Freer Gallery of Art opens Winged Spirits. Birds in Chinese Painting

The Freer Gallery of Art presents Winged Spirits. Birds in Chinese Painting, an exhibition on view August 5, 2012.

Birds, Bamboo, and Camellias China, Qing dynasty, ca. 1700 Handscroll; ink and color on silk Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1909.219

In Chinese culture many birds are endowed with strong symbolic associations, both on their own and especially in combination with certain auspicious flowers. In the tenth century, birds and flowers emerged as major themes in traditional Chinese painting. At first such images were based on the close observation of nature and employed fine detail and color; later they derived from the painting tradition itself and often were rendered in only ink. While the primary interest of many artists was to capture the essence or spirit of their subjects, most birds in the paintings can be scientifically identified. More than thirty-five species of birds are depicted in flight, on the ground or in water, or perched on tree branches.

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. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. Information about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs and other events is available at

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