Classroom Use of the Art Print: Horizontal Scroll Showing 10 Symbols of Immortality. Korean, Yi Dynasty, 19th Century. Musee Des Arts Asiatiques-Guimet, Paris, France

Arts & Activities, February 2007 | Go to article overview

Classroom Use of the Art Print: Horizontal Scroll Showing 10 Symbols of Immortality. Korean, Yi Dynasty, 19th Century. Musee Des Arts Asiatiques-Guimet, Paris, France


THINGS TO LEARN

* Korea (currently politically divided into North Korea and South Korea) is a country in East Asia, located in the Korean peninsula. It is bordered to the northwest by China, to the northeast by Russia, and lies southeast across the Korean strait from Japan. It is a mountainous country to the north and east, and comprises plains in the southern and western regions of the peninsula.

* There are five main categories of subject matter in Eastern Asian painting: landscape, figure, narrative/historical, religious, and still life comprising birds, flowers and other symbolic natural objects. The "Four Gentlemen" comprise the flowering plum (symbolizing modesty), the orchid (symbolizing loyalty), the chrysanthemum (symbolizing purity), and the bamboo (symbolizing integrity). Plant and animal life that appear in Korean artwork have strong symbolic meanings (see list in Clip & Save Art Notes).

* Minhwa painting is folk art genre that was commonly practiced by painters employed by the imperial court. This style of painting differs from the traditional style, known as scholar painting, in that it is characterized by strong use of color, symbolic content and humor. Scholar paintings, influenced by Chinese scholar painters, are characterized by subtle, monochromatic line drawings in ink.

* Korean painting was often used for decorative purposes, such as to adorn folding screens, scrolls and fans. Korean interiors of this period were constructed using sliding walls and screens, which left very little wall space for hanging pictures. The spaces created by paper walls and screens created a demand for painters who could design beautiful scenes to adorn these spaces. People who belonged to the lower social classes commissioned works on paper and linen, while the upper classes, such as the nobility, commissioned paintings that were executed on the finest silks.

* Longevity and immortality are important concepts to the Korean people. They are symbolized in art by the following subjects: rocks, waves, peaches, pine trees, the sun, mountains, fungi, bamboo, deer, cranes, clouds and tortoises.

* There are many similarities between Chinese, Korean and Japanese art. Historians describe the influence of Chinese art on Korean art, and of Korean art on Japanese art.

* There are excellent online curriculum resources available to educators to learn more about Korean painting and other Korean art forms: www.asia.si.edu/collections/KoreanHome.htm (Web site of the Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian Institution); www.metmuseum.org/ explore/korea/gallery.html (Web site of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York): www.clevelandart.org/Explore/ department.asp?deptgroup=18 (Web site of the Cleveland Museum of Art); www.asiasocietymuseum.com/ (Web site of Asia Society, New York): and www.asianinfo.org/asianinfo/korea/painting.htm.

THINGS TO DO

* Primary, Korean art is filled with images of animals. This month's art print is a good example of animal symbolism in Korean painting. Display the art print, giving students ample time to study the composition. Challenge students to find all of the animals represented in the picture (deer, birds, tortoises).

Next, talk about how folk artists often use animals in their work to represent an idea or feeling. Provide examples of animals in art that students may be familiar with, such as a lion to represent strength or a snake to represent evil.

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Classroom Use of the Art Print: Horizontal Scroll Showing 10 Symbols of Immortality. Korean, Yi Dynasty, 19th Century. Musee Des Arts Asiatiques-Guimet, Paris, France
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