JPRI Occasional Paper & Video No. 53 (November 2016)
Gazing into the Past: Scenes from Later Chinese and Japanese Painting
James Cahill


JPRI and APPSI at Holy Names University of Oakland are honored to serve as promotional partners for the last series of video lectures by UC Berkeley Professor Emeritus James Cahill entitled “Gazing into the Past: Scenes from Later Chinese and Japanese Painting.”


(Click on the image to access the video lectures)

The lectures are being produced by the Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS) at University of California, Berkeley, with the aid of filmmaker collaborators: Rand Chatterjee, whose Chatterbox Films produced the first series (“A Pure and Remote View: Visualizing Early Chinese Landscape Painting”), worked on the early lectures in this second series; Skip Sweeney of Video Free America is continuing the work. The Tang Research Foundation and the Huang Yao Foundation has provided financial support for this project.

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 “Sesshū 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.


James Francis Cahill (1926-2014), Ph.D., was an art historian, curator, collector, and professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He was considered one of the world’s top authorities on Chinese/East Asian art. Dr. Cahill published hundreds of articles as well as more than a dozen books. He built a significant collection of Chinese and Japanese art, and gave much of it to the Berkeley Art Museum. In 2010 he was awarded the Charles Lang Freer Medal by the Smithsonian Institution for his lifetime contributions to art history.


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