Eight-panel folding screen; ink on silk
Overall: 185 x 52.6 cm (72 13/16 x 20 11/16 in.); Each panel: 111.9 x 1.5 cm (44 1/16 x 9/16 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 2015.138
The artist of this elegant painting is the formidable politician Yi Ha-eung (1820-1898), who is known for a seclusion policy that aimed to protect Korea and its sovereignty from foreign influences.
Yi Ha-eung (1820−1898), the artist of this eight-panel folding screen, was one of the most influential men in late 19th-century Korea. Acting as the regent for his son, King Gojong (1852−1919), who ascended the throne at the age of thirteen, Yi ruled Korea from 1866 to 1873. In addition to his illustrious political career, Yi was also recognized as one of the most celebrated artists who led the revival of literati art in late 19th-century Korean art. In particular, he was recognized as the master of orchids, one of the “Four Gentlemen” (plum, orchid, chrysanthemum, and bamboo) themes.
Solely relying on monochrome ink, Yi depicted the curvilinear silhouettes of cymbidium orchid leaves dramatically hanging down from cliffs. Growing in wilderness and redolent with fragrance, orchids were often associated with the perseverance of principled gentlemen, and thus became one of the most popular subjects of scholar-artists' paintings.On the upper right corner of the far left panel, Yi wrote a short inscription stating that he painted the work at the age of 80.
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