverse Asian conceptions of portraiture through thought-provoking, cross-cultural juxtapositions of portraits in thematic groupings. These portraits not only provide an entrée into Asian cultures, but also lay bare many of the mechanisms and conceptions of the self that inform western portraiture.

Tours Talks & Lectures

A Taste for Japanese Art
Tuesday, October 3, 2006, 12 pm
Freer galleries 6 & 7

Join Curator Ann Yonemura on this survey of paintings, calligraphy, wood sculpture, lacquerware, and ceramics that represent Freer's distinctive approach to collecting Japanese art.

Arts of the Indian Subcontinent
Friday, October 27, 2006, 11:15 am, 1:15 pm, and 6:45 pm
Saturday, October 28, 2006, 11:15 am, Freer info desk

Tour of the Arts of the Indian Subcontinent and Himalayas in the Freer Gallery of Art.
       Freer and Tea: Raku, Hagi, Karatsu
Tuesday, September 12, 2006, 12 pm
Freer gallery 6

Curator Louise Cort discusses outstanding examples of three classic tea wares that Charles Lang Freer collected by 1906.

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

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