There is no region closer to the hearts of Koreans responding to their heritage in natural geography than the dramatically varied and extensive Diamond Mountains which lie on their East coast above and beyond the political border which now divides their peninsula, cruelly keeping the South Koreans from visiting this magnificent and dramatic range as they briefly could for a decade from 1998. but this extensive sampling of their artistic response to it over the last four centuries ranges from the Album of Mount Geumgang by Jeong Seon (above) through Elizabeth Keith, the Scottish artist among a handful of foreign visitors to Korea in the 1920s who wrote that she “would not have missed the grandeur for all the danger. Sometimes a mountain-top would appear like the dome of a great cathedral. Then the tops would look like jagged spires. . . . The beauty of the climb was a revelation to me”, to two contemporary works by Shin Jangsik the professor of art at Seoul University present at the preview who visited every year during the recent decade the door was briefly open to South Koreans whose many notable Diamond Mountains paintings (see below one of the two included in the show) reflect his own as well as the continuing national artistic and cultural engagement with this remarkable landscape that in its enduring monumental variety calls eternally to the Korean soul.
Met Museum text: The Diamond Mountains—perhaps the most iconic and emotionally resonant site on the Korean peninsula—is the theme of an international loan exhibition that will open at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on February 6, 2018. Though the region has inspired cultural pride since ancient times, its present location in North Korea has kept it largely inaccessible in modern times. Featuring nearly 30 landscape paintings from the 18th century to the present—from delicately painted scrolls and screens to monumental modern and contemporary artworks—Diamond Mountains: Travel and Nostalgia in Korean Art will present the visual imagery of this emblematic site. The highlight of the exhibition will be an exquisite early 18th-century album—a designated Treasure from the National Museum of Korea—by the master painter Jeong Seon (1676–1759), who revolutionized Korean painting by breaking with conventional generic imagery and depicting native scenery. The exhibition is the first in the West on this important subject, and most of the works have never before been displayed in the United States.
The exhibition is made possible by The Met’s collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Korea (MCST) and the National Museum of Korea (NMK).
Diamond Mountains is part of a celebration marking the 20th anniversary of the establishment of The Met’s Arts of Korea Gallery, and the opening coincides with the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The exhibition will also include works by renowned painters such as Kim Hajong (1793-?) and Sin Hakgwon (1785-1866).