US galleries open website for Goryeo Buddhist paintings
Buddhist paintings from the 918-1392 Goryeo Kingdom are considered some of the world’s most delicate religious artworks. Currently, about 160 Goryeo Buddhist paintings are extant across the globe and the Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian Institution joined hands with the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) to present them in the United States in detail on a dedicated website.
The Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery together form the Smithsonian’s national museums of Asian art, housing the largest Asian art research library in the U.S.
The Freer and Sackler Galleries developed a digital catalogue “Goryeo Buddhist Painting: A Closer Look,” featuring high resolution images and comprehensive information on 16 Goryeo Buddhist paintings in the collection of eight American museums with funding from the CHA.
Chase F. Robinson, director of the Freer and Sackler Galleries said this online catalogue, opened on Sept. 21, represents an important international collaboration, and demonstrates how museums can digitally advance research on a rare collection of Korean artworks.
“We hope our bilingual resource introduces these incredibly beautiful and important works of art to new audiences in the West,” Robinson said.
Professor Chung Woo-thak (Professor Emeritus, Dongguk University) and J. Keith Wilson, curator of the Freer Sackler organized the online platform since 2013. They collaborated on interpretation and translation of the artworks, credit line research and website revision for seven years based on a common principle on the importance of Goryeo Buddhist painting learnt through their 30 years of study.
Chung said, “The fact that America’s national museum with worldwide recognition has produced a website solely dedicated to Goryeo Buddhist paintings is in itself a groundbreaking event, but the project may be by far the most remarkable result of a support project by our own institution to a museum abroad.”
The website has six sections including Objects, People, Essays, Resources, Selected Bibliography and Pattern Library. The Pattern Library section offers information on patterns appearing in the Goryeo Buddhist paintings, which are unique and can be distinguished from Chinese or Japanese Buddhist paintings around the same time.
Wilson said what makes this catalogue special is the high resolution, detailed images that allow viewers to have a close look at these rare paintings.