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Reeds and Geese
Reeds and Geese, c. 1925
Kim Jin-Woo, Korean
Ink and color on silk; mounted as a twelve-fold screen
6 feet 4 inches x 12 feet 8 inches (193 x 386.1 cm) Each end panel: 6 feet 4 inches x 16 1/8 inches (193 x 41 cm) Each inner panel: 6 feet 4 inches x 12 inches (193 x 30.5 cm)
Purchased with the Hollis Family Foundation Fund and the Henry B. Keep Fund, 2001
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Reeds and Geese

Seven lively geese animate this Korean screen painting (see detail below). The four in flight spread their wings in various ways and angle their necks in different directions. Their orange webbed feet poke out from underneath their gray feathered bodies. Below them lies a grassy shore, a body of water, and long, thin reeds at the water’s edge. One goose dives for food, his feet and tail humorously sticking up out of the water.

These six vertical panels represent half of a twelve-panel screen painting, which was painted on silk and mounted on a wooden frame so that it would stand upright on the floor (click here for additional images). The theme of reeds and geese has a special meaning in Korean culture. The Korean pronunciation of the Chinese characters for “reed” and “old man” are the same (no), as are the words for “geese” and “comfort” (ahn). Therefore, traditional Korean paintings of reeds and geese represent a wish for a peaceful life in a person’s later years. Appropriately, the artist who painted this screen, Kim Jin-Woo, included an inscription on the upper left that states that he gave it to an elderly friend as a gift.

Kim also inscribed a poem and interspersed its verses throughout the painting. The poem, which is read from right to left, refers to changing seasons and flying geese. For example, one couplet reads, “The sand is bright, the water is blue, the moss and reeds grow long; This is the time when autumn geese get ready to depart.”

Reeds and Geese (detail)

Let’s Look

  • What is unique about each goose?
  • What landscape details did the artist include?
    What details did he leave out?
  • What mood or feeling do you sense in this painting?

Let’s Look Again

  • Describe the colors and lines that you see. How do they relate to the mood or feeling?
  • Where did the artist write the lines of poetry?
    Why might that be?



This object is included in Looking to Write, Writing to Look, a teaching kit developed by the Division of Education and is generously supported by the Sherman Fairchild Foundation Inc.

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