The Peacock Room has served as a backdrop for displays of Asian ceramics since the mid-nineteenth century.

The history of the room is best understood as a story in two parts. James McNeill Whistler, the artist who redecorated the room as a total work of art, stands at the center of the story.

On either side are his two most important patrons: Frederick Leyland (1831-1892), the ship owner from Liverpool who sought to transform his London mansion into a palace of art, and Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), the American industrialist whose collections form the basis of the Freer Gallery of Art.

The story of the beautiful is already complete — Hewn in the marbles of the Parthenon — And broidered, with the birds, upon the fan of Hokusai.

— James McNeill Whistler, Ten O'Clock Lecture, 1885

Freer, Whistler, & Their Points of Contact tells the story through three panoramas, representing three stagings of the Peacock Room at the Freer Gallery of Art, part of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art.