Why a scandal broke out because of the famous Room with Peacocks, and its creator did not receive a fee for his masterpiece
Why a scandal broke out because of the famous Room with Peacocks, and its creator did not receive a fee for his masterpiece

When a UK shipping magnate, Frederick Richards Leyland, bought a house in 1876, he had no idea how it would turn out in the future. The American artist James McNeill Whistler, who was immensely respected and appreciated by Leyland, was invited by him as a designer. Whistler happily set to work. In the process, he became so carried away that he created a real masterpiece, which is now housed in the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington. Why was the tycoon so dissatisfied with the artist's work and even forbade him to ever look at this incredible work of art?

The home Leyland bought was a stately structure located in one of London's most exclusive neighborhoods, Kensington. In order to reconstruct the building in need of major repairs, the tycoon, without stint, hired the architect Richard Norman Shaw. Frederick commissioned the interior design of his dining room to the architect Thomas Jekyll. Leyland had a large collection of Chinese porcelain. It was white and blue in color and belonged to the Kangxi era, Qing dynasty. In his dining room, the tycoon wanted to arrange it. Jekyll was famous for his Anglo-Japanese style.

In the dining room, Leyland wanted to display his collection of Chinese porcelain

The architect constructed a highly complex lattice structure of walnut shelves with gold engraving for porcelain. They were complemented by antique gilded leather, which also adorned the walls. Jekyll hung Whistler's The Princess of Porcelain above the sumptuous fireplace.

Jekyll decided to hang a painting of Whistler over the fireplace

Whistler himself worked in a different part of the building. When the architect asked the magnate what colors to use for the blinds and doors in the dining room, he told him to rely on the artist's opinion and taste in everything. Whistler noticed how the colors of the border of the carpet and leather on the walls were successfully combined with his painting. He completed the walls of the room with yellow retouching. The artist also depicted a wave pattern on the cornice and woodwork.

Leyland initially approved of Whistler's work

Leyland liked the results very much and he calmly returned to his business in Liverpool. At the same time, the architect Jekyll fell ill and was forced to abandon the project. Whistler was left to work unattended by the architect and owner. Now he could show real creative freedom in his work and give free rein to his inspiration. Now Whistler could work with colors as he pleased.

In general, color in the interior is an extremely important tool in the work of a designer. There are no hard-and-fast rules and boundaries, no matching colors. A professional artist has in his creative arsenal many secrets of how, where and what shades are best used.

Whistler covered the shelves with gilding

The entire room, including not only the walls, but also the ceiling, was covered with a Dutch imitation of gold leaf. It is such a special alloy of copper and zinc, which is a form of brass. On the ceiling, Whistler painted a luxurious peacock feather pattern. He then gilded Jekyll's walnut shelving and artfully decorated the wooden shutters with lush peacock feathers.

The room was luxuriously decorated Leyland was amazed at what he saw

When Frederic Leyland returned to his new home, he was simply stunned. His dining room looked completely different from what he expected. This was clearly more than he asked for.The artist completely painted over the skin on the walls, the surface shone in various shades of green, gold and blue. But most of all, the tycoon was outraged by the fact that Whistler invited other artists to admire the results of his work, without permission.

Finally, Leyland and Whistler quarreled with the bill sent to the tycoon by the latter. There was a sum of two thousand pounds, huge for those times. Leyland refused to pay. “It seems to me that you should not have involved me in such large expenditures, at least without bothering to warn about it in advance,” he wrote to Whistler. He protested: “I have presented you with a brilliant surprise! The room turned out to be incredibly beautiful! She is gorgeous! Delicate and refined to the last touch! There is no second place like this in London."

To which the tycoon replied: “You have done all these additional work without my instructions and permission. You covered the shelves with gilding, depicted peacock feathers on the ceiling … Why do I need peacocks on the shutters? I do not need it! Take it all and sell it to someone else, but I didn't ask for it! " In the end, Leyland paid exactly half of the amount that the artist had charged, and then fired him with a bang.

Whistler invited other artists to see the result of his works, without Leyland's permission

The tycoon was so angry that he forbade his servants to receive Whistler and said that he would not even allow his children to ever let the artist on the doorstep. “You have become an artistic Barnum. Scammer! If I see you near my house or relatives, I will slap you in the face, I swear! " - declared Leyland, blazing with anger.

Offended and offended, Whistler added a finishing touch to his work as revenge. He depicted on a large panel opposite his painting a pair of fighting peacocks. It was an allegory for the relationship between him and Leyland. The peacock depicted on the left side of the wall represents the artist's personality. The peacock on the right side of the wall is a stingy patron, covered in gold coins from chest to tail. Coins are also scattered at his feet. To help the tycoon understand the symbolism, Whistler called this mural Art and Money or the History of a Room. After that, the artist never saw the Peacock Room again.

The artist gracefully took revenge on Leyland The final touch is Whistler's fighting peacocks

Leyland never said that he liked the room, but he clearly understood that it was of great value. He never changed anything about it. Twelve years after the tycoon's death, his heirs sold the Peacock Hall to the American industrialist and art collector, Charles Lang Frir. He was incredibly impressed with the room.

Freer exhibited his porcelain collection in the Peacock Room

The hall was carefully dismantled and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to Detroit, Michigan, where Freer had a home. There, the Peacock Room was restored and the collector displayed his collection of ceramics there. After he died in 1919, the hall was installed at the Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. There you can admire them even now.

In the interior, craftsmen often show incredible imagination and ingenuity, such as Henk Verhoff, who became famous for his handmade home mods. Read more about this in our article. what crazy handmade "broken" furniture looks like, as if escaped from the films of Tim Burton.

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