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Sherman E. Lee papers, 1947-1997

Biographical Note

Sherman Emery Lee (1918-2008) was an recognized expert on Asian art and director of the Cleveland Museum of Art from 1958-1983.
Born in Seattle, Washington in 1918, Sherman E. Lee grew up in New York and received degrees from American University and a Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Lee began his art career as a curator at the Detroit Institute of Art and Seattle Art Museum. During World War II, he served with the U. S. Navy and was transferred to the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Section in Japan. After the war he continued working as a civilian advisor on the preservation of Japanese artworks.
Sherman Lee accepted a position as curator of Oriental art at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1952 and became director in 1958, where he remained until 1983. During his long tenure there, he built one of this country's most remarkable collections of Asian art, transforming the museum from a regional presence to one of national significance. In 1973 Lee was chosen as Chairman of the Art and Archeology Delegation to the People's Republic of China, jointly sponsored by the Committee on Scholarly Communication of the People's Republic of China and the Scientific and Technical Association of the People's Republic of China.
Lee wrote or co-wrote a number of books including A History of Far Eastern Art (1964) and numerous articles for journals, magazines, and newspapers. He was the recipient of many honorary degrees, awards, and honors including the Order of the Sacred Treasure from Japan and Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur. He taught art history courses at the Case Western Reserve University and Harvard and was consultant to John D. Rockefeller III and the Cleveland Permanent Public Advisory Committee. He retired to North Carolina where he taught at the University of North Carolina and was advisor to the University's Ackland Art Museum.
Lee was married to his wife Ruth for sixty-nine years. The two met in college and had three daughters and one son. Lee died July 9, 2008 at Chapel Hill, North Carolina.