Chu-tsing Li passed away peacefully Tuesday, September 16th at the age of 94 at St. John’s on the Lake in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
He graduated from Puiching High School in Macao, received a: BA in English from Nanjiing Univ. in Chengdu, MA in English and PhD in Art History from the Univ. of Iowa (1954) where he taught for 10 years. At the University of Kansas for 19 years, he was the Judith Harris Murphy Distinguished Professor of Art History and Research Curator, Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City. Also taught at Oberlin and Chinese Univ. of Hong Kong. He received a Ford Foundation Grant to retrain in Chinese Art at Harvard and Princeton Univ. (1960) and an American Council of Learned Studies Grant to spend a one-year sabbatical in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan (1964). He visited China frequently after 1972 and became the first Fulbright Visiting Exchange Scholar to China in 1979.
He had an illustrious academic career in Chinese art history. A tireless teacher, he mentored 28 PhD and 50 MA students who taught or curated at Princeton, Washington-St. Louis, Arizona State, Harvard and Phoenix Art Museums and National Palace Museum, Taiwan. A relentless scholar of Yuan painting, he published 19 books and catalogs including the seminal Autumn Colors on the Ch’iao and Hua Mountains by Chao Meng-fu (1964), eventually publishing on Ming, Qing and contemporary works. With a keen eye, he first recognized merit of contemporary (abstract) Chinese ink paintings in early 1960s, organized exhibitions and opened up the field. Many of his collected works in A Tradition Redefined: Chinese Ink Paintings in the C.T. Li Collection will be donated to Harvard and Phoenix Art Museums. He touched many graduate students, art historians, collectors, curators and Chinese artists throughout the world with his rigorous, yet humble approach.
Husband of the late Yao-wen Kwang Li (56 years). Son of deceased Wu Zi Li and Jing Tran Hsieh (Taiwan). Father of B U.K. Li (Milwaukee) and Amy Lee (Portland). Grandfather to Rachel Li Cullivan (spouse John NJ) and Benjamin Li (MI), and Daniel Lee, Brandon Lee, Christopher Lee (OR). Great grandfather to Jack and Naomi Cullivan. Preceded in death by elder and young brothers Chu-ling Li and Chu-shan Li. He is further survived by relatives in California, Taiwan and Guangzhou, China, his birthplace.
There will be an informal reception in November 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin TBA. There will be a formal memorial service in May of 2015 in Lawrence, Kansas TBA. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Chu-tsing Li Award for Graduate Students in Chinese Art, Univ. of Kansas Endowment Association, P.O. Box 928, Lawrence, KS 66044.