C.L. Freer in Cairo, Egypt, 1907. L-R: Dr. Frederick W. Mann;
Ibrahim Ali, and Ali Arabi. Freer Gallery of Art Archives.

A free, online program co-sponsored by the
Freer Gallery of Art, National Museum of Asian Art, Smithsonian
and the Freer House, Wayne State University
Thursday, February 10, 2022 at 6:00-7:15 pm, EST
The Freer House is very excited to announce our first online program in partnership with the National Museum of Asian Art: Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Our guest speaker and ‘guide’ will be Gretchen Welch, a long-time docent at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, with a deep interest in Egypt and Egyptian art. Ms. Welch has crafted a Freer and Egypt online ‘tour,’ as part of the National Museum of Asian Art’s online tour program. This tour, created especially for Freer House members and the public, highlights the Detroit context of Freer’s travels to Egypt and his remarkable collection of diverse Egyptian art and artifacts. Please join us for this unique trip to Egypt of the early 1900’s, as seen through the eyes of Detroit’s extraordinary world traveler and art collector, Charles Lang Freer.

The founder of the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art, Charles Lang Freer, visited Egypt three times between 1906 and 1909. Freer regarded Egyptian art as integral to his universal vision of beauty, and once declared Egyptian art as “the greatest in the world.” His acquisitions included valuable biblical manuscripts, glazed ceramics, glass, sculptures and other exceptional artifacts. The art acquired in Egypt has a definite Detroit connection, as all of the objects Freer collected were subsequently displayed and stored in his Ferry Street home. Freer also worked closely with scholars at the University of Michigan, including Francis Kelsey and Professor Saunders, to translate and publish the ancient Greek and Coptic biblical manuscripts he acquired, in order to make these rare documents available to the public.
Join us on February 10, at 6:00 pm, EST, as we recreate Freer’s remarkable travels in Egypt, look carefully at the wondrous objects he acquired, and explore further the fascinating Michigan connections to the art and culture of Egypt.
L-R: Anubis, Egypt, 664-525 BCE, bronze statuette; Bowl, Egypt, 1539-1075 BCE, faience with paint; Jar, Egypt, 1539-1295 BCE, glass; St Mark & St. Luke, cover of Washington Manuscripts, 7th c., paint on wood. Gifts of C. L. Freer, Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian.

Gretchen Welch is a volunteer docent at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, National Museum of Asian Art in Washington DC. She is also Co-chair, Friends of the National Museum of Asian Art. Previously, she was a Foreign Service Officer for 32 years, with a career focused principally on management and operations. She served in Pakistan, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UK, and held numerous senior positions in Washington before retiring in 2012. 

Born in Davenport, Iowa, Ms. Welch grew up in California and graduated from Stanford University in 1978 with a degree in International Relations. She joined the Foreign Service in 1980. After her retirement, she returned to school and received a post graduate diploma in Asian Art from SOAS at the University of London in 2015 with a special focus on the arts of the Islamic world. 

Ms. Welch developed a love for Egypt while living and working there between 2001 and 2004. She travels there frequently, serves as a trustee of the American University of Cairo, and is active with several charities that work in Egypt. She is excited to share with the Freer House audience this virtual tour that focuses on Charles Lang Freer’s three visits to Egypt, the items he acquired there, and the connections of the objects to Detroit and to Michigan.
FREER and EGYPT is Presented by . . .
The Freer House, headquarters of the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute, Wayne State University, is a masterpiece of American shingle-style architecture and the birthplace of the Freer Gallery of Art (National Museum of Asian Art, Smithsonian) in Washington DC. As an early champion of American, Asian, and Middle Eastern art, Freer's legacy of multi-culturalism is celebrated in the house's mission and programming today. These bonds to our nation's capital and much of the world make the Freer House an ambassador of Detroit's global cultural heritage.
The National Museum of Asian Art, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, is located on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Committed to preserving, exhibiting, and interpreting exemplary works of art, the National Museum of Asian Art addresses broad questions about culture, identity, and the contemporary world. The museum cares for exceptional collections of Asian art, with more than 45,000 objects dating from the Neolithic period to today and originating from the ancient Near East to China, Japan, Korea, South and Southeast Asia, and the Islamic world. Nearly a century old, the Freer Gallery of Art also holds a significant group of American works of art largely dating to the late nineteenth century. It houses the world’s largest collection of diverse works by James McNeill Whistler, including the famed Peacock Room.
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