Although the highly unconventional Chos(n-dynasty (1392–1910) court painter Sin Yunbok (born ca. 1758–died after 1815) is renowned as a pioneer of kisaeng imagery in traditional Korean painting, his portrayals of these women have not yet been studied in detail. Examination of his paintings reveals that the professional female entertainers were depicted in a wide range of styles. However, recent scholarship continues to place emphasis on their physical appearance and elegant brushwork, and the subtle emotions expressed beneath their beautiful façade, in diverse settings and circumstances, have so far been completely overlooked. This article examines a number of Sin Yunbok’s celebrated kisaeng images to attain a better understanding of the lives of these women, and their emotions. For sake of clarity, the artist’s kisaeng imagery is divided into two categories based on their stylistic characteristics, namely, depictions of solitary kisaeng and depictions of these beautiful female entertainers in the company of upper-class men or attracting the unwanted attention of Buddhist monks. Through examination of the various images, it will be possible to better understand the diverse emotions of these women, including their loneliness, sadness, annoyance and weariness, and brief moments of pleasure.
A. Images of Solitary Kisaeng
b) Kisaeng among Male Personages