Friday February 11, 2011
Tags for: The Lure of Painted Poetry: Japanese and Korean Art
  • Press Release

The Lure of Painted Poetry: Japanese and Korean Art

exterior of the CMA building

Drawn from the museum's stellar and comprehensive Asian collection, this exhibition offers a rare opportunity to view Japanese and Korean artwork through the lens of Chinese poetry

 CLEVELAND (Feb. 11, 2011) — This spring, the Cleveland Museum of Art will present a compelling exhibition, The Lure of Painted Poetry: Japanese and Korean Art, that offers a rare, in-depth comparison of the secular artistic achievements of Japan and Korea as reflected in the museum's renowned collections of Asian art. The Lure of Painted Poetry highlights Japanese and Korean artists' efforts to fuse the genres of visual art and poetry as they reinterpreted themes of classical Chinese poetry in a variety of visual media, including calligraphy, painting and decorative arts. The exhibition contains 80 objects from the museum's preeminent Asian collection, dating from the 14th to the 21st centuries, and it will be on view March 27 to August 28, 2011.

The fusion of art and poetry is a theme Japanese and Korean artists have explored for centuries and The Lure of Painted Poetry prominently features artwork from the Muromachi, Momoyama and Edo periods of Japan (1392–1867), the Joseon period of Korea (1392–1910) as well as contemporary objects. Korean and Japanese artists were inspired by international ideals such as the pursuit of knowledge and refinement expressed in Chinese poems to represent their inner utopia and liberation from a mundane life. They interpreted—rather than copied—the Chinese prototype according to their own cultural aesthetic frameworks.

Japanese and Korean artists also used Chinese poetry as a vehicle for exploring distant landscapes that were considered central to the creative imagination. "The artworks in this exhibition explore the theme of liberation from a mundane life through armchair reclusion. Without completely withdrawing from the dusty world, the artists achieved spiritual freedom and inner utopia in their poetry and painting," said Dr. Seunghye Sun, associate curator of Japanese and Korean Art for the Cleveland Museum of Art.

The concepts of poetic landscape are explored in various artworks in the exhibition. Inspired by themes such as the Chinese Xiao Xiang Rivers, Japanese and Korean artists produced a rich array of artwork including hanging scrolls and powerful screens that inspire reflection on the relationship between humankind and the natural world—despite not having traveled to China. Literary Gathering, a hanging scroll with calligraphy from the 1500s, epitomizes the refined way of life idealized by the scholarly classes in Japan and Korea. Even seemingly ordinary objects, like Wine Flask (1600s), porcelain vases, bronze mirrors and lacquer wares, feature designs inspired by poetry. Also included in the exhibition are artworks by contemporary Japanese and Korean artists like Aoyama Sanu, Takaki Seikaku, Takaki Seiu from Japan and Kim Sungsoo from Korea, who offer a modern interpretation of the continued engagement with Chinese poetry with the visual arts.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • One of Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers, 1788. Tani Buncho (Japanese, 1763–1840). A rare Tani Buncho masterpiece made in his twenties, this is a set of Japanese hanging scrolls that show four of the eight scenes from the poem "Eight Views of Xiao and Xiang Rivers." The Xiao River and the Xiang River flow together into Lake Dongting in Hunan Province, China. In East Asian art, however, the eight views are identified by poetic titles and symbolism, rather than the names of very specific sites or identifiable geographic formations.
  • Literary Gathering, 1500s. Korea, Joseon period. One of the earliest surviving Korean scholars' gathering paintings called the gyehoe-do. In the early Joseon period, paintings of scholar-officials' gatherings gained popularity among the Korean elites. This painting shows a small group of scholars, assisted by servants, gathered together at a specific site for the purpose of a commemorative rite or literary discussion. This hanging scroll combines painting and calligraphy.
  • White Prunus (Plums, Bamboo, and Orchid),1834. Yamamoto Baiitsu (Japanese, 1783–1856).The plants that Edo period painter Yamamoto Baiitsu depicted so dynamically on this hanging scroll are derived from the traditional East Asian theme of the "Four Gentlemen": the plum blossom, the bamboo, the orchid and the chrysanthemum. These four plants were compared to Confucian scholars as junzi, or "gentlemen."
  • Wine Flask, 1600s. Korea, Joseon period. This Korean wine flask embodies the Chinese poet Lin Bu's verse: "Plums' subtle scent pervades the moonlit dusk." This particular poem is much beloved in Asian cultures and has inspired artists for centuries. The circular shape of this glazed porcelain flask indicates the full moon and some unintentional gray color on the lower part of flask suggests the permeating scent of plum. The bamboo and plum blossom motifs on this flask reflect a natural verve and simplicity of composition that are hallmarks of this era in Korean art.
  • Pitcher with Cover, 1100s. Korea, Goryeo period. This object illustrates the long history of friendship between Cleveland and Korea. One of John L. Severance's gifts to the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1917, it is assumed to be a gift from Korea to his father Louis H. Severance who donated $10,000 in 1900 to be used to expand the first Korean western-style hospital and medical school in Korea, Jaejungwon (currently Severance Hospital of Yonsei University) in Seoul Korea. Chrysanthemums were popular motifs on goryeo inlaid celadon, particularly wine vessels, because the Chinese recluse Tao Yuanming wrote about plucking chrysanthemum flowers in his poem "Drinking Wine." Additionally, chrysanthemum wine was believed to bring longevity if it was drunk during the Double Nine Festival (September ninth).


The Lure of Painted Poetry is the first exhibition conceived and organized by Dr. Sun for the Cleveland Museum of Art. Before her appointment at the museum, Sun served as curator at the National Museum of Korea (Seoul, 2002–2008; Gongju, 2009), where, as the first curator of Japanese art in Korea's history, she planned and installed the permanent galleries of Japanese art. Additionally, she was the curator and publication author for several exhibitions, including Western-style Paintings in Modern Japan, The Lure of Asia in Japanese Art and A Treasury of Joseon Period Manuscripts and Portraits from the Distinguished Families in Gongju, Korea.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue featuring works of Korean and Japanese art from the Cleveland Museum of Art's collection, and complementary programming that includes lectures by Dr. Sun and David McCann, Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Literature at Harvard University, a paper-making demonstration and family activities. Further programming information may be found at

The Lure of Painted Poetry: Japanese and Korean Art is free and is organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art.


About the Cleveland Museum of Art

The Cleveland Museum of Art is renowned for the quality and breadth of its collection, which includes more than 40,000 objects and spans 6,000 years of achievement in the arts. Currently undergoing a multi-phase renovation and expansion project, it is a significant international forum for exhibitions, scholarship, performing arts and art education. Admission to the museum's collection is free, and free admission has been a hallmark of the museum since its founding.

The Cleveland Museum of Art has a membership of nearly 25,000 households and is supported by a broad range of individuals, foundations and businesses in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. The museum is generously funded by Cuyahoga County residents through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. Additional support comes from the Ohio Arts Council, which helps fund the museum with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. For more information about the museum, its holdings, programs and events, call 888-CMA-0033 or visit

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