Special Viewing of Korean Paintings and Embroidery Screens from the Collections of Overseas Museums after Conservation in Korea September 11–October 13 at the National Palace Museum of Korea The National Palace Museum of Korea (Director JI Byong Mok) and the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation (OKCHF, Chairperson JI Gon-gil), both affiliates of the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea (CHA), are jointly presenting Restoring the Legacy of Korean Paintings.
This exhibition on view from September 11 through October 13, 2019 at the National Palace Museum of Korea displays nine paintings and three embroidery screens dating from the early Joseon dynasty (1392–1897) to the early 20th century from the collections of six international institutions. They have recently received conservation treatment in Korea and are being shown before returning to their homes abroad.
A total of twelve works from six institutions in four countries—the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the United States; the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in Sweden; the Museum at the Rothenbaum and the Mission Museum of St. Ottilien Archabbey in Germany; and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in Britain. OKCHF has been bringing these works back to Korea to support their conservation since 2017, and all were treated at the renowned Jung-Jae Conservation Center.
Highlights of the exhibition include Dwelling by a Mountain Stream from the early Joseon period and Portrait of a Scholar Official from the late Joseon period, both from the Cleveland Museum of Art. Dwelling by a Mountain Stream was part of a series depicting the Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers, a popular theme in landscape painting in Joseon and China. This depiction of a mountain village beyond a misty city is a noteworthy rare example of early Joseon painting. The mounting of the landscape and the frame of the portrait were removed and they were remounted as Joseon-style hanging scrolls.
The folding screen One Hundred Children from the Philadelphia Museum of Art depicts children at play in a garden filled with splendid buildings, conveying the auspicious meanings of fertility and prosperity. It was restored to its original format by remounting two five-panel folding screens as a single ten-panel folding screen.
The exhibition also includes Leopard and Magpie and Orchids from the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in Sweden. Leopard and Magpie, a folk painting depicting a pine tree, a leopard, and a magpie, was treated while preserving its original mounting with paper-cut designs. Painted on black silk using gold pigment, Orchids is a work by Yi Ha-eung, the father of King Gojong. Scientific analysis during the conservation treatment revealed the use of copper in the gold pigment, a rare ingredient in gold paintings. Conservators also found previously covered inscriptions inside the mounting and backing papers of Orchids, providing new information on its provenance. This viewing of paintings from the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Sweden is even more meaningful as Korea and Sweden celebrate their 60th anniversary of diplomatic relationship this year.
Embroidered screens from the Victoria and Albert Museum in Britain and the Museum at the Rothenbaum in Germany are also presented here. Embroidered Screen with Flowers Auspicious Designs from the V&A is embellished with a variety of flowers in flowerpots and vases with auspicious designs and lyrics from a court dance wishing for peace and prosperity. Although remaining templates and screens in Korea on the same subject feature eight panels, the V&A version has only four panels set as individual pieces. The conservators remounted them as a four-panel folding screen. Embroidered Screen of Birds and Flowers at the Museum at the Rothenbaum illustrates birds in pairs against trees with fruits and flowers. Conservation treatment was performed to repair damage and reinforce fragile areas while maintaining the existing mounting, which is original to the screen.
The two paintings and three pictorial ideographs with a leather brush in the collection of the Mission Museum of St. Ottilien Archabbey in Germany were done by previously unknown modern calligraphers and painters, including Hong Jae-man and Song Yeom-jo. These works were stored without mounting and were newly mounted in a hanging scroll format.
In conjunction with this exhibition, OKCHF is hosting a symposium with five curators from the beneficiary institutions and an expert from the Jung-jae Conservation Center on September 26. It will provide an opportunity for a thorough discussion of the twelve artworks and their process of conservation.
Since 2013, the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation has supported the conservation of 36 Korean works at 21 institutions in eight countries through the Support Programs for the Conservation and Utilization of Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage. The National Palace Museum of Korea hosted special viewings of these restored works in 2015, 2016, and 2017 in close cooperation with the foundation.
The Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea hopes visitors take this opportunity to note how Korean cultural properties in the collections of overseas museums that had suffered damage, alteration, or ill-conceived restoration are being restored to their original beauty with the help from CHA and OKCHF. CHA will continue its efforts to support Korean cultural properties in overseas collections in partnership with OKCHF.
Contact 1: Jina Chang Curator, Exhibition & Publicity Department at the National Palace Museum of Korea 02-3701-7631
Contact 2: Miae Cha Director of Research Division 1 at the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation 02-6902-0752