Korean painting

Korean painting

Korean painting includes paintings made in Korea or by overseas Koreans on all surfaces. It includes art as old as the petroglyphs through post-modern conceptual art using transient forms of light. Calligraphy rarely occurs in oil paintings and is dealt with in the brushwork entry, Korean calligraphy.


Generally the history of Korean painting is dated to approximately 108 C.E., when it first appears as an independent form. Between that time and the paintings and frescoes that appear on the Goryeo dynasty tombs, there has been little research. Suffice to say that until the Joseon dynasty the primary influence was Chinese painting though done with Korean landscapes, facial features, Buddhist topics, and an emphasis on celestial observation in keeping with the rapid development of Korean astronomy.

Throughout the history of Korean painting, there has been a constant separation of monochromatic works of black brushwork on very often mulberry paper or silk; and the colourful folk art or "min-hwa", ritual arts, tomb paintings, and festival arts which had extensive use of colour.

This distinction was often class-based: scholars, particularly in Confucian art felt that one could see colour in monochromatic paintings within the gradations and felt that the actual use of colour coarsened the paintings, and restricted the imagination. Korean folk art, and painting of architectural frames was seen as brightening certain outside wood frames, and again within the tradition of Chinese architecture, and the early Buddhist influences of profuse rich thalo and primary colours inspired by Art of India.

Korean painters in the post-1945 period have assimilated some of the approaches of the west. Certain European artists with thick impasto technique and foregrounded brushstrokes captured the Korean interest first. Such artists as Gauguin, Monticelli, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Pissarro, and Braque have been highly influential as they have been the most taught in art schools, with books both readily available and translated into Korean early. And from these have been drawn the tonal palettes of modern Korean artists: yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, Naples yellow, red earth, and sienna. All thickly painted, roughly stroked, and often showing heavily textured canvases or thick pebbled handmade papers.

Elements that are central to Korean painting have been copied in slightly larger sizes by such western artists as Julian Schnabel who paint in what appears to be large chunks of smashed ceramics: a Korean style. And who appear to have been influenced by the Korean approach to translating a rich ceramic heritage into the brush-strokes of oil painting.

Colour theory has been used over formal perspective, and there has yet to be an overlap between painterly art and pop-graphics, since the primary influence on painters is ceramics art.

Genre subjects

The expected genres of Buddhist art showing the Buddha, or Buddhist monks, and Confucian art of scholars in repose, or studying in quiet often mountainous surroundings follows general Asian art trends.

Buddhas tend to have Korean facial features, and are in easy resting positions. Nimbus colours are not necessarily gold, and may be suggested by lighter colours. Faces tend to realism and show humanity and age. Drapery is done with some to great care. The face is generally two-dimensional, the drapery three-dimensional. As in medieval and renaissance western art, drapery and faces are done often by two or three artists who specialize in one particular painterly skill. Iconography follows Buddhist iconography.

Scholars tend to have the traditional stove-pipe hats, or other rank hats, and scholar's monochromatic robes. Typically they are at rest in teahouses near mountains or at mountain lodges, or will be pictured with their teachers or mentors.

Hunting scenes, familiar throughout the entire world, are often seen in Korean courtly art, and are reminiscent of Mongolian and Persian hunting scenes. Wild boar, deer, and stags, and sadly Siberian tigers as well were hunted. Particularly lethal spears and spear-handled maces were used by horsemen within hunting grounds after archers on the ground led the initial provocation of the animals as beaters.

Goguryeo painters

Goguryeo art, preserved largely in tomb paintings, is noted for the vigour of its imagery. Finely detailed art can be seen in Goguryeo tombs and other murals. Many of the art pieces has an original style of painting.

Goruryeo tomb murals date from around AD 500 during the Goguryeo period, 37 BC-AD 668. These magnificent, still strongly colored murals show daily life and Korean mythologies of the time. By 2005, 70 murals had been found, mostly in the Taedong river basin near Pyongyang, the Anak area in South Hwanghae province. The murals of Horyu Temple, which are considered as treasures in Japan, were painted by the Goguryeo monk, Damjing.

Goryeo Dynasty painting

During the Goryeo dynasty exceptionally beautiful paintings were produced in the service of Buddhism; paintings of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Korean: Gwaneum Bosal) are especially noted for their elegance and spirituality.

Yi Nyeong and Yi Je-hyeon are considered significant Goryeo artists outside of the Buddhist tradition.

