James Caswell

Forever Cherished - Never Forgotten: James Caswell

Dear Friends:

My heart nearly burst with sorrow when I first heard that my dear friend, James Caswell, passed away on June 10. Jim was a lot of things to a lot of different people, but a friend to all. For those of you who knew Jim, you probably share all of my sentiments. First and foremost, you know that he was a special person with an enormous heart. He was a family man who dedicated all of his adult life to family, and a provider who worked diligently to provide for his family. He was passionate about many things. After family, his other true love was his business — Historia Antiques, and the commitment to his research that came with it. Jim’s absolute dedication to Spanish colonial and Mexican folk art was a labor of love that he devoted himself to wholeheartedly. Jim was a true scholar, and for me a mentor — someone I could turn to after I had exhausted every other viable resource. I knew he would always have the answer, and unlike many others, he was happy to share it with me. I think of him often and miss him dearly.

We all know that Jim will never be forgotten. His spirit will live on, in all that he achieved and shared with so many.

James Eddy

** Please, if you have a few words that you would like to share send them to me so that I can post them here - together with all of the other kind notes, prayers and thoughts we have received. eMail Us


From Linda Pastorino, Chester, NJ

I always looked forward to seeing his stand at every show in Santa Fe, whether i was set up or not myself. As a part time collector of Spanish Colonial art , i refined my early youthful purchases through his offerings that were well edited, and diverse . His knowledge and kindness in the way he offered his pieces by virtue of his ability to nurture the client and or dealer was why I had a special fondness for him. He was always kind to me and was someone who was not just selling to make a sale, but was authentic. Some of my best retablos I have were from him. A year ago in Santa Fe and we spoke not about business but about our personal issues and he was always a friend first , a dealer second . Looking back I am happy to have that chance to talk and remember his advice was very helpful to me. I will really miss him. The antiques buisness and specialty of that area have lost a great precence who will be sorely missed. Linda Pastorino/Singkiang

From Martha Egan, Santa Fe, NM

As dealers and collectors from all over the world gather in Santa Fe this week for various shows of antique ethnographic art, one of the best--James Caswell-- will not be there. We lost him in June. James was not only a friend, a gentleman, and a charming colleague with a somewhat wry smile, he had The Eye. As I look around my store and my home, he is present in the many pieces of very special art he searched out, studied, and explained to me and interested others. What he bought and sold weren't simply objects, inventory, "stuff." He sought out pieces that reflected history, culture, traditions, values, and sometimes the very essence of others' lives. He bought these items to life again by conveying them to others who would enjoy and learn from them as he had. Buen camino, dear friend.

Martha Egan, Pachamama, Santa Fe, NM


From Deborah Dwyer, Brooklyn, NY

I had the pleasure of meeting Jim at a conference for retablo collectors. He gave an excellent talk about painting styles of the various artists and identified individual painters. Everyone enjoyed it and had their appreciation of this folk art form deepened. I bought several retablos from him over the years and often turned to him for background information. He was a generous man. I miss knowing that he is in the world.


Deborah Dwyer


From Larry Kent, Vista, CA.

James Caswell was a guy who believed family came first. He would call you just to say hi or offer advice
in a difficult situation. Jim played hard and worked hard. We were good friends and would laugh and joke. I sought his advice many times when it came to masks and folk art. Our conversations were educational and thought provoking. I'll miss him dearly.

Larry Kent


From Nathan DesJardins

I never spoke to James, never met James in person... yet our love affair for collecting ethnographic masks made our paths cross - often. Its through his amazing collection that I came to feel I knew James personally. Over the last few years, I've constantly reminded myself that if I were ever in CA that I'd definitely have to finally go met him. James' effort to preserve the history, the lineage, and get the lengthy details correct was astounding... especially considering his vast "collection". With the loss of James, comes a immeasurable loss to Spanish antiquities. James and his websites were living textbooks for me that taught much of what I know about ethnographic masks that I do today ...I still vividly selling James an antique 1930s Tortio Bull Mask with the moreria mark "CJ" for Cruz Juarez. His excitement exceeded mine, which is rare... I've always wondered what became of that mask. I never saw James resell it.. which has me perpetually day-dreaming of the amazing, personal, collection that James must have tucked away... James, If i come across any more Cruz Juarez Masks...I'll give you a holler; I will see you on the other side Happy5152.


From Brian Kenner, New York, NY

I was stunned when I learned of Jim's passing on the Historia Web page. We were last texting back and forth on 6 June regarding the nuances of a floating San Pascal and an obscure Patronessa. And how crazy was the passionate chase for great Retablos. Although we didn't speak everyday, we always found time to connect, discuss art, life, business, and most importantly family. I believe every conversation I had with "Caz", as I affectionately called him, began with the recounting of family events and daily lives of loved ones first. Our friendship was conducted on the phone, mostly between midnight and 3AM East Coast Time. We were both night owls and a talk about Art, life and current events over a glass of wine in the wee hours, was something to which I always looked forward to sharing with him.

