Charles Lang Freer

Individual
1854-1919
American

Relations
Acquaintance: Émile Brugsch, Henry Roderick Newman, Charles M. Swift
Advisor: Ernest Francisco Fenollosa, Edward S. Morse
Agent: Bunkio Matsuki
Business Associate: Colonel Frank J. Hecker
Business Employee: Grace Dunham Guest
Contemporaneous Collector: Isabella Stewart Gardner, Henry O. Havemeyer, John Pierpont Morgan, Henry Walters
Friend: Thomas Spencer Jerome, Charles Moore
Influencer: Egypt Exploration Society, Gaston Migeon, Charles Moore, Henry Wallis
Recipient Of Patronage: Horace James Caulkins, Francis W. Kelsey, Mary Chase Perry Stratton, William B. Stratton
Source: A. D. Vorce and Co., Sheikh Sulliman Abdu Somad Gabri, S. Abe, Abrams, Kiroku Adachi, Ali Adarga, Adelphoi Zangaki, Viscount Akimoto, William Cleverly Alexander, Dr. Horace N. Allen, American Art Association, American Watercolor Society, Dimitri Andalft, Antiquarians, Ali Arabi, Ali Arabi Jr., Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd., Arvanitakas, Prof. Arvanitakis, Au Musee Orientale, Samuel Putnam Avery, Otto H. Bacher, Edmund Backhouse, Enrique Baer, Abel William Bahr, Helen Marion Bahr, Peter Johannes Bahr, Pierre Barboutau, M. Baroody, Bauer-Folsom Galleries, Antonio Beato, Felice Beato, David Bendann, George G. Benjamin, Marcel Bing, Siegfried Bing, Rosalind Birnie Philip, William K. Bixby, Minister Frederic Albert Bouree, Bourgeois Gallery, Bolton Coit Brown, Sir William Burrell, Alexander J. Cabus, G. Camas, Richard Albert Canfield, Michel Casira, P'ang Tazu Ch'en, Chang Lok Chai, Chi Pao Chai, Lu Cheng Chai, Yung Pao Chai, Alfred Chapman, Wun Chor, Chosuyo Makimono, Thomas B. Clarke, Joseph Cohen, Charles Caryl Coleman, Samuel Colman, Company of the Butterfly, Cottier and Co., John James Cowan, Cox Collection, Henry Cust, Daigoji temple, Giovanni Dattari, Charles Davis, Georges Demotte, Deprez and Gutekunst, Detroit Institute of Arts, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Frank Dillon, Alexander Dingli, Dinglis, Doll and Richards, L. Dumont, Robert Dunthrone, Theodore Duret, Miss Clara Dyar, S. Eida, Capt. Engelhardt, Estate of Stanford White, Kit Fat, John Fenning, John Calvin Ferguson, Luigi Fiorillo, Cyril Flower, Folsom Galleries, Frederick Keppel and Co., Han So Fue, Wah Fung, Mr. Gadelius, Priest Amano Gakushim, Ta Ge Chung, Ta Ge Shang, Edward G. Getz, Charles Gillot, Tunyous Girgis, Eugene Glaenzer, Yung Go, E. Gottschalk, Goupil et Cie, Chu Gu-itsu, Li Gu-sai, H. Wunderlich & Co., Habra Brothers, Frank W. Hadley, Mrs. E. W. Hall, Colonel Henry Bathurst Hanna, Harashima, J. M. Hart, S. Hatashita, E. Hatoun, Henry O. Havemeyer, Mrs. Louisine Havemeyer, Hayashi Tadamasa, Isaac Taylor Headland, Colonel Frank J. Hecker, Ho, Tu Chien Ho, Honma Kosa, Huang Chung-hsin, Huang Zhonghui, Edward S. Hull Jr., Tung Ye Hung, S. Ikeda, Ikeda Seisuke, Mr. Ikeuchi, S. Ito, Y. Ito, Japanese Trading Company, Wanyan Jingxian, Kai Feng-fu, Kalebjian Frères, Kano Oshima, Shozo Kato, Kawanabe Kyōsai, Mah Zuh Kee, Queen Kee, Dikran Garabed Kelekian, Edward