James Cahill Papers

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At A Glance

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  • Overview

    Papers created by Asian art historian, curator, and collector Dr. James Francis Cahill. Includes personal and professional correspondence and project files documenting his many publications, lectures and activities in the Asian art field. Documents span his early career at the Freer Gallery of Art, where he served as curator of Chinese art from 1957-1965, and his tenure 1965-1994 as Professor of the History of Art at the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Creator

    Cahill, James, 1926-2014
  • Dates

  • Physical Description

    12 Linear feet
  • Collection ID


  • Scope and Content Note

    The James Cahill Papers span the years 1945 to 1996 and measures 15 linear feet. The collection includes: personal and administrative correspondence with other art historians, art dealers and collectors; lecture manuscripts and administrative material and correspondence with art museums, universities and other organizations in the Asian art community. There are also several personal letters and postcards with family friends of James and Dorothy Cahill. The folder descriptions were retained from Cahill's own folder titles and organized alphabetically within each series.
  • Biographical Note

    1926 -- Born, Fort Bragg, CA

    1950 -- Receives BA degree in Oriental Languages from University of California, Berkeley

    1952 -- Receives MA degree in Art History from University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor

    Circa 1953 -- Holds a museum training fellowship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

    1954-1955 -- Studies with Shujiro Shimada at Kyoto University in Japan on a Fulbright Scholarship

    1956 -- Works with Osvald Sirén in Stockholm on his seven-volume series "Chinese Painting: Leading Masters and Principles" Joins staff of Freer and Sackler Gallery as Curator of Chinese Art

    1958 -- Receives PhD in Art History from University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, working principally with Max Loehr

    1960 -- Publishes first and highly influential book: "Chinese Painting." In: Treasures of Asia series, Editions d'Art Albert Skira, Geneva, Switzerland 1960. Published also in French and German editions

    1965 -- Leaves the Freer and Sackler Gallery to accept position as Professor of History of Art at the University of California, Berkeley

    1973 -- Goes to China as member of the Chinese Archaeological Delegation, first group of art historians to visit China from the US

    1976 -- Publishes first of projected five-volume series on later Chinese paintings: "Hills Beyond a River: Chinese Painting of the Yuan Dynasty"

    1977 -- Visits China as chairman of Chinese Old Painting Delegation

    1978 -- Publishes second of projected five-volume series on later Chinese painting: "Parting At the Shore: Chinese Painting of the Early and Middle Ming Dynasty"

    1978-1979 -- Accepts appointment as Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard; delivers series of lectures titled, "The Compelling Image: Nature and Style in 17th Century Chinese Painting"

    1982 -- Publishes "Barnhart-Cahill-Rogers Correspondence, 1981" (collection of correspondence published for colleagues) The Harvard lecture series: "The Compelling Image: Nature and Style in 17th Century Chinese Painting" published as a book, receives College of Art Association's Morey Prize for Best Art History book

    1998-1999 -- Spends a year at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton with his wife, the art historian and artist Hsingyuan Tsao

    2007 -- Former students organize 80th birthday party/symposium at Berkeley, titled: "Returning to the Shore"

    2010 -- Became the 12th Recipient of the Charles Lang Freer Medal

    Present -- Living in Vancouver, Canada
  • Creator

    Cahill, James, 1926-2014
  • Names

    Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
    College Art Association of America
    Freer Gallery of Art
    Guo li gu gong bo wu yuan
    Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.)
    Barnhart, Richard M., 1934-
    Cahill, James, 1926-2014
    Fong, Wen
    Fu, Shen, 1937-
    Lawton, Thomas, 1931-
    Ledderose, Lothar date
    Lee, Sherman E.
    Li, Chu-tsing, 1920-
    Pope, John Alexander, 1906-1982
    Sickman, L. C. S. (Laurence C. S.)
    Soper, Alexander Coburn, 1904-
    Vinograd, Richard Ellis date
    Wang, Chi-ch'ien
    Wu, Nelson Ikon, 1919-
  • Place

    Washington (D.C.)
    Berkeley (Calif.)
  • Occupation

    Art historians
  • Topic

    Art, Japanese
    Art, Chinese
  • Provenance

    Gift of James Cahill.
  • Provenance

    James Cahill donated his papers to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives on December 12th, 2001.
  • Archival Repository

    Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
  • Type

    Collection descriptions
    Archival materials
  • Citation

    James Cahill papers, 1945-1996. FSA.A2001.11. National Museum of Asian Art Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Gift of James Cahill, December 12th, 2001.
  • Arrangement

    The collection is arranged into 2 series:

    Series 1 -- Project Files, 1945-1996

    Series 2 -- Correspondence with Individuals, 1945-1996
  • Processing Information

    Processed by intern Evelyn Khoo, with the assistance of archivists Rachael Cristine Woody and David Hogge. Encoded by Rebecca Morgan, Summer 2012.
  • Rights

    Permission to reproduce and publish an item from the Archives is coordinated through the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery's Rights and Reproductions department. Please contact the Archives in order to initiate this process.
  • Genre/Form

  • Location of Originals

    Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Smithsonian Institution
  • Restrictions

    Collection is closed for processing. Please contact the Archives for more information.
  • Related Material

    The James Cahill website, http://www.jamescahill.info/ which contains digitized versions of selected unpublished papers, correspondence and personal reminisces.

Repository Contact

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
National Museum of Asian Art Archives
Washington, D.C. 20013