The Peacock Room: A Cultural Biography
(Linda Merrill, Smithsonian Institution)
This gorgeously illustrated book tells the history of the Peacock Room, decorated by James McNeill Whistler for wealthy London shipowner Frederick Leyland and currently on display at the Freer Gallery of Art. The history offers fascinating insights into nineteenth-century British culture-taste, patronage, attitudes toward Asian art, origins of art nouveau, and relation to American culture.
Planning only a brief stay in Venice in 1879, Whistler found himself enchanted by the city's beauty and remained for more than a year. This lovely book is the first to follow Whistler's progress throughout Venice as he produced fifty etchings, a few oils, and a remarkable group of one hundred pastels. Alongside each of his evocative portraits of the city are photographs of the actual site. Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.