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3. Eight-panel Grapevine Screen

O Nam-un (1753 - ?)

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Eight-Panel Grapevine Screen
ink on paper with gold silk brocade mounting
painting alone: H 31.5 x W 147.25 in. (80 x 374 cm)
full mounted screen: H 60.75 x 158.5 in. (154.3 x 402.6 cm)

O Nam-un (b. 1753-?) is sometimes called “O Do-ja.” His pen name is Gal Eun (葛隱), and he was known as the finest painter of grapevine and bamboo of his time. People in his time were eager to obtain a piece of his work. Although several master painters like Shin Sa-imdang and Yi Hyu Hyu Dang (1574-1646) have left behind many grapevine paintings, there are only two existing grapevine screens by Gal Eun, including ours, known to this day. The other one is owned privately in Seoul.

In the composition above, grape tendrils flow elegantly from right to left, swept aloft by an unseen breeze. With a master’s confidence, Gal Eun arranges lush, richly pigmented clusters of grapes, ready to be plucked, amidst the fluttering leaves. The dark flurries of fruit punctuate the scene’s airy delicacy, injecting a warmth and dynamism. Little is known about Gal Eun today, but this captivating work stands as proof that he was one of the most profound grapevine painters of the late Joseon Dynasty. At the end of the screen, “Gal Eun painted at the age of seventy” is exquisitely signed in ink.

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