The long search for a director for the Corcoran Gallery of Art may be coming to an end.

Though the board of trustees has not voted on the appointment, a special meeting for that purpose has been scheduled for Monday. And sources close to the museum indicated yesterday that a leading candidate has emerged. She is Christina Orr-Cahall, 40, a Yale-trained art curator and educator who is currently in charge of the art division of the Oakland Museum.

"I suppose I'm the front-runner," Orr-Cahall said yesterday from California. She said that if selected she will take the job.

Orr-Cahall -- who came to Washington last week to take a close look at the Corcoran -- already has been screened by the trustees' search committee. She also has been vetted by the board's executive committee, which met yesterday afternoon. Following that meeting, board Chairman David Lloyd Kreeger called for Monday's vote.

The Corcoran has 65 trustees. "The director's job will not be filled," Kreeger cautioned yesterday, "until the full board votes."

The position has been vacant officially since June. But Michael M. Botwinick, who held the job for four years, publicly announced his intention to resign last Christmas Eve.

Should Orr-Cahall be appointed, she would be the eighth director to guide the gallery since James Harithas resigned in 1969.

For most of 1987, the Corcoran has been guided by its curator of collections, Edward J. Nygren, who has informed the trustees that he was not a candidate for the director's job.

The Corcoran's director is in charge not only of the gallery, but of the Corcoran School of Art.

Orr-Cahall (pronounced orca-hall) has been in charge of the Oakland Museum's art programs since 1981. That city-owned regional museum has three divisions -- art, history and ecology -- and sees itself as serving the state of California much as the Smithsonian Institution, which also deals with science, history and art, serves the nation.

The Oakland Museum has an annual budget of approximately $5 million, $4 million appropriated by the city, the rest raised from private sources. Its building, with its stepped and landscaped terraces, was designed by Kevin Roche and opened to the public in 1969.

Orr-Cahall, who graduated from Mount Holyoke College, has studied at Oxford and the Louvre. She holds three graduate degrees from Yale, an MA, an MPhil. and a PhD. Before joining the Oakland Museum, Orr-Cahall worked as an art history professor and a college administrator at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo.

During her years at Oakland, the museum has exhibited Richard Diebenkorn, David Park, Ansel Adams, Morris Graves and Jacob Lawrence, as well as numerous artists from the San Francisco Bay area. She also organized a traveling exhibition of drawings by Charles Schulz, the creator of "Peanuts." She is now working on a retrospective of the art of California's Billy Al Bengston.

Orr-Cahall is married and has two sons, aged 9 and 2. If her candidacy is approved, she said, she would expect to move to Washington in February.