This gallery assembles artworks around the central question: How and why does the Smith College Museum of Art collect Asian art? Smith began to display and acquire Asian art during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, the period when major American art museums were first developing their Asian holdings. In 1897, the College presented one of the earliest Asian art exhibitions in New England, which featured the public debut of collector Charles Lang Freer’s Japanese collection. In 1913, Freer’s gifts placed Smith in the vanguard of American college museums that were beginning to collect Asian art.
Charles Lang Freer Dwight William Tryon
This gallery features historical works from the permanent collection and promised gifts, including painting, sculpture, prints, ceramics, lacquer, and metalwork. Smith’s renewed interest in Asian art and culture after World War II is demonstrated in acquisitions made in the 1950s and 1960s. These include gifts of archaic Chinese jades from the Ivan Hart collection and Japanese prints from the Rankin-Barker collection. Since that time the Museum’s collecting of Asian art has closely followed teaching trends at the College and, in the last ten years, has reflected the more global reach of the curriculum and the growing emphasis on East Asian Studies in particular.
The vision of the first donors of Asian art to SCMA has inspired later generations of collectors who have supported the Museum’s growing Asian collection. As the Museum looks forward to the future, this gallery will be renovated in 2015 to become a space permanently dedicated to the display of Asian art.
Image Top: Blade,
China. Late Neolithic period (c. 2000 BCE).
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ivan B. Hart.
Image Left: Edward Steichen, American, 1879–1973. Charles Lang Freer, c. 1915–16. Photograph. Collection of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography, Rochester, New York.
Image Right: Marceau Studio, New York. Dwight William Tryon, 1912. Cabinet photograph. Charles Lang Freer Papers, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Gift of the Estate of Charles Lang Freer.