Korean grapevine painting. 17th century.




Anonymous. Korean 17th century.

Panel, ink on paper.

Upper seal:

Kou Kinun in   黄錦雲 印

Lower seal:

Kaigen  槐原


98.5 cm x 29.5 cm (39” x 11.5”)

Price: USD 12500

The grape, not indigenous to Korea, was considered rare and exotic and the subject of grapevines rendered in ink was popular among literati painters throughout the Choson period (1392-1910). That these plants could be rendered monochromatically with simple ink and a calligraphic brush made them especially favoured subjects for literati artists, whose lives revolved around the arts of the brush: poetry, calligraphy, and paint­ing. The twisting vines, curling tendrils and round, plump grapes provided ample opportunity for expressive “brush play.” 

This 17th century work is minimalist, offering a close-up view of a grapevine rendered with an air of spontaneity and a calligraphic elegance. The elements themselves are quite realistic, though the composition is intimate with atmosphere and effect predominant. Ink palette helps build compositional space more profoundly than any organising principal. Without evocative mists and linear gradations the artist goes rapidly and efficiently to the point, abstracting the scene. Leaving three quarters of the surface empty, the artist relies strongly on negative space. The perspective is quite austere, though the deliberately uncentered composition has a fluid rhythm. The grapevine springs up from nowhere, emerging from one side of the canvas and disappearing just as abruptly into another.