Jeong Seon's Diamond Mountains

Jeong Seon's Diamond Mountains
Jeong Seon's Diamond Mountains

In Korea, this painting housed in the Samsung Korea Museum of Art is considered a true national treasure. And it is the most famous work of Jeong Seon (1676 – 1759) a great master of the royal landscape genre or jingyeong sansu, a trend that appeared there in the late 17th century.


Jeong Seon's Diamond Mountains

This is a huge piece of paper (130 x 94 cm) painted with Chinese ink. A work that the artist would carry out in the year 1734 and whose most emblematic aspect is the circular composition that brings so much dynamism to the view of a landscape. A landscape that is real, since theDiamond Mountainsare on the Korean coast and it was a territory that the artist traveled numerous times, and to which he dedicated up to 100 works.

This is an important piece of information, since this current of jingyeong sansu or royal landscape became a very relevant aspect of Korean culture during the times of theJoseon Dynasty, when Korea was considered to be the best preserved place of the Confucian civilization, since China at that time had moved somewhat away from the principles of Confucius.

Various inscriptions can be seen on the top, and all of them read vertically. On our left we read the title of the work and the signature of the author who appears with his pseudonym:Gyeomjae, which means “humble servant”. While to our right there is a poem about the mountains that identifies and praises them as something incomparable.

That same grandiose tone is reflected in the image itself. There are some extraordinarily sharp peaks whose summits are white with snow. That way of painting them is typical of the author and is even a type of vertical brushstroke that bears his name. With it he is supposed to be painting for us the 12,000 different peaks of those mountains, whose most charismatic height would be the Birobong, which can be seen in the background of the set, as if crowning the scene.

When dealing with Chinese ink and the reduced aesthetic resources that this technique can provide, the truth is that Jeong Seon's mastery is admirable. An artist who painted very quickly, painted and even repainted without giving the previous layer time to dry. It is possible to see this type of brushstrokes, which he applies from top to bottom. But he balances that speed and that type of brushstrokes with various resources, such as thick, very wet dots, with which he tries to evoke the vegetation of those landscapes.

And it also provides references to the place as if it were a map. Hence the almost central and disproportionate presence of the Jeongyang temple.

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