When the railroad car manufacturer Charles Freer retired from business at age forty-five, he set out to create a world-class art collection that combined ancient Asian art and American paintings of his own Gilded Age. The extraordinary artworks he amassed formed the core of what became one of America's first national art museums""the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
This engrossing biography of Freer traces his journey from his humble childhood in rural New York to his industrial career in the rapidly growing Detroit of the 1880s. Drawing on Freer's diaries and letters, it describes his adventures around the world in search of art. He owned the largest collection of artworks by his feisty friend, James McNeill Whistler, whose love of Asian art inspired Freer to explore that field.