G. Kennedy, W. H. Ketcham, Hagop Kevorkian, John Ross Key, Aziez Khayat, Kihachiro Matsuki, Thomas E. Kirby, Kita Toranosuke, Kobayashi Bunshichi, Koekia, D. Komter, Kouchakji Freres, Cheng Kuan, Kukuydo, Kuroda Takuma, Kuwana Tetsujo, La Societe des Beaux-Arts, Lai-Yuan & Company, Mme. Florine Langweil, Larkin Gallery, Thomas Joseph Larkin, Dr. Berthold Laufer, W. C. LeBrocq, Li Wenqing, Long Sang Ti and Company, C.T. Loo, Loon Gu Sai, Loong Shing Company, Luzac & Co., M. Knoedler & Co., William Macbeth, Maison Bonfils, Dr. Frederick Wharton Mann, Howard Mansfield, Stephen Manuel, Joseph Marcopoli, Vincenzo Marcopoli, Henry Gurdon Marquand, Max Williams Co., Hidemitsu Mayeda, C. D. McGrath, Miss Margaret McKim, Meage, Fateh Lal Mehta, Gari Melchers, R.D. Messayeh, Willard Metcalf, Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer, Marie, Elizabeth Goodhue Millett, Pao Ming Sai, Mirza Ali Asgare Tabrizi, Reiza Khan Monif, N.E. Montross, Frederick Moore, Rufus E. Moore, Morita, Moussa Arouani and Co., Hermann Dudley Murphy, Maurice Nahman, Mr. Nose, Obach & Co., N. Ohan, P. & D. Colnaghi, Pa Ku Cha, Yung Pai Chai, John Palmer, Pang Shou-ting, Pang Yuanji, Rum Pao, Pao Who, Roberto S. Pardo, Emile Pares, Mr. Parsons, Persian Dealer, Pewabic Pottery, Charles Adams Platt, Chir Po-sai, Pong, Emma W. Potter, Proctor and Company, Bernard Alfred Quaritch, By Rai-sai, William George Rawlinson, Reffo, Reichard and Company, Riu Cheng Chai, Albert Roullier, Oscar Rudolph, Sadullah & Robert Levy, A. Saenger, Sagot of Paris, Chong Che Sai, Loon Wen Sai, Riu Gu Sai, Shir Gu Sai, Shu Gu Sai, Ta Guwan Sai, Augusta Saint-Gaudens, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Samurai Shokai, Lee Chiao San, Li Ku San, Mr. K. Sano, Aziz Sarji, Sato, Mr. Scroones, Sebah & Joallier, George Ingraham Seney, Syed Bahadin Shah, Shang Ta Ge, Mr. Shibata, Wan Ye Shin, Shinsuke Hayashi, Hiromichi Shugio, Skeen and Company, Joseph Lindon Smith, Lee Kee Son, John Sparks, Julius Spier, Herbert Goldsmith Squiers, G. N. Stevens, Mary Chase Perry Stratton, Gie Su-tsar, Sung, K. Suzuki, Ta Kou Chai, Tabbagh Frères, Takayanagi Tozo, Mr. Tamai, Tamonten, Count Tanaka, Chen Tang, Mrs. Naoya Tanimura, Ferandzi Teheranj, M. Terauchi, Abbott Handerson Thayer, Henry Studdy Theobald, Thomson, Hara Tomitaro, Michael Tomkinson, Tonying and Company, James Tregaskis, Dwight William Tryon, Tsu, Meh Tuh Kee, Chin Tung, P. M. Turner, Percy Moore Turner, John Henry Twachtman, D. J. Ushikubo, V. G. Fischer Art Company, Sir William Van Horne, Vitali Madjar, Albert von Le Coq, W. & J. Sloane, R. Wagner, Wallis and Son, The French Gallery, Wang Jiantang, Yen Wat-sai, Thomas Robert Way, Thomas Way Sr., Lung Wen-sai, Whan, Ye Shing Wher, James McNeill Whistler, J. Martin White, William Baumgarten and Company, William Marchant & Co., William Wright Company, Max Williams, Henry Wolf, C. K. Wong, Wong Yew, Edgar Worch, Worch et Cie, Y. Fujita and Company, H. R. Yamamoto, Yamanaka and Co., M. Yamanaka, Wen Yaw-sai, Yen Ching Tong, Mr. Yoshino, You Xiaoxi, Nan Ming Yuan, Yung, Zerego

