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Scholar Contemplating a Cascade

Attributed to Yi Jeong

Asian Art

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Korean painters aspired to adopt both the subjects and the styles of Chinese courtly painting. This small, elegant composition of a man in the robes of a Chinese scholar, relaxing by a mountain cascade, probably represents the eighth-century Chinese poet Li Bo, whose most famous poem is about a waterfall. Although unsigned, the painting is likely by Yi Jeong, an important Korean artist who drew his inspiration from the Zhe school, a group of painters active at the court of China’s Ming emperors. The Zhe school practiced a highly refined style that was in turn inspired by paintings of the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127). Shortly after Yi’s time, Korean artists would begin to represent more local subjects, including the region’s dramatic landscapes, eventually introducing painting styles that deviated from those practiced in China.
MEDIUM Ink on silk
  • Place Made: Korea
  • DATES 16th century
    DYNASTY Joseon Dynasty
    DIMENSIONS Image: 11 1/4 x 10 7/8in. (28.6 x 27.6cm) Overall: 45 x 16 1/4 in. (114.3 x 41.3 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Designated Purchase Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Album leaf mounted as a hanging scroll. The scholar, wearing a white robe with long, pendant sleeves reclining, propped up on one elbow, on an earth outcropping beside an "S" curved torrent. A rugged, vertical cliff rises at the left with a knarled old pine tree clinging to its surface; the lower branches reach down toward the scholar. Mounting of light blue brocade with a tan peony pattern, upper and lower sections of cream-colored satin. The seal in the upper left corner reads: "To Chung-kyon In." This is not a known art name of Yi Chong. The placement of the seal suggests that it was added later. Korean ink-wash paintings of the 16th century are extremely rare outside major museums in Korea. Only a handful have reached the West, usually by way of Japanese collections. Most of these have been misidentified as Chinese, since they follow Chinese models quite closely. Recently the Japanese scholar Shimada Shujiro has been active in reattributing many of them to Korea. This painting follows the style of the Imperial Painting Academy of Southern Sung Dynasty China (1127-1279). The supposed artist of this painting, Yi Chong, was the grandson of a slave in the household of a scholar-official who developed such artistic skill that the king appointed him to the Bureau of Painting. By the age of ten Yi Chong had become a competent landscape painter and was also skilled at figure subjects. When he was eleven he decided to become a Buddhist monk and joined a monastery in the Diamond Mountains, but continued to paint throughout his short life. Known for his independent manner, he painted only when and what he wanted to and turned down commissions from powerful persons if they did not suit him. Ivory roller ends. Wooden storage box. From "Korean Art Collection in the Brooklyn Museum" catalogue: This type of figure in a landscape, painted in the Chinese Zhe School style, was popular in the mid-Joseon dynasty. On the large rock by the stream and beneath the pine tree dangling from the cliff is seated a scholar in a relaxed pose, watching the stream. An intaglio seal with a four-character phrase representing the lofty mind of a recluse, "the hill inside the bosom" is pressed on the upper left corner of the painting. Yi Jeong was a famous court painter from a renowned painters' family. Although he died very young, he mastered his family tradition and the Zhe School style of painting. This painting suggests the strong influence of the contemporary master of the Zhe School style in landscape painting, Yi, Gyeong-yun. Note: there is another artist of roughly the same period named Yi Jeong. That artist's dates are 1541-1626. He was the great-great-grandson of King Sejong.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Attributed to Yi Jeong (1578–1607). Scholar Contemplating a Cascade, 16th century. Ink on silk, Image: 11 1/4 x 10 7/8in. (28.6 x 27.6cm). Brooklyn Museum, Designated Purchase Fund, 75.130 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 75.130_SL1.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 75.130_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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