Sherman Lee

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  • Born: 1918
  • Died: 2008

Sherman Emery Lee was director of the Cleveland Museum of Art from 1958-1983, and Asian art expert. Over the course of his career as scholar, curator, and director, he assembled for the museum one of the best Asian art collections in the United States, organized numerous groundbreaking exhibitions, and authored numerous scholarly texts, including the widely-used textbook History of Far Eastern Art.

As an advisor to the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program ("Monuments Men") division in Japan from 1946-48, Lee surveyed the Shôsôin collection, and convinced the Japanese government to put objects from the collection on display in 1947, for the first time ever. The Shôsôin exhibit at the Nara National Museum, held annually ever since, is regularly the most highly attended museum exhibition in Japan, and often among the top ten in the world.[1]

After periods working at the Detroit Institute of Art and Seattle Art Museum, he was named curator of Oriental art at the Cleveland Art Museum in 1952. He later served as director of that museum for many years, and published a number of significant works on art history.

Selected Works

  • Chinese Landscape Painting (1954)
  • A History of Far Eastern Art (1964)
  • The Genius of Japanese Design (1981)


  1. Rihoko Ueno, "Monuments Men in Japan: Discoveries in the George Leslie Stout papers," Archives of American Art Blog, 29 Oct 2012.
    Edan Corkill, "Hiding in Japan are the world’s best attended exhibitions," Japan Times, 24 Apr 2008.