This painted silk folding screen is signed Kim Hong-do (1745-1815?). Following the changing cycle of seasons, the artist has delicately depicted scenes from the daily life of the aristocracy during the Choson period. The various panels portray the dignitary in his sedan chair, travelers crossing paths against the backdrop of a landscape, a passing rider who conceals his face behind a fan, a picnic at the foot of a wall. Men and women attend to their affairs, displaying casual courtesy, without the sophisticated air of Chinese courtiers or the elaborate costumes of Japanese aristocrats from the Edo period (18th century). Here, the figures are treated with humor and poetry. Elegant, lively, serene and, above all, unassumingly dressed, they are portrayed in a meticulously handled atmosphere and backdrop of precisely detailed landscape that are the hallmarks of this painter. Kim Hong-do was acknowledged in his lifetime as one of the most celebrated of the “Office of Arts”, unfettered by foreign models and one who expressed the full potential of his talent on a human scale.
The screen indeed reflects a novel development. 18th century Korea witnessed the birth of a truly national art, led by the great painter Chong Son (1676-1759), an art which broke away from Chinese influences “imbued with Taoism” and from the highly ornamental compositions of Japanese decorative painters. Regarded as a major 18th century artist, Kim Hong-do emerged as one of the undisputed masters of a specifically Korean school of genre painting, the first no doubt who succeeded in depicting Korea in indigenous terms with such virtuosity. The Korean artists who followed on from him drew their inspiration from their own natural surroundings and their own traditions.
This eight-panelled screen, probably dating from around 1760, is one of the finest painted by Kim Hong-do.