Gazing into the Past: Scenes from Later Chinese and Japanese Painting—a lecture series by Professor Emeritus James Cahill

Gazing into the Past Lectures

The second series of video lectures by Professor Emeritus James Cahill is titled "Gazing into the Past: Scenes from Later Chinese and Japanese Painting." The lectures are being produced with the aid of filmmaker collaborators: Rand Chatterjee, whose Chatterbox Films produced the first series ("A Pure and Remote View"), worked on the early lectures in the series; Skip Sweeney of Video Free America is continuing the work.

Since, as the series title suggests, the artists in this late period often evoked in their viewers' minds poignant memories of earlier paintings they had seen by "quoting" the styles and subjects of those older paintings, the image used for the opening and closing credits is from a work of just that kind, painted by Luo Ping in 1798. The painting depicts an old man inhaling the fragrance of a flowering branch as he reminisces about a friend from his distant past. The background music, played by Cahill's daughter, Sarah, a professional pianist, is "Forlane" from Ravel's piano suite Le Tombeau de Couperin, which similarly calls up piercing memories of that composer's style.

Like the first series, this new one will present, along with Cahill's stimulating commentary, thousands of high-resolution images of paintings with close-in details of a kind nowhere else to be seen. Each lecture will typically be devoted to a single artist and will usually be centered on a single major work of that artist, most often an album or hand scroll. That work will be given extensive treatment with high-resolution images digitized from Cahill's unmatched collection of old slides. His commentary again will be rambling and evocative, but nonetheless scholarly, providing special insights and information on the artists and their works, often mixed with reminiscences from his long career and his scholarly and personal contacts. The lectures on Japanese artists will include a long presentation on "Sesshû and Chinese Painting" that builds new insights about this great master around a hitherto-neglected work of his as well as others on major masters of Nanga, a school that Cahill introduced long ago to audiences outside Japan, developing new ways of understanding and presenting its greatest artists and paintings.

About forty lectures are planned for this new series, and Cahill will complete as many of these as his remaining time and energy permit, since this is his principal late-life project.

Two lectures are available now on our website and others are forthcoming. To be notified when more videos are posted, please enter your name on our mailing list here and write "Gazing into the Past" in the comments section.

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IEAS thanks the Tang Research Foundation and the Huang Yao Foundation for financial support of this project.