Sherman Lee

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Sherman Emery Lee (1918–2008) was an American academic, writer, art historian and expert on Asian art. He was Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art from 1958 to 1983.[2]

Sherman E. Lee
Sherman E. Lee.jpg
Sherman Emery Lee

April 19, 1918[1]
Seattle, Washington
DiedJuly 9, 2008
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Alma materB.A. and M.A., American University; PhD at Western Reserve University, 1941
OccupationArt historian, curator, and expert on Asian art
EmployerDetroit Institute of Arts, Seattle Art Museum, University of Washington, Cleveland Museum of Art
Known forDirector of the Cleveland Museum of Art, 1958-1983

Lee earned his B.A. and M.A. at American University in Washington, D.C. He was awarded his PhD at Western Reserve University in 1941.[3]

Lee was "a renowned expert on Asian art."[3] According to Philippe de Montebello, Lee will be remembered for "sensational acquisitions that transformed the Cleveland Museum of Art in all fields."[4]


In 1941, Lee was named Curator of Far Eastern Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts.[3] His museum career was interrupted by military service in World War II.[2]

He returned to the United States in 1948. He was the Associate Director of the Seattle Art Museum and he taught at the University of Washington.[3]

In 1952, Lee began work at the Cleveland Museum of Art as Chief Curator of Oriental Art. He was named Director in 1958, and served in this capacity until 1983.[2]

He advised Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller on building their collection of Asian art.

After retiring from the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1983, Lee became an adjunct professor of art history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[3]

World War IIEdit

Lieutenant Sherman Lee was activated from the United States Naval Reserve during World War II. His naval career took a turn when he was transferred in 1946 to Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) in Japan.[3] When he was discharged from the military, he continued working as a civilian in Tokyo.[2] From 1946 to 1948, he was a civilian adviser to the staff of Gen. Douglas MacArthur (Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, also known by the acronym SCAP) on the cataloging, preserving and protection of Japanese artworks.[5] Among those serving with Lee at SCAP headquarters in Tokyo were Patrick Lennox Tierney[6] and Laurence Sickman.[7]


Speaking of his service with the Monuments Men, Lee said:

We were responsible for protection of registered cultural property ... We were responsible for national parks ... We were responsible for the encouragement of the living artists and ... the democratization of Japanese museums to see that there was evenhanded fair play.[4]


According to Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Sherman Lee "carried a lot of weight in the community of museum directors. He bought in all fields, his own particularly brilliantly, but in many different fields. He really transformed the Cleveland museum from a regional museum to a major global museum."[2]


Selected worksEdit

In a statistical overview derived from writings by and about Sherman Lee, OCLC/WorldCat encompasses roughly 100+ works in 300+ publications in 8 languages and 14,000+ library holdings.[9]

  • Chinese Landscape Painting (1954)
  • Japanese Decorative Style (1961)
  • A History of Far Eastern Art (1964)
  • Ancient Cambodian Sculpture (1969)
  • The Colors of Ink: Chinese Paintings and Related Ceramics from the Cleveland Museum of Art (1974)
  • The Genius of Japanese Design (1981)
  • Reflections of Reality in Japanese Art (1983)
  • Past, Present, East and West (1983)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Weber, Bruce (July 11, 2008). "Sherman Lee, Who Led Cleveland Museum, Dies at 90" (July 11, 2008). New York Times. New York Times. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e Weber, Bruce. "Sherman Lee, Who Led Cleveland Museum, Dies at 90," New York Times. July 11, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Monuments Men Foundation: Monuments Men> Lee, Sherman E.
  4. ^ a b Litt, Steven (February 6, 2014). "Cleveland's own Monuments Man: How Sherman Lee's service in Japan benefited the Cleveland Museum of Art". The Plain Dealer, Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  5. ^ Kappes, John. "Sherman Lee, who led the Cleveland Museum of Art to global renown, dead at 90," The Plain Dealer (Cleveland). July 9, 2008.
  6. ^ Consulate General of Japan, Los Angeles: Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon (3rd class). Archived October 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Monuments Men Foundation: Monuments Men> Sickman, Maj. Laurence
  8. ^ Freer Gallery of Art. (1998). Tenth Presentation of the Charles Lang Freer Medal, Sherman E. Lee.
  9. ^ WorldCat Identities: Lee, Sherman E.


  • American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas. (1946). Report. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. OCLC 185537904
  • Lee, Sherman E. (1997). "My Work in Japan: Arts and Monuments 1946–48," in The Confusion Era: Art and Culture of Japan during the Allied Occupation 1945–52, ed. Mark Sandler. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
  • Nicholas, Lynn H. (1995). The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Teasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0-679-75686-6; OCLC 32531154
  • U.S. Department of State. Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) [NB. This is a publication of the State Department that serves as a key finding aid because the documents selected for printing include the source file designation.]
    • __________________. (1944). "Interest of the United States in measures for the protection and salvage of artistic and historic monuments in war areas," FRUS. (Vol. II, pp. 1031–1068.
    • __________________. (1945). "Interest of the United States in measures for the protection and salvage of artistic and historic monuments in war areas," FRUS. (Vol. II, pp. 933–957.

External linksEdit