We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.



It comes as no surprise that a beautiful woman at the turn of last century was long-necked, long-limbed, and thin—as evidenced by portraits collected by determined bachelor Charles Lang Freer. Thomas Wilmer Dewing created moody “presences” by depicting women in low-necked evening gowns evaporating into misty landscapes. In contrast, Abbott Henderson Thayer made visual references to the classical past in his portrait of socialite Clara May dressed in a Greek chiton, in reference to the goddess Diana. Finally, James McNeil Whistler made his portraits into abstract compositions; see the bold rendering of longtime lover Maud Franklin in a white dress cut with dashes of black. The figure exudes a daring that Freer may have enjoyed in pictorial form—but not in person. He suggests as much in a letter to friend Dwight Tryon: “The American Woman…with her fancies of independence, rights, wrongs, extravagances, dress…is startling to all sensible people.” “Pretty Women: Freer and the Ideal of Feminine Beauty” is on view from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (to Sept. 17; see City List for other dates) at the Freer Gallery of Art, 12th Street and Jefferson Drive SW. Free. (202) 633-4880. (Hetty Lipscomb)