Orchids and Calligraphy
Kim Eung-won, Korean, 1855 - 1921
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This folding screen was decorated by the renowned painter Kim Eung-won (pen name Soho), who specialized in depicting orchids. Kim Eung-won was a leading figure in Korean artistic circles during the first quarter of the twentieth century, playing an important role in preserving the tradition of Korean painting after the end of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910).
The orchids and leaves are painted in fluid, free, monochrome brushstrokes that are echoed in the calligraphy. Each panel bears Kim Eung-won’s seals and a Chinese poem that pays tribute to the orchid’s inherent beauty and grace. Orchids are one of the four subjects—known as the “four gentlemen”—particularly loved by literati artists of the Joseon period. Images of these flowers are often meant to represent the quality of purity.