Over the millenia, Korean painting has evolved and changed in response to political, social, and cultural developments in Korean society. Today, we’ll explore the evolution of Korean painting over time and try to uncover its major trends, styles, and artists that have shaped Korean art into what it is today.
From Buddhist art to the Joseon dynasty
Painting can be traced in Korea back to the Three Kingdoms period, which started in 57 BC and lasted till 668 AD. During this time, especially 4th century AD and forward, Buddhist art was the dominant style. During the Goryeo dynasty (918-1392), painters began to create large-scale Buddhist paintings that emphasized the spiritual and otherworldly aspects of the religion.
In the Joseon dynasty (1392-1897), the focus of painting shifted to a more secular style, with artists depicting everyday life, landscapes, and still-life. The world wars, the dissolution of Korea, and the Korean War all contributed to diminishing the prominence of Korean art, but nowadays, a new life has been brought to Korean painting, with an extraordinary contemporary art scene.
Literati painting and contemporary Korean Painting
Literati painting was one of the most distinctive styles in Korean art, associated with the intellectual elite of the Joseon period. These paintings depicted landscapes, animals, and flowers in a highly stylized manner, using bold brushstrokes and vibrant colors to create a sense of energy and movement. The movement was first developed in China and was brought to Korea during the Goryeo period.
In the 20th century, Korean painting underwent a major period of modernization and experimentation. Artists such as Lee Jung-seob and Kim Whanki embraced Western painting styles and introduced abstraction and cubism into Korean painting, while others, like Park Soo-keun, developed their own distinctive styles that combined elements of Western and traditional Korean painting.
Today, Korean painting continues to evolve and inspire, with artists exploring new techniques and subjects. Many contemporary Korean artists are creating works that reflect the complex and rapidly changing nature of Korean society, touching on issues like globalization and current political developments.