Artist: Style of An Gyeon (Korean)
Period: Joseon dynasty (1392–1910)
Date: ca. 1450–1500
Medium: Pair of hanging scrolls; ink on silk
Dimensions: Image (each): 35 3/8 x 17 7/8 in. (89.9 x 45.4 cm)
Overall with mounting (each): 78 1/4 x 24 in. (198.8 x 61 cm)
Overall with knobs (each): 78 1/4 x 27 7/8 in. (198.8 x 70.8 cm)
Credit Line: Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Mr. and Mrs. Frederick P. Rose and John B. Elliott Gifts, 1987
Accession Number: 1987.278a, b
In the early Chosōn period, from the founding of the dynasty in 1392 to about 1550, landscape painting flourished and developed in a new direction. Drawing on the native Koryō-dynasty (918–1392) painting tradition and adapting recently introduced styles from China's Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Chosōn artists began to produce landscape paintings that blended Chinese conventions with more distinctly Korean characteristics. The preeminent landscapist during this time was the court painter An Kyōn (active ca. 1440–70). His innovative style, which exerted enormous influence on Korean landscape paintings, was inspired by Chinese monumental landscapes, particularly those of the Northern Song (960–1127) master artist Guo Xi (ca. 1000–ca. 1090).
The energetic brushwork and dramatic contrasts of dark and light in these two Chosōn paintings reflect the dominant influence of An Kyōn. These stylistic characteristics of the An Kyōn school of painting were particularly well suited to the depiction of the celebrated theme Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers, which was first formalized in China during the eleventh century and became popular in Korea in the fifteenth century. Eight Views compositions were based on a set of poems extolling the beauty and melancholy of the entire landscape of mountains, rivers, and marshes in the Lake Dongting region, in the modern Chinese province of Hunan. The Metropolitan Museum's hanging scrolls depict two of the Eight Views scenes and were presumably once part of a set of eight. Evening Bell from Mist-Shrouded Temple is filled with a misty, somewhat melancholy atmosphere. Tiled rooftops visible through the mist suggest the presence of a large monastic complex in the foothills of an imposingly tall mountain range. Autumn Moon over Lake Dongting, a rather dark painting which depicts an empty boat moored at the shore in the foreground and a double-storied pavilion dimly visible in the middle ground, gives the impression of a nocturnal scene. Both paintings omit standard details of human interest—figures, boats, a rustic bridge, a bustling mountain market, or even a well-trodden path. This absence suggests a disinterest on the part of the artist in narrative detail and underscores his concern with capturing the mood of the landscape and a moment in time. In contrast to the horizontal handscroll format favored by Chinese artists, Korean depictions of this Eight Views theme are commonly presented in hanging scroll format and often mounted as a folding screen.