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Historic and contemporary Korean art on view in two exhibitions at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
Unknown Artist, Ten Symbols of Longevity (Shipjangsaengdo), Joseon dynasty (1392-1910), 1879-80, Ten-panel folding screen; ink, color and gold on silk, H. 80-1/4 x W. 205 inches (unfolded); H. 80-1/4 x W. 20-5/8 x D. 5-1/2 inches (folded), MWK68:3, Murray Warner Collection of Oriental Art.
EUGENE, ORE.- “Ten Symbols of Longevity and Late Joseon Korean Culture” and “Elegance and Nobility: Modern and Contemporary Korean Literati Taste” are two new exhibitions in the Huh Wing/Jin Joo Gallery of Korean Art at the University of Oregon’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. The installations provide an opportunity to study historic and contemporary Korean works including ceramics dating from the 5th through 21st centuries, court and Buddhist paintings and textiles from the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) through 20th century, and a few contemporary paintings, calligraphy, prints, and textiles. In addition, the museum will display a number of works by Scottish artist Elizabeth Keith (1887–1956), who traveled to Asia in the first half of the 20th century and thoughtfully portrayed traditional Korean subjects.

Among the pieces featured in the Jin Joo Gallery through March 15, 2015 is the JSMA’s “Ten Symbols of Longevity” (Shipjangsaengdo) screen, which was commissioned in 1879 to celebrate the recovery from smallpox of Crown Prince Yi Cheok (1874–1926), who grew up to become Emperor Sunjong, the final ruler of the Joseon dynasty. This vibrant screen of auspicious landscape, floral, and animal motifs bears a lengthy inscription naming the physicians and members of the court credited with returning the prince to good health. It is generally acknowledged as one of the most important Korean court paintings of its type and was acquired in 1924 by the museum’s founder, Gertrude Bass Warner (1863-1951). This screen was recently conserved through a generous grant from the Korean National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage (KNRICH). The JSMA is deeply indebted to the KNRICH for its support of this project as well as to conservator SONG Jeongju and her staff at the Gochang Conservation Institute for bringing the painting back to its original glory. This is the first showing of the JSMA’s Ten Symbols screen since its return from Korea, where it was the centerpiece of a special exhibition at the National Palace Museum in Seoul.

The companion exhibition, “Elegance and Nobility: Modern and Contemporary Korean Literati Taste,” is comprised of a small selection of 20th-21st century Korean calligraphy, painting, and ceramics. The centerpiece is the museum’s exquisite “Ten Chinese Poems” screen by master calligrapher JUNG Hyunbok (1909-1973). This tours-de-force of expressive brushwork is the focus of an upcoming JSMA publication. The installation also features other modern and contemporary calligraphic works, a modern landscape painting by LEE Sang-beom (1897-1972), and a diverse selection of Korean ceramics, including stoneware vessels dating to the 5th century, Goryeo-dynasty (918-1392) celadons (notably a rare and beautiful reverse-inlaid “Bowl with Stylized Floral Designs”), and a number of elegant, recently-acquired porcelains by contemporary artists KIM Yikyung and LEE Young-Ho. “Elegance and Nobility” is on view through June 17, 2015.

The JSMA was the first American university museum to designate permanent galleries for the display of Korean art and remains one of a handful of academic museums with such galleries. Its Korean art collection is among the most distinguished in the nation.

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