Korean literati painting of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910)

14 November 2013 - 12 February 2014


In comparison with Chinese and Japanese art, Korean culture remains less well known in the West. This exhibition of fifty works from the prestigious collections of the Korea University Museum in Seoul is an opportunity to discover some of the most famous artists of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910). Painted in ink on paper or silk, these treasures reveal the links which traditionally existed between Korea and China, as well as of the expression of a distinct Korean artistic identity.

Korea has developed a visually rich and technically sophisticated artistic tradition that combines a strong sense of national identity with cultural connections with its East Asian neighbours. With the emergence of a national art during the Joseon dynasty, painters drew for inspiration on their traditions and the spectacularly beautiful landscape that surrounded them. In addition to representations of idealized traditional landscapes, ‘true-view’ landscape paintings became fashionable among the class of scholars. Artists also painted insightful scenes of the daily life of the nobility, in which the individuals – treated with humour and lyricism – are shown in fine surroundings. The genre of “birds and flowers” inherited from Song-dynasty China (960–1279) is represented with images of great delicacy and rigorous observation and realism. Masterpieces of simplicity, Joseon portraiture masterfully combines the naturalism typical of Western art, introduced to Korea through China, with the psychological realism characteristic of the literati milieu.

Through the exhibition, several aspects of literati painting are introduced, including landscapes, the place of man in Nature, the Four Noble Plants (bamboo, chrysanthemum, plum, and orchid), classics of the Bird and Flower genre, as well as examples of court painting and portraits.