Joseon Dynasty painting

The influence of Confucianism superseded that of Buddhism in this period, however Buddhist elements remained and it is not true that Buddhist art declined, it continued, and was encouraged but not by the imperial centres of art, or the accepted taste of the Joseon Dynasty publicly; however in private homes, and indeed in the summer palaces of the Joseon Dynasty kings, the simplicity of Buddhist art was given great appreciation - but it was not seen as citified art.

While the Joseon Dynasty began under military auspices, Goreyo styles were let to evolve, and Buddhist iconography (bamboo, orchid, plum and chrysanthemum; and the familiar knotted goodluck symbols) were still a part of genre paintings. Neither colours nor forms had any real change, and rulers stood aside from edicts on art. Ming ideals and imported techniques continued in early dynasty idealized works.

Early dynasty painters include:

Mid-dynasty painting styles moved towards increased realism. A national painting style of landscapes called "true view" began - moving from the traditional Chinese style of idealized general landscapes to particular locations exactly rendered. While not photographic, the style was academic enough to become established and supported as a standardized style in Korean painting.

200px|right|thumb|Joseon Dynasty painting by Owon] Mid-dynasty painters include:

* Hwang Jip-jung (b. 1553)

The mid to late Joseon dynasty is considered the golden age of Korean painting. It coincides with the shock of the collapse of Ming dynasty links with the Manchu emperors accession in China, and the forcing of Korean artists to build new artistic models based on nationalism and an inner search for particular Korean subjects. At this time China ceased to have pre-eminent influence, Korean art took its own course, and became increasingly distinctive.

The list of major painters is long, but the most notable names include:

* Jeong Seon (1676-1759), a literati painter influenced by the Wu school of the Ming dynasty in China; much taken by the Diamond mountain landscape

* Yun Duseo (1668-1715), a portraitist

* Kim Hong-do (1745-1818?) did highly coloured crowded scenes of common and working class people in many natural work activities - his paintings have a post-card or photographic realism in a palette of whites, blues, and greens. There is little if any calligraphy in his works; but they have a sense of humour and variety of gestures and movement that make them highly imitated to this day.

* Shin Yun-bok (1758-?), a court painter who did paintings often of the scholarly or yangban classes in motion through stylized natural settings; he is famous for his strong reds and blues, and grayish mountainscapes.

What calligraphy used is often discreetly done.

Other important artists of the "literati school" include:

* Yi Kyong-yun
* Kang Se-hwang


Artists under the Japanese invasion and occupation period

Korean artists from the middle 1880s til 1945, when Korea was freed by the allies after the unconditional surrender of Japan, had a very difficult time.

From the 1880s onward, the Japanese invaders of Korea attempted both to obliterate and eliminate Korean art itself through looting and destruction of Korean artistic works, and continued as they closed Korean schools of art, torched Korean paintings of Korean subjects, and forced those few artists left to paint Japanese subjects in Japanese styles and so seed Japanese art as the art of the Koreas forever. Fact|date=November 2007

To this date there has not been a retrospective show of the hidden art under Japanese occupation, or a discussion of the conflicts between those who were forced into compromise under Japanese artistic demands. It is an issue of great sensitivity, with artists who studied and worked in Japan and painted in the Japanese style forced into self-defense and justification of compromise without other alternatives.

Bridging the late Joseon dynasty and the Japanese occupation period were noteworthy artists such as:

* Chi Un-Yeong (1853-1936)

and others.

Major 20th century Korean artists

* Park Su-geun
* Nam June Paik

The new wave of Korean art

*Lee Dong Youb

ee also

*Korean art
*Korean calligraphy
*List of Korean painters

External links

* [http://www.asia-art.net/korean_paint.html Good jumpoff point]
* [http://www.korean-arts.com/about_korean_paintings.htm General introduction]
* [http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/EL23Dg01.html Northeast Asia's intra-mural mural wars, 6th century Korean murals]
* [http://www.columbia.edu/cu/record/archives/vol21/vol21_iss29/record2129.19c.gifPainting by Chi Un-Yeong (1853-1936) of the famous 11th-century Chinese scholar-poet Su Dong-Po]
* [http://www.artsoho.net/kor-contempoary artist.htm Contemporary visual artists with a focus on painters]
* [http://www.cyberartgallery.co.kr Online Collection of Modern and Contemporary Korean Paintings]

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