Saturday in the Museum with Deuk-sin

Image: Kim Deuk-Sin, “Riverside Picnic” (江上會飮).

On Saturday, we stray from our coverage of D.C. dining to focus on a piece of art, usually something that has a connection to food.  Despite our setback last week, we wade again into into the murky research data of the free internet.  This week we highlight a work of a court painter of the Joseon Dynasty in Korea.

Kim Deuk-sin (1754–1822) and his brother Kim Sok-sin were second generation painters for the court and also leading painters of everyday life of the late Joseon period.  According to this article, there was a divide between both the subject and the style of court painting versus daily-life “genre” painting that developed in the century before Kim:

“A majority of Han’s [Si-gak, 1621-late 17th century] contemporaries spent their lives as visual recorders, drawing important events and functions on orders from the royal palace. These documentary paintings, called gungjung girokhwa (gungjung, meaning palace and girokhwa, meaning document paintings) were stylistically rooted in the 16th century, when the architecture and people were depicted through symmetrical line drawings, without much sense of movement or expression.  Gradually changes started appearing during the 17th century, when scenery and landscapes were drawn in harmony with the palace and the event that was taking place.”

Korean genre panting built on these marginal references.  By the 18th century, topics of daily life were the central subject.  Painters of this era, including Kim, “picked diverse subject matter from the lives of commoners, and sometimes portrayed the nobility with a sardonic undertone. Artistic technique developed as well, with the paintings becoming more three dimensional. For example, facial expressions were drawn to show emotional depth, straying from the linear, both in style and context.”

According to this article on The Met site, “Kim Deuksin is thought to have brought a more naturalistic mode of genre imagery and to have portrayed the daily lives of commoners with even greater authenticity.”

“Riverside Picnic” (or “Feast by the Riverside”) is in the collection of the Kansong Art Museum in Seoul and is discussed in a long article that looks to Korean art to understand the place of food in Korean culture.  The author describes several themes that come through the paintings of the Joseon era, including the role of food as a way to share feelings and affections, as represented in this work.


As always, these Saturday art posts are a side project from our primary side hustle which is the D.C. dining guide on this site.  If you are now thinking of where you might get provisions for a picnic, a good restaurant for fish, or where to find good Korean, we have you covered.  Our guide has more than 300 recommended restaurants that you can sort by cuisine, neighborhood, and current operating status (dine-in and/or take-out, etc.) in either LIST or MAP format.

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October 2, 2021