In Memoriam

James Cahill — 1926–2014

James Cahill

Update: A memorial service honoring Professor Emeritus James Cahill has been scheduled for Saturday May 10, 2014, 3:30 p.m., at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, Gund Theater, at 2625 Durant Avenue. A reception will follow.

Please RSVP to bampfa-cahill@lists.berkeley.edu if you plan to attend.


James Cahill, Berkeley Professor Emeritus of Art History and one of the world's foremost scholars of Chinese painting, died at his home in Berkeley on February 14, 2014.

Professor Cahill taught at Berkeley from 1964 until his retirement in 1994. He published more than a dozen books and hundreds of articles on Chinese and Japanese art, literally transforming the field. He built an important collection of paintings from the Song through Qing dynasties, much of which he donated to the Berkeley Art Museum. He was a dedicated teacher, mentoring countless students who went on to careers in teaching and curatorship around the world. A native Californian, Cahill received his BA in Oriental Languages from UC Berkeley in 1950, and later studied at the University of Michigan, where he earned his PhD. He received multiple accolades from the College of Art Association and was awarded the Freer Medal in 2012 for his lifetime of service to the field of Art History.

Professor Cahill was an active lecturer at the Institute of East Asian Studies and the Center for Chinese Studies. In recent years, he also collaborated with IEAS on a series of professionally produced video lectures on early Chinese painting, intended as a legacy of his teaching. Completed in 2012 and titled "A Pure and Remote View," the first series examines painting through the end of the thirteenth century. It can be viewed on the IEAS website at http://ieas.berkeley.edu/aparv. Production on a second series on later Chinese painting, "Gazing into the Past," was underway at the time of Cahill's death. Two of those lectures are currently available at http://ieas.berkeley.edu/gazing with more to follow.

Professor Cahill is survived by four children and six grandchildren.

If you would like to share your memories of James Cahill, please send contributions to Catherine Lenfestey at lenfestey@berkeley.edu. They will be posted on our Tributes to James Cahill page.

Memorial plans are pending, and will be announced on this website when they become available.

See more memorials here:
 •  New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/19/arts/design/james-cahill-scholar-of-chinese-art-dies-at-87.html?_r=0
 •  The Asia Society: http://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/asia-society-remembers-towering-art-historian-james-cahill-1926%E2%80%932014
 •  The Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/obituaries/la-me-james-cahill-20140222,0,625432.story#axzz2u4OVNC00
 •  The San Francisco Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/James-Cahill-Asian-art-expert-at-UC-Berkeley-5261081.php
 •  The Daily Californian: http://www.dailycal.org/2014/02/24/professor-emeritus-james-cahill-chinese-art-expert-dies-87/