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Freer Gallery of Art Opens James McNeill Whistler Peacock Room Shutters

For the first time in 25 years, the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art will open the shutters of James McNeill Whistler’s famed Peacock Room for public view on the third Thursday of each month, beginning Aug. 18, 12-5:30 p.m. Visitors to the room will have a chance to experience the tonal subtleties and decorative variations of Whistler’s “harmony in blue and gold” visible only in natural sunlight.

The museum installed ultraviolet- and visible-light-filtering film on the windows, allowing visitors to see the beauty of the room in natural light while minimizing the effects of light fading. Peacock motifs that would ordinarily blend into the background, along with the glazed surfaces and complex textures of ceramics on display, are clearly visible. In the light-filled interior, the ghostly presence of the embossed patterns of the room’s leather wall hangings, which were part of the design created by the room’s architect, Thomas Jeckyll, and later covered in Prussian blue paint by Whistler, is discernable.

This series is offered in conjunction with “The Peacock Room Comes to America” exhibition and will continue through spring 2013. A docent will also be on hand to offer informal conversations with visitors from 12 to 2 p.m., along with an in-depth tour of the room at 2 p.m., where visitors can learn the story of Whistler’s controversial decorations and explore other works by the artist.

Image: Peacock Room, Freer Gallery of Art

The Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day except Dec. 25, and admission is free.

For more information about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs and other events, the public may visit

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