Home > Research > Awards and Prizes > Freer Medal

Freer Medal

Past Recipients

James Cahill (2010)

James CahillJames Cahill, former curator of Chinese art at the Freer Gallery of Art and eminent scholar in many topics of Chinese art history, was awarded the Charles Lang Freer Medal in recognition of a lifetime of seminal contributions to his field. Cahill is the 12th recipient of the Freer Medal, which he received on Thursday, Nov. 18 at 11:00 a.m. in a public ceremony in the Freer's Meyer Auditorium.

Over the years, Cahill's scholarly writings and collaborative projects with other prominent Chinese art specialists have played an important role in the development of Chinese art history studies internationally. A specialist in Chinese painting, he has worked on major artists and their masterworks as well as lesser known painters, thereby broadly expanding subjects of study.

Born in 1926 at Fort Bragg, California, Cahill received his B.A. in Oriental Languages from University of California Berkeley (1950), followed by his M.A. (1952) and PhD (1958) in art history from the University of Michigan. In 1956 he traveled to Stockholm to work with Osvald Siren, a renowned Swedish scholar (and first recipient of the Freer Medal) on his monumental seven–volume Chinese Painting: Leading Masters and Principles.

Later that year (1956) Cahill joined the Freer as curator of Chinese art. Destined for a leading role in the research and interpretation of Chinese painting, Cahill painstakingly surveyed the Freer's extensive collection, leaving detailed observations that are still regularly quoted today. Working with colleagues John A. Pope, Rutherford J. Gettens, and Noel Barnard, he also produced the landmark publication, The Freer Chinese Bronzes (Smithsonian Institution, 1967), a work centered on the museum's important collection of archaic Chinese ritual vessels.

In 1965 Cahill returned to California to join the History of Art Department at UC Berkeley, where he taught until his retirement in 1994. In 1973 he was a member of the esteemed "Chinese Archaeology Delegation," the first group of art historians to visit China from the U.S., and in 1977 he returned to China as chairman of the "Chinese Old Painting Delegation," which was given unprecedented access to painting collections there. He has received two Distinguished Lifetime achievement awards from the College Art Association and is currently professor emeritus in the History of Art department at UC Berkeley.

Award Booklet (PDF, 700kb)

Oleg GrabarOleg Grabar (2001)

Award Booklet (PDF, 9.9MB)

Sherman LeeSherman E. Lee (1998)

Award Booklet (PDF, 4.2MB)

Alexander SoperAlexander Soper (1990)

Award Booklet (PDF, 8.3MB)

Alexander SoperStella Kramrisch (1985)

Max LoehrMax Loehr (1983)

Award Booklet (PDF, 6.6MB)

Roman GhirshmanRoman Ghirshman (1974)

Award Booklet (PDF, 6.6MB)

Laurence SickmanLaurence Sickman (1973)

Award Booklet (PDF, 5.4MB)

Tanaka IchimatsuTanaka Ichimatsu (1973)

Award Booklet (PDF, 6MB)

Yukio YashiroYukio Yashiro (1965)

Award Booklet (PDF, 7.8MB)

Enst KuhnelErnst Kühnel (1960)

Award Booklet (PDF, 6.8MB)

Osvald SirenOsvald Sirén (1956)

Award Booklet (PDF, 11.1MB)

Saga of the Freer Medal

Learn more »

The Shimada Prize

Established in 1992, the Shimada Prize is awarded for distinguished scholarship in the history of East Asian art.
Learn more »

Staff Awards and Honors

Recent honors and awards given to Freer | Sackler staff.
Learn more »

We are excited to reopen the Freer in October 2017, following a renovation to allow us to better present our art and serve our visitors. The Sackler remains open, with a full lineup of exhibitions and events both in the museum and around DC. For your safety, all visitors will have their bags checked. See the complete list of restricted items and bag sizes.