These four paintings [2008.1.1-.4] of birds in ink belong to a genre commonly known as bird-and-flower painting. This genre was the subject of one of the exams for those aspiring to be employed by the Bureau of Painting during the Joseon dynasty. While professional artists painted in the academic style, which emphasized realism, scholar-amateurs preferred painting in a more calligraphic way and exclusively in monochrome ink. The 1600s saw a great flourishing of the bird-and-flower genre, with many painters devoted to it.
The paintings follow the style established by scholar-amateur artists such as Madame Sin Saimdang (1504–1551), Yi Jing (1581–1645), and Jo Sok (1595–1668), who were known for their intimate and poetic depictions in this genre. These artists are credited with creating a lyrical style particular to Korea, in works characterized by close-up depictions of birds against a simple background, often set in water, and painted with expressive brushwork and flat surfaces that create an overall graphic effect.
Originally album leaves, these paintings were remounted on the hanging scrolls seen here.