Scope and Content
Title: Chinese Paintings
Date (inclusive): 12th century - 20th century
Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive
This collection is open for research.
Copyright resides with the Regents of the University of California. For permission to reproduce images from the collection
of the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum, please address inquiries to Rights and Reproductions, fax number: 510-642-4889.
[Identification of item], Chinese Paintings Collection, Berkeley Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley.
Scope and Content
Of the approximately 150 Chinese paintings in this collection guide, the majority were originally collected by UC Berkeley
Professor Emeritus James Cahill and the Cahill family. The Cahill family collections, known historically as the Ching Yüan
Chai Collection, are arguably among the finest in the western United States, representing virtually every period of Chinese
painting over the last 900 years. The collections consist of works from the Sung, Yüan, Ming, and Ch'ing dynasties, including
major figure paintings and bird-and-flower paintings. The greatest strength, however, is landscape paintings. Considered the
highest category of painting in China, the landscape embodies the ideals of the Confucian scholar. This is the area of Chinese
art in which we find the most daring experiments, the greatest developments, and the most intense art historical scrutiny.
Professor Cahill began collecting Chinese paintings in 1955 while on a Fulbright fellowship in Japan, where he was completing
his dissertation on fourteenth-century (Yüan) painting. It was there that a noted Japanese scholar bestowed the name Ching
Yüan Chai, which roughly translates as "Studio of One Who Is Looking Intently at the Yüan Dynasty." Throughout his long teaching
career James Cahill used these collections as a means of gaining a better personal understanding of art, as an opportunity
to explore areas of connoisseurship, and as a tool for teaching others these same disciplines. For Cahill, collecting meaningfully
enriched the scope and depth of his comprehension of the intricacies of Chinese painting and culture. Cahill has remarked,
"collecting has deepened my understanding of Chinese painting…forcing me to make judgments of quality and authenticity." Professor
Cahill has likened his pursuit of Chinese paintings to the eleventh-century poet Sun Tung-p'o's allusion:
"It is like clouds and mists passing before my eyes, or the songs of birds striking my ears. How could I help but derive joy
from my contact with these things? But when they are gone, I think no more about them. In this way, these two things [painting
and calligraphy] are a constant pleasure to me, but not an affliction."
-- Su Tung-p'o, eleventh-century statesman, poet, and connoisseur, on collecting. Translation by James Cahill
Professor Cahill and family members, through gift and purchase, have passed on key works from their collections to the university
at which he taught for over thirty years. These paintings will remain at Berkeley for generations of students to examine and
study, and experience the joy of working with actual masterworks of art.
The descriptive notes accompanying the artworks included in the Collection Guide largely carry the familiar "voice" of James
Cahill, Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley, who has generously commented on the artwork from the perspective of connoisseurship,
collecting, and teaching. Additional biographical and art historical comments are presented in order to place the paintings
in historical context. These comments are provided by Julia M. White, Curator of Asian Art at the Honolulu Academy of Arts,
and Guest Curator of the UC Berkeley Art Museum Exhibition Masterworks of Chinese Painting: In Pursuit of Mists and Clouds.
Wade-Giles, the first name cited in each item's record in the Collection Guide, is a system of transliteration that was developed
in the early part of the 20th century. Pinyin, the second name, in parentheses, is the same character utilizing a system
of transliteration of Chinese characters developed in the People's Republic of China in the later part of the 20th
The "t" and "h" preceding the descriptive notes stand for tz'u (zi) the artist's style name and hao (hao) the artist's pen
name. Chinese artists frequently sign their works with these alternate names.
Senior Curator for Collections
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Subjects and Indexing Terms