Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name



Fine Arts

Committee Chair

Hufbauer, Benjamin

Author's Keywords

Washington; D.C.


Freer, Charles Lang, 1856-1919; Freer Gallery of Art


This qualifying paper examines the contradiction of a public museum dedicated to one man's vision of art collecting. Charles Lang Freer established the Freer Gallery of Art in 1906, regarded as the first national public art museum on the National Mall. Section One presents the biographical history of Freer, and clarifies his place in the contexts of collecting and aestheticism at the turn of the century. Section Two presents the political situation in Washington, D.C. that gave way to President Theodore Roosevelt's efforts to use Freer's private collection for a public museum on the National Mall. This paper concludes with a review of the original visitors' reactions at the museum's 1923 opening. The reactions of the first visitors are then connected to the present condition of the museum and its relevance today.