Donald F. McCallum, 74, a scholar whose work had a significant impact on the field of Japanese art history, died Wednesday, Oct. 23, at his home in Santa Monica after battling sudden metastatic prostate cancer.
McCallum, an emeritus professor of art history who retired last June, was also affiliated with the Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies at UCLA. On Oct. 12, faculty in the Department of Art History and the Terasaki Center sponsored an all-day symposium at Royce Hall to honor his life’s work and celebrate his engagement with Japanese art.
McCallum had a long and distinguished career as a scholar of Japanese art history whose interests ranged broadly from Buddhist to modern Japanese art.
He was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on May 23, 1939. He earned his Ph.D. at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and his A.B. at UC Berkeley. He began teaching at UCLA in 1969 and served as chair of the Department of Art History, interim director for the UCLA Center for Japanese Studies and director of the University of California Tokyo Study Center. During his career, he was the Toyota Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan, the Franklin D. Murphy Lecturer at the University of Kansas and the Hooker Distinguished Visiting Professor at McMaster University.
His numerous awards included 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, Japan Foundation and the John D. Rockefeller III Fund.
While his research on Japanese art had a wide breadth, his main area of study was Japanese Buddhist art, a subject on which he published three books: "Hakuho Sculpture," published by University of Washington Press (2012), "The Four Great Temples: Buddhist Archaeology, Architecture, and Icons of Seventh-Century Japan" by University of Hawai'i Press (2009) and "Zenkoji and Its Icon: A Study in Medieval Japanese Religious Art" by Princeton University Press (1994). His interests later expanded to include Korean art, modern Japanese art and even tattoos, as exemplified in articles he wrote for scholarly publications.
As a dedicated teacher at UCLA for 44 years, McCallum shared his passion and knowledge with thousands of students and served as dissertation adviser to 11 graduate students. His rigorous training style and strong, personal commitment to his students — even after they started their own professional careers — were instrumental in helping them become leaders in the field of Japanese art history. Among them are tenured faculty members at Yale University, Portland State University, University of Kansas, University of Regina, Taiwan National Central University, California State Polytechnic University at Pomona, and University of Maryland.
He is survived by his wife Toshiko, his son Kenneth, daughter Sumako and two grandchildren. Condolences may be sent to: the McCallum Family 2333 32nd St., Santa Monica, CA 90405-2027.