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Members' Research Report Archive

The Art Collections and Patronage of Frederick Leyland

Robyn Asleson, Research Associate, 2014–2015


James McNeill Whistler, The White Symphony: Three Girls, c. 1868. Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

My research explores the origins of the Aesthetic Movement in England and focuses on artists in the orbit of the patron and collector Frederick R. Leyland (1832–1892), whose dining room James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) notoriously transformed into the Peacock Room (1876–1877). Whistler’s decade-long struggle to create a pictorial manifesto in The Three Girls (his fourth “Symphony in White,” commissioned by Leyland in 1868 and never completed) is the subject of The Lost Symphony, an exhibition I am co-curating for the Freer Gallery of Art. In a separate project, I am reconstructing Leyland’s old master painting collection in order to investigate the reciprocity of influence between the ideals of the nascent Aesthetic Movement and Leyland’s taste for a particular version of “Renaissance” subject matter and style.