Pretty Women: Freer and the Ideal of Feminine Beauty

Portrait of a Girl, Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938), Gift of Charles Lang Freer

August 13, 2005 – September 17, 2006
Freer Gallery of Art
Jefferson Drive and 12th St., SW
Washington, DC
Gallery 19

Most of the major works that Freer acquired during his first 12 years (1884-1896) as a collector were images of beautiful women by James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938), or Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849-1921). This exhibition of 21 paintings explores how society's idealized view of women (e.g., as more nurturing, spiritually alive, and aesthetically sensitive than men) during Freer's time affected the artists who created these beautiful women, their contemporary viewers, and Freer. Among the paintings shown are Venus and Arrangement in White and Black by Whistler, Head by Thayer, and a large selection of rarely shown oil paintings by Dewing, including The Carnation and Portrait of a Girl.