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Still Life with Crabs and Fish

Artist:
Yi Yong-u (pen name: Mungno) (Korean, 1902–1952)
Date:
probably 1940s
Culture:
Korea
Medium:
Pair of hanging scrolls; ink and color on paper
Dimensions:
Image: 52 x 12 in. (132.1 x 30.5 cm) Overall with mounting: 78 x 18 in. (198.1 x 45.7 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 2005
Accession Number:
2005.24a, b
Not on view
Though he is better known for his ink landscapes, Yi Yong-u also painted this still life, with an array of plants, scholars’ implements, crabs, and fish strewn on and around a large woven basket and tall table in dramatic vertical compositions. The theatrical, seemingly haphazard arrangement of the objects and the juxtaposition of dark, wet ink with vibrant colors imbue the painting with a pulsating energy.

The short colophons on the scrolls were written by the calligrapher Yi Gwangyeol, who appears to have inscribed on several of Yi Yong-u’s works in the 1940s. The poems eloquently capture the visual imagery of the scrolls. The inscription on the left references the crabs: “residing in my hometown of grass and mud being a free-spirited traveler of rivers and lakes.” That on the right references the books and stationery, along with the flowers and bronze vessels: “for delectation in the scholar’s studio.”
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