Far East Painting – Korean Painting – Goryeo Tomb Painting to Contemporary Impasto Style

Korean Painting – The History

The history of Korean Painting dates back to the early sketches painted on the Goryeo Dynasty tomb surfaces during the fourth century. However, there are ample proofs for the Korean Painting inception being in 108 CE. Fortunately, a number of Korean artists and painters have contributed towards the preservation of this traditional and beautiful genre of art. However, a lot of innovation has been blended into the Korean Art through modern motifs and themes. The Korean painters traveled a great deal to study the works of the masters of painting. China, being the center of various facets of art during that time, drew the attention of a large number of artists. Korean painters too were sent to China, and that is the reason for Chinese influence on Korean Art. Korean Paintings not only include facial characteristics and portraits, but also feature Korean landscapes and topics related to Buddhist and Korean astronomical observations.

Types of Korean Paintings

Most popular Korean paintings belong to the Chosun or Joseon or Choson era, a period that saw the decline of the Buddhist culture in Korea. It is a herculean task to classify the Korean style paintings. Korean Painting has two key offshoots:
o Monochromatic Paintings: With Confucian Art influence, these involved the use of black color on Mulberry paper or silk.
o Colorful Paintings: These colorful paintings, with Indian, Chinese, and Buddhist influence, include Minhwa, Ritual Arts, Tomb Paintings, and Festival Arts.

Korean painting Styles

On a very broad scale, Korean Painting forms can be divided into the following groups:

o Landscape Painting: This style of painting is often known as the ‘Realistic Landscape School.’ It is a practice of creating landscapes based on real scenes. During the Mid-Chosun Period, many painters browsed through the countryside looking for beautiful scenes to paint.

o Genre Painting: While Korean Landscape Paintings dealt with transferring scenes from nature on to the canvas, the Genre Art was all about painting ordinary people and scenes from their daily lives. With Confucian and Buddhist arts as two key influencers, Genre Paintings give the unique picture of the Korean lifestyle during the Chosun period. Kim Hong-do and Shin Yun-bok are a couple of popular artists of that period, who have been famous for portraying Korea’s past in vivid shades.

o Minhwa Painting: The Folk Paintings of Korea belong to this genre. Anonymous artists, towards the end of the Chosun period, painted these traditional works of art. Although many of these paintings seem a bit childish and unrefined, some of them depict real artistic skills.

o Four Gracious Plants: The Four Gracious Plants, also known as the Four Gentlemanly Plants, painted frequently in Korea, consist of plum blossoms, chrysanthemums, orchids or wild orchids, and bamboo. Originally, these motifs were Confucian Symbols, pertaining to the four key qualities of a learned man. However, now they are used to represent the four seasons.

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