Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Today's blog is a brief addition to yesterday's. In that I recommended two of my CLPs as embodying the messages I want to pass on to young scholars in East Asian art history, giving them some sense of what the field has gone through over the decades of my participation in it, and some (quite partisan) thoughts on where it might go from here, and on what I feel strongly should not be lost. One more recommended reading should be added, since it fills out the messages of those two. This is *CLP 178, the talk that I gave at the conclusion of the "Returning to the Shore" symposium held in Berkeley on April 28th, organized by my former students to honor my new octagenarian status. It includes, in particular, a citation from toward the end of an essay by Thomas Crow on art history as practiced in the U.S., which rings very true for me, but is stated more authoritatively than I could do it. I am happy to assume the role in which all this casts me (a role noted appreciatively in the anonymous note quoted in yesterday's blog) of representing, perhaps, a Retarded Art History. In an age when problematic or outright wrong directions are so open and tempting, Retarded Art History may well be as useful a corrective as, say, Slow Foods. James Cahill

Monday, September 17, 2007


Today's blog is to celebrate, and respond to, an anonymous message that came this morning via the "Contact" facility on my website. It reads:

"Professor Cahill,
Your website is a godsend. Ironically, your approach is "new" to me. The so-called New Art History is all I've ever known; to me, it is "old", it is the orthodoxy. I cannot thank you enough for your generosity in sharing your knowledge online. No password. No subscription. No membership. Your writings have not only stimulated my interest in style-history and connoisseurship, but have also given me bountiful ideas for research in my soon-to-begin graduate studies. Your noble spirit has my deepest respect."

Blessings on whoever wrote that; it warms the heart of this aging academic, makes him feel he still has a function in his field.

It also inspires me to recommend, to anyone who wants to read the messages that embody what I most want to communicate to young people coming into the field, two of my CLPs ("Cahill Lectures and Papers") that were written especially with that purpose in mind. One is *CLP 112, a talk titled "Passing On the Torch," given at a celebration held on Sept. 18, 1993, planned by Joe Price to honor three senior scholars of the history of Japanese painting as they were nearing retirement: John Rosenfield, Tsuji Nobuo, and myself. The other is *CLP 176, "Visual, Verbal, and Global (?): Some Observations on Chinese Painting Studies," delivered at a one-day symposium organized by Jason Kuo at the University of Maryland on November 13, 2005; attached to it is "position paper" prepared for a public conversation with James Elkins the next day. Together, these two can be taken as embodying the deepest messages that I would want young historians of East Asian art, potential or practicing, to receive from me.

Note of advice: Clicking on "Writings of James Cahill" on the home page calls up the whole list of CLPs; but only those with asterisks* are in digital form and so readable on the website. Click once on the orange "Cahill Lectures and Papers" title at left, under Directory, and a long list of numbers, small and black, appears below. Clicking on any one of those calls up the paper.