Korean Art at the Met

mdog49015 Art of the Korean Renaissance, 1400-1600 opens today, March 17th, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  The intimately organized exhibition includes examples of Buddhist and Confucian artworks as well as diverse examples of classic Korean pottery.

A major highlight of the exhibition is “Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers,” a 16th century ink on silk in eight separate panels.  The pieces are rarely shown together; in Korea the work is often displayed only two panels at a time because of conservation concerns. The Met’s exhibition is one of the rare opportunities to view the pieces together as a whole.  Each panel depicts scenes along the rivers in different seasons and conditions.  The landscape is dramatic and highly stylized, even romanticized, but in contrast the human figures are more like suggestions of people rather than full representations. They, and strategically placed boats as well, seem to serve as aesthetic punctuation marks for the larger images.


While the individual landscapes are all highly idealized and stylized, the last panel “River and Sky in Evening Snow” (on the far left side of the installation; detail, right) reaches towards a higher level of abstraction.  Much of the romanticism of the other panels is put aside, and here, the strokes that create the trees and rocks take on more physicality and intensity.  The human figures, apparently clothed in traditional straw raincoats, are merely a few transparent brushstrokes.

mfunyamaAnother intriguing landscape is the 1592 ink on silk by Yi Seongil, “The Nine-Bend Stream of Mount Wuyi.”  Planted amongst the fungi-like mountains of this painting, are precise representations of various structures.  (detail, left)  A 16th century portrait of a palace dog and her pups by Yi Am  (detail, top) is also appealing, and a variety of  pottery on display includes “National Treasure no. 175,” which is a surprisingly demure pale bowl made with a rare inlaid porcelain technique.

Art of the Korean Renaissance runs through June 21st.  More information about the exhibition and related programming is available on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website.

Related information & resources:

Jinju National Museum of Korea

National Museum of Korea, Seoul,

Zipul Museum, The Straw and Plant Handicraft Museum of Korea

Kyushu National Museum of Japan, Fukuoka


Tags: , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: