Sunday, September 20, 2015

Prussian blue In the Peacock Room

One afternoon each month, they open the shutters in the Freer's Peacock Room, James Whistler's ill-fated masterpiece of a dining room re-do. The owner, Frederick Leyland, hated it, partly because Whistler's total repainting was a huge surprise, as was the bill. He said it was too dark. Whistler had covered the leather walls with prussian blue paint, then executed his Japanese theme of gold peacocks and chrysanthemums. Whistler probably knew that prussian blue was used in the Japanese prints he admired and collected. The development of this more light fast pigment had made it possible for Hokusai and Hiroshige to revive the art of the woodblock print. Now Charles Lang Freer's collection of ceramics from all over Asia sit on the shelves, set off perfectly by the despised prussian blue.