It then goes back to his early years. Beginning from a low point and with a talent for drawing, and that for imitating other peoples art, he is urged to go on and develop a style of his own. This process involves a lot of pain and he depicts a drunken behavior and become hostile to those who care about him and try to help him.
He was, however, a crude drunkard with a talent for spotting beauty around him. This is first manifested by his attraction to the local kisaeng and the devotion he had to his boss sick younger sister. The women in his life were the recipients of some of his most priceless works, which they achieved through manipulation or homage. The character was, however, a conflicted man whose talent provoked an admiration that denied domestication. Unable to be pinned down by these women or even his own king, Jang Seung-up alternated the great works he did with commissioned bird and flower paintings, which represented the commercial art of his day, yet he disparaged the art stars of the time which included poetry. This brilliant and talented actor broke new ground with his work amidst the turmoil of political change in his native Korean country, (Chi-Yun, and Julian Stringer, 32).
The events of this film are set against the struggle for reform that existed within Korea that was caught between China and Japan. By depicting the artist, his life, and his work, the film gives the real sense of the politics that was there at the time as the Korean monarchy was threatened by surging Reformists. This was a Japanese-backed movement who were to oust the royals from power in 1884. This overbearing attempt by the Japanese to bring forth a puppet government was then followed by the Peasants Revolt in 1887 that brought down the whole feudal system. In the new socialist world, such patronized artists like Jang Seung-Up became outcasts in their own society (Min, Eungjun, Jinsook Joo, and Han 48).