And then there was the art:


He inspired a passion for collecting we both shared and connected with over 8 years of friendship.
I bought my first Retablo from James Eddy; a 20" x 14" Divina Providencia. I still treasure that painting, and view it everyday.

He introduced me to James Caswell, shortly after my first purchase. Whereas James Eddy was soft spoken, gently coaxing about collecting, Caswell was assertive, brisk, demanding. I must view a piece at home before purchasing. I must consider whether I wanted my money more or that retablo more, before deciding. I must be completely happy in taking the piece, and I must provide a suitable home for it.
What? Unheard of. But that was Caswell. He cultured his clients and then mentored them into collectors.
And that was the start of our relationship. Soon after our initial introduction, Jim acquainted me with "Saints and Sinners", and from that moment, I was entering into the world of a devoted Retablo collector.
The first thought I had about Caz's passing was for his family. The second was for the World of Art; to have lost a genius, an historian, an originator and proponent of knowledge of Mexican Art and sharing of the history and origins of the art forms.

All that gorgeous knowledge that only came from hard work, passion, nurtured connections, and time; what a tremendous loss to Art History. I knew that Caz's knowledge and expertise was mostly unrecorded, but every moment I spent talking to him, I was conscious that I was being exposed to living history and a treasure of knowledge. Whatever he chose to share with me was important, significant, and sadly lost as most of it was never written down.

Lastly, I thought about the loss of my friend, and conversations no longer to be shared. A door closed for me with Caz's passing.

Caz will always be remembered for his kindness, his passionate nature, that brilliant historian's mind, that truly generous heart.

He will never be forgotten by this client collectors and friends.

Brian Kenner
Beads of Paradise NYC


Don Lewis, Los Angeles, CA.

Dear James,

Those were beautiful words you wrote about your friend James Caswell. I knew him for many years, and he was all you said he was. I wish your wonderful collection was as close to me as Historia was. I loved to visit that charming shop and chat with James when ever I was in Santa Monica, and I would probably spend many hours visiting with you like I enjoyed my time with him. I have one of the floral pottery pieces he made many years ago, and now it is even more special to me.

So sorry you lost such a dear friend.


Don Lewis


From Dennis Aigner, Laguna Beach, CA.

Echoing James Eddy's sentiments, Jim Caswell was a beautiful soul with an amazing knowledge of antique Mexican folk art. Having purchased many masks, retablos and paintings from him over the years, our relationship grew into one of sincere friendship.

At the end of his life we were working on a book together on the subject of the anonymous retablo painters. Jim had, over the course of his long career, developed a keen eye for the stylistic elements that identify a particular artist's work. Indeed, he had categorized over 50 such painters, euphemistically identified by a major characteristic of their style, such as the "Bee-Stung Lip Painter". Sadly, most of this information had never been written down. At the time of his death we were about to embark on a process by which he would dictate his knowledge and I would organize it for the book. For all his other virtues, Jim was very disorganized and it now seems very unlikely that any of this information will ever be recovered and hence the book will never be written.

Dennis Aigner


From Daniel Stearns, Temple City, CA. 

Jim was a storyteller. Captivated I would listen to his history lessons for hours while I sought out his treasures. He was a peaceful old soul who spoke often of his wonderful family.
His scholarship will be missed, his friendship will be difficult to replace.

Daniel Stearns


From Carlos Veryan, Guadalajara, MX.

Extraordinarios sentimientos, todos compartimos el dolor de perderlo, Jim fue siempre un Hermano y gran Amigo, en todas mis oraciones estará siempre presente, sentí una profunda tristeza con su perdida, la vida me dio el privilegio de poder estar con el poco tiempo antes de su tragica muerte, que Dios este siempre contigo donde quiera que estés mi gran Hermano Jim.


From Robert Morris, Santa Fe, NM.

Jim - dear old friend for more than 25 years. Your knowledge of Mexican folk art was truly prodigious. Your humor and your fundamental humanity will be greatly missed; as gone are the times of Santa Monica visits and lunches at the Thai restaurant around the corner - as well, all the great times in August at the Santa Fe shows. Wonderfully quirky, I will always miss you!



From Brenton Hamilton, Camden, ME.

I just wanted to thank you for the beautiful tribute you posted about Mr. Caswell. I was taken aback to hear the news of his passing. Though I did not get to meet him he was incredibly kind to me on several occaisions. I have quite a few Historia things........especially these grand carved hands.

I guess I'm just reaching out to someone who knew him - and to thank you for letting the world know and your note was very beautifully writen. When I would correspond with him he always used the moniker: "Hey Brother ! "....and he'd tell me to hang tight.

I understand he had great, deep knowledge of the subject.

Well James - thank you.

My Best always,

Colonial Arts | 151 Vermont Street Street, Suite 6 | San Francisco, CA., 94103 | www.colonialarts.com