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Donald F. McCallum: In Memoriam

posted by CAA — Jan 17, 2014

Sherry Fowler is associate professor of Japanese art history at the University of Kansas. She earned her doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1994.

Donald F. McCallum

Donald F. McCallum

Donald F. McCallum, a celebrated art historian and treasured teacher, passed away peacefully in his home on October 23, 2013, after battling sudden metastatic prostate cancer. He was 74 years old.

McCallum had a long distinguished career as a scholar of Japanese art history, over seven years of which were spent doing research and fieldwork in Japan. In June 2013, he retired from his position as professor in the Department of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He was a beloved teacher known for his serious commitment to education alongside a sharp sense of humor. Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, on May 23, 1939, McCallum earned his PhD at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and his AB at University of California, Berkeley.

He began teaching at UCLA in 1969 and served as chair of its Department of Art History, interim director for the UCLA Center for Japanese Studies, director of the University of California Tokyo Study Center, Toyota Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan, Franklin D. Murphy Lecturer at the University of Kansas, and Hooker Distinguished Visiting Professor at McMaster University. His numerous awards include fellowships from the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto, the Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art, the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science, the Korean Cultural Service, the Japan Foundation, and the John D. Rockefeller III Fund.

Donald F. McCallum Hakuhō Sculpture

Donald F. McCallum, Hakuhō Sculpture (2012)

McCallum’s research on Japanese art had a wide breadth, but his main area was Japanese Buddhist art in which he published three books: Hakuhō Sculpture (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012); The Four Great Temples: Buddhist Archaeology, Architecture, and Icons of Seventh-Century Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2009); and Zenkoji and Its Icon: A Study in Medieval Japanese Religious Art (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994). His interests expanded to Korean art, modern Japanese art, and even tattoos, as exemplified in his articles “Korean Influence on Early Japanese Buddhist Sculpture,” in Korean Culture (1982); “Three Taisho Artists: Yorozu Tetsugoro, Koide Narashige, and Kishida Ryusei,” in Paris in Japan: The Japanese Encounter with European Painting (1987); and “Historical and Cultural Dimensions of the Tattoo in Japan,” in Marks of Civilization: Artistic Transformations of the Human Body (1988). In addition to his books, McCallum’s published articles and book reviews that number over seventy will continue to have a significant impact on the field for years to come.

As a dedicated teacher at UCLA for forty-four years, McCallum shared his passion and knowledge with thousands of students and patiently served as dissertation advisor to eleven graduate students. His rigorous training style and strong, personal commitment toward his students, even after they started their own professional careers, was instrumental toward enabling some to become leaders in Japanese art history. Among them are tenured faculty members at Yale University, Portland State University, the University of Kansas, the University of Regina, Taiwan National Central University, California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, and the University of Maryland. Aside from helping his own graduate students, McCallum enthusiastically and generously supported nearly the entire next generation of younger scholars in Japanese art history with great encouragement and by writing thoroughly researched letters of support for tenure and promotion.

McCallum will be dearly missed by many, both in and outside academia. He is survived by his wife Toshiko, his son Kenneth and his daughter-in-law Takayo, his daughter Sumako and his son-in-law James Turner, and his grandchildren Ella Sachiko and Jackson James Turner. Anyone who has ever talked with him or heard him lecture knows how devoted he was to his family and was more than likely treated to many humorous tales about his cherished grandchildren.

The Donald F. McCallum Memorial Fund has been established to support the Department of Art History and the UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies. Memorial gifts to support the fund can be made out to the UCLA Foundation and sent to: Alexa Almazán, UCLA College Development, Division of Humanities, 1309 Murphy Hall, Box 951413, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1413.

Filed under: Obituaries