Charles Lang Freer to Charles J. Morse, February 2, 1905

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Charles Lang Freer to Charles J. Morse, February 2, 1905


Letter from Morse to Freer


“I also purchased practically all of the pottery desired…including the Bizen Vase with the elephant’s heads for $190”








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#33 Ferry Avenue,
Detroit, Michigan,
February 2nd, 1905
My dear Mr. Morse:--
I sent you a hurried line from New York along with a newspaper clipping. Tomorrow I will send you additional clippings or an editorial character which will give you an idea of how the project discussed by ourselves is viewed in the east. You will be pleased to know that practically everything I have seen in print or the subject thus far approves of the individual building. Apparently our determination to allow only my own collections in the building to be erected meets with hearty approval. I send you these items merely to show you that the conclusion which you helped me to reach seems to be approved by all those who have thus far written upon the matter.
I attended the Waggaman sales on Monday evening and Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. I bought the Seshu screen for $3,100, the Korin screen for $210, and the pair of San Raku screens of clothing hanging from racks for $360, and the little Kakemono of the Pine Trees by Okio for $100. I also purchased practically all of the pottery desired, in all about a dozen pieces, including the Bizen vase with the elephant’s heads, for $190, the beautiful blue circular Tamba Bottle for $60, and all of the finer Shidora pieces and other Tamba pieces at very reasonable rates.
I also had the pleasure of buying the Agano Tea Bowl from the Nihigawa Collection, #1409 of the Catalogue, for $30. This I shall of course present to Professor Morse for the Boston Collection. Morse was not present the day it was sold and I felt it my duty to secure it for him. He was at the sale yesterday, however, and bid up to $80 for the Tamba Vase with the white stork, which you will also remember was from the Nihigawa Collection, the other two of which are already at Boston. Morse lost this vase as he would not exceed $80 and it finally went to Van Horn at $90. Of course I did not bid on this item. Van Horn’s bidding was done by an agent and I fancy that if he had been present he would not have competed with the Boston Museum.
Miss Nordlinger attended the sales with me and seemed to enjoy the excitement very much. She spent the most of yesterday in showing her prints to Mr. Noyes, the owner and editor of the Washington Star, a man whom I met in Japan and who crossed the Pacific with me. He bought about $900 worth of the prints.
Gookin was at the sale when the prints were disposed of and bought a number of them. He also purchase one or two paintings by Tanyu. He paid $260 for the latter.
[page 3] Manfield bought a few prints and quite a number of pieces of pottery.
Nearly all of the collectors of Oriental art in America and a few from Europe were represented, and on the whole the prices realized seemed to me very much higher than I anticipated. Mr. Kirby, the auctioneer, seems well satisfied thus far with the sale.
A number of people bid on the Sesshu screen up to about $2100 or $2200, after which the competition was confined to Mr. Macey, of New York, a new comer in the field, and myself. Mr. Macey has visited Japan recently and brought home with him a few good things and I am told that he is now doing what he can to get thoroughly good things. He is said to be rich and is associated with the old, established firm of R.H. Macey & Co.
Professor Fenollosa visited the exhibition with me and I discussed with him his notes on the exhibition. He says very frankly that he said as much concerning the objects as he felt that he consistently could, but that he did not consider that he had over-praised anything in the collection. He feels that the Sesshu is of extreme interest and that there is little probability of another one so carefully painted ever coming into the market and he felt that it a matter of great importance that I should secure it.
I must confess, however, that the screen looked to me less attractive in New York than it had when I saw it in Washington, but [page 4] I discovered the reason. The screen was placed so very high upon the wall that one had to look up to see it, but when I got upon a step ladder and obtained a position of the right sort, I found a very great difference in favor of the Sesshu. There is a certain hardness of finish in the work and a vast mass of detail which I find objectionable. On the other hand, the distance seems to me very beautiful and the notan in certain parts of the screen remarkable. But perhaps its greatest charm to me, as I now view it, lies in the delightfully inspiring grey tone of the general effect of the screen produced by the quality of the ink, its use and the condition of the paper. At the same time, certain parts of the paper have been so much soiled in handling that the notan is injured thereby.
I give you these rambling impressions, such as they are. They have come to me in the last two or three days but are all liable to change with better acquaintance with the screen. I shall not be content until you and I can have, at some future time, sat together before it and analyzed it to the end. I do not mean to say that it is possible to fully analyze the highest objects of art ,nor do I wish to convey the idea that one should attempt to, but this particular screen demands more of that sort of work than any other specimen known to me by the same artist.
This letter has already grown beyond reasonable length and I shall now bring it to a close.
With all kind regards to yourself and Mrs. Morse, I am
Very sincerely yours,
Charles L. Freer


"Charles Lang Freer to Charles J. Morse, February 2, 1905," in The Peacock Room, Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Item #3542, (accessed April 14, 2024).

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