|Matched-Set of Two
by Master Kim Man-hee
These are truly excellent paintings by the greatest modern master of Korean folk painting, a matched-set
that might be considered his masterwork. They are very rich yin-yang pair, with contrasting classical
themes of Korea's folk-art. One shows the male tiger (representing an aristocrat) being helped to smoke
his long pipe by a pair of rabbits (representing commoners/servants); the other shows the female tiger
chasing the rabbits as they run off; this can be understood sequentially or as an endless cycle of good
relations and bad, with a touch of charming comedy.
The first one makes a pine tree the context of the event and includes cranes with multi-colored feathers,
while the other uses a paulowina tree and features phoenixes, all of them very sacred in Korean tradition
and to be considered yin-yang complimentary opposites. Both paintings contain other elements of the
Ship-jangsaeng or Ten Symbols of Longevity. These are all depicted in the classical Korean folk style,
with precision and vivid enthusiasm.
I owned this dynamic pair, and displayed them in my home, from 2000 to 2012.
These were painted by the government-designated "living national treasure" of traditional
folk-painting, Kim Man-hee, in 2001, at the apogee of his career. In the late 20th century,
no one was better at this genre, and he was very famous in Korean society. He was a
loyal disciple and friend of my mentor Zo Za-yong. He passed away in 2010, and now
his extant paintings are rapidly rising in value.