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The Freer Medal


John Max Rosenfield accepting the 2012 Freer Medal

Named for museum founder, Charles Lang Freer, the medal has been awarded on an ad hoc basis since its inauguration in 1956. The Freer Medal honors persons, who over the course of a career, have contributed in a substantial way to the understanding of the arts of Asia.

John Rosenfield Receives The Freer Medal

0Art historian John Max Rosenfield was selected to receive the 2012 Charles Lang Freer Medal in recognition of his contribution to the field of Asian art history. Rosenfield, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Professor of East Asian Art, Emeritus, at Harvard University, became the thirteenth recipient of the award at a ceremony on April 12, 2012. Born in 1924 in Dallas, Rosenfield studied art at the University of Texas, Austin, before enlisting in the US Army during World War II. He took his first trips to Asia (India, China, Korea, and Japan) during his military service. Upon returning to the United States, Rosenfield studied at the University of California, Berkeley; Southern Methodist University; and the University of Iowa, earning a BLS, BFA, and MFA before receiving his PhD in art history from Harvard University (1959). Following teaching positions at the University of Iowa and University of California, Los Angeles, he joined the Harvard faculty in 1966. During his twenty-five years at Harvard, Professor Rosenfield held a variety of posts, including the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Professor of East Asian Art, chairman of the Department of Fine Arts, curator of Asian art at the Fogg Art Museum, and director of Harvard University Art Museums.

Rosenfield’s numerous publications deal with Indian and Central Asian Buddhist arts of the Kushan period, Japanese Buddhist painting and sculpture, and early modern Japanese painting. His 2010 book Portraits of Chōgen: The Transformation of Buddhist Art in Early Medieval Japan represents the first significant study of Chōgen to be published in the West. He has lectured widely, organized several exhibitions of Japanese art, and served on various boards, including those of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Japan Society. Rosenfield also was chair of the editorial board of the Archives of Asian Art and of the Freer and Sackler’s Shimada Prize Committee.

Throughout his career, Professor Rosenfield has focused on fostering a mutual understanding between Japan and the United States. He has received several awards for his efforts, including the 19th Yamagata Banto prize in 2001, which recognized his contributions to spreading Japanese culture outside Japan.

Award Booklet

Past recipients

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