Place of birth: Kingston, New York, United States

Place of activity: Detroit, Michigan, United States; Hong Kong, China; Luxor, Egypt; Keneh, Egypt; Cairo, Egypt; Port Said, Egypt; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Kandy, Sri Lanka; Singapore, Singapore; Jakarta, Indonesia; Saigon, Vietnam; Canton, China; Shanghai, China; Moji, Japan; Istanbul, Turkey; Vienna, Austria; Budapest, Hungary; Munich, Germany; London, United Kingdom;

Place of death: New York, New York, United States

Born in Kingston, New York, Charles Lang Freer left school at age fourteen to work in a cement factory and then as a clerk for the local Kingston and Syracuse Railroad. Colonel Frank J. Hecker (18461927), a Civil War veteran and railroad executive, hired young Freer as a bookkeeper. Attracted by the potential opportunities offered by the fast-growing railroad industry, they moved to Detroit, Michigan. Hecker, Freer, and a group of Detroit businessmen launched the Peninsular Car Works in 1879. Within a few years the factory was expanded to the Peninsular Car Company. In 1899 Freer oversaw the merger of thirteen railroad-car companies into the American Car and Foundry Company, which is still in business today. Freer retired from business at age forty-five an extremely wealthy man.

In 1887 Freer acquired his first works by expatriate American artist James McNeill Whistler (18341903). His long relationship with Whistler as a patron and collector resulted in the Freer Gallery today having one of the world's most sizable and significant collections of the artist's work. The Gallery also houses Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room, the London dining room that Whistler redecorated in 187677, complete with the artist's La Princess du pays de la porcelain (186364) over the mantelpiece. Freer also acquired works by contemporary American artists, including Thomas Wilmer Dewing (18511938), Dwight William Tryon (18491925), and Abbott Handerson Thayer (18491921).

By the early twentieth century, Freer was an internationally recognized connoisseur of Asian art. He formed pivotal relationships with international collectors, scholars, and dealers, among them Dikran Kelekian, Ernest Fenollosa, and Matsuki Bunky, who operated a gallery of Japanese art in Boston. Between 1894 and 1911 Freer made five extensive tours by steamship to destinations in Japan, Korea, India, China, and Egypt and other areas in the Middle East. His extensive notes about what he encountered and purchased are now in the museum's archives.

As a connoisseur and collector, Freer acquired objects that appealed to his particular aesthetic sensibilities. He appreciated the formal qualities of color, surface, and texture, whatever an object's origin. When he proposed donating his collection of Asian and American art to the Smithsonian in 1904, Freer made it clear that his collection was to be understood as a harmonious whole, with works from "widely separated periods of artistic development. . . . They are not made up of individual objects, each object having an individual merit only. . . . For those who have the power to see beauty . . . all works of art go together, whatever their time period." By the time the Freer Gallery of Art opened to the public in 1923 as the Smithsonian's first art museum, it was an unrivaled repository of ceramics, scrolls, prints, paintings, sculpture, and other works from throughout Asia.  

In the first codicil to his Last Will and Testament, dated May 4, 1918, Freer announced a gift of one million dollars to be used in creating a building (construction was already underway by then) to house his collection and to maintain its upkeep, to hire a curator, and later to purchase Asian art. He named fellow collectors Eugene and Agnes Meyer and Louisine Havermeyer, the museum's architect Charles Platt, and his old friend Frank Hecker to oversee future acquisitions.  Freer felt his American holdings were complete and harmonious and thus were not to be supplemented. He did permit that "for the promotion of the ideals of beauty . . . occasional purchases shall be made of very fine examples of Oriental, Egyptian, and Near East fine arts." His Will also stated that the Freer Gallery was not to display works from other collections in its spaces, nor was it to lend objects for exhibition elsewhere. While the Asian holdings of the Freer Gallery of Art have greatly expanded from the more than 9,000 works of art that Charles Lang Freer acquired and donated, the original aesthetic taste and educational mission of its founder have been upheld over the past century. 


Literature
"Charles L. Freer, Art Collector, Dies," New York Times (September 26, 1919).
Denys Sutton, "The Lure of the Golden Bowl," Apollo 118, no. 258 (August 1983), pp. 11826.
Warren I. Cohen, East Asian Art and American Culture: A Study in International Relations (New York, 1992.
Thomas Lawton and Linda Merrill, Freer: A Legacy of Art (Washington, DC, 1993).
Thomas Lawton and Thomas W. Lentz, Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M.Sackler Gallery (Washington, DC, 1998).
Steven Conn, "Where is the East? Asian Objects in American Museums, from Nathan Dunn to Charles Freer," Winterthur Portfolio 35, no. 2/3 (SummerAutumn 2000), pp. 15773.
Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries (New York, 2010).
Ingrid Larsen, '"Don't Send Ming or Later Pictures': Charles Lang Freer and the First Major Collection of Chinese Painting in an American Museum," Ars Orientalis 40 (2011), pp. 638.
Louise Cort, "'Fine autumnal tones': Charles Lang Freer's Collecting of Asian Ceramics," delivered at symposium The Dragon and the Chrysanthemum: Collecting Chinese and Japanese Art in America, organized by the Center for the History of Collecting at The Frick Collection (March 1516, 2012); see http://www.frick.org/interact/louise_allison_cort_fine_autumnal_tones_charles_lang_freers#sthash.PzMtKjCj.dpuf
Lee Glazer, The Peacock Room Comes to America (Washington, DC, 2012).
Lee Glazer, A Perfect Harmony: The American Collection in the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art (Washington, DC, 2013).
Charles Lang Freer Papers in the Archives of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery; search (http://www.asia.si.edu/archives/finding_aids/Freer.html) pri

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