The Smithsonian Institution's Asian Art Collection
Freer-Sackler Gallery Chinese Paintings of the Song to Qing Dynasty
The Freer-Sackler Gallery Chinese paintings collection at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC is among one of the most important assemblages of Chinese art in the world. The history of
the collection and the museum is itself quite a story. In 1906 Charles Langdon Freer a wealthy Detroit railroad car manufacturer donated through the encouragement of former Senate aide Charles Moore over 8,000 pieces from his Asian Art collection to the Smithsonian. In addition, Mr. Freer provided funds to build the first museum at the Smithsonian dedicated to fine art. The building designed by architect Charles Platt began construction in 1916 and was finished slightly later than scheduled due to delays resulting from WWI in 1921. Today the museum houses over 25,000 objects covering nearly 6,000 years of Chinese culture and art.
Sixty years later the renowned collector and connoisseur of Asian Art, Dr. Arthur Mitchell Sackler, added his considerable fortune to the pot with the establishment of the Sackler Gallery close by the Freer. In addition he donated roughly one thousand pieces to the museum as well as additional funding for it's operation. He also went on to make generous donations to the Metropolitan Museum of art in NY as well as establishing a Museum at Harvard University in Cambridge MA. He also went on to make another similar large donation to Princeton University. Dr. Sackler along with his brother made a fortune in the medical field (big surprise eh?) and to his credit spread his massive wealth around for the betterment of appreciating Asian culture.
Thanks to these two men and numerous other donors who have given art works directly to the Freer-Sackler Gallery as well as providing funds for new acquisitions the holdings of these institutions have flourished. Among them very notably was a gift of thousands of pieces from Paul Singer.
Today the core of the Freer-Sackler Gallery Chinese Paintings are most renowned for works dating to the Song, Yuan and early Ming periods. Including works by Yuan dynasty artists Zhao Mengfu and Wu Zhen, landscapes by Ming artist Song Xu and Ni Zan and hundreds and hundreds more. The collection also includes some superb examples from the Qing dynasty. You just have to go there to experience it all.
Until then, we hope you find the video below a bit of encouragement to get on a train, plane or car and get yourself down there. Until then, let Louis Armstrong be your reminder and perhaps inspiration on why you should.
The Freer-Sackler Gallery Chinese Paintings Collection
- A video set to music