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6. Tiger and Magpie

19th century, Korea

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ink on rice paper
painting alone: 46.5 x 24 in;
mounted: 76 x 27.25 in.

This is an outstanding example of a professional painter’s interpretation of one of the most delightful of all Korean folk themes, the Tiger and Magpie. In one Korean folktale, a wise Magpie fools a tiger in order to save the life of a kind woodcutter. In this painting, the Magpie perches safely on a branch out of reach from the Tiger, perhaps teasing him from above. When paired with the Tiger in painting, the Magpie is said to herald good fortune for the new year.

Tiger and Magpie paintings were displayed in homes at New Year’s to protect families from evil throughout the coming year.

Here, the painter depicts the Tiger with powerful drama and organic rhythm, intertwined with the gnarled tree. The tiger and the tree, as the two central figures in the composition, create dynamic tension and picturesque coherence in the painting.

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