A Brief History of Korean Paintings
Korean painting represents a pattern of cultural achievement typical of the creative vigor and aesthetic sense of the Korean people. Korean painting has developed steadily throughout its long history from the Three Kingdoms period(57 B.C -A.D 668) to modern times. The earliest examples of the Three Koing doms' paintings are found on the walls of Kohuryo tombs in southern Manchuria and near Pyongyang (34th century) and Tomb 155 in Kyongju, capital of Shillar (6th century).
In the Koryo Period(916-1392), painting flourished in great variety, inheriting the artistic
tradition of Unified Shilla shich marked the golden age of painting. Artists of the ear created temple murals and Buddhist
scroll paintings, marking a flourishing Korean Buddhism.
Many master painters produced works of the so-called"Four Gentlemen" (the plum, orchid, chrysanthemum and bamboo) portraits and Buddhist paintings.
A significant departure took place during 18th century Choson. Chong Son (1676-1769) wasswakened to the national identity of Korean painting, and subsequently poured his passion intopainting the real landscape of Korea. Among his workd "Mt. Inwangsan after Rainfall" "The DiamondMountain" and "Fresh Breeze Valley" show his characteristic uniqueness.
As the pioneering artists in genre paintings, Kim Hong-do (1745-?) and Shin Yun-bok(1758-?) left several notable works which give us a taste of what life was like in Choson society.
A great number of Korean artists educated in Europe and the United States ahve played a major role in intruducing to Korea up-to-date trends and styles in contemporary art.
The oldest known examples of sculpture in Korea are some rock carvings on a riverside cliff named
Pan-gudae in Kyongsanbuk-do Province and some clay, bone and stone figurines of men and animans excavated from Neolithic village
Three Kingdons in the fourth century that sculputre began to develop significantly in both quality and quantify. Each of the Three Kingdoms, Koguryo, Paekche and Shilla, was enthusiastic supporters of the newly introduced religion, and consequently the carving of Buddhist images and pagodas became the main thrust of their artisans.
The Sokkuram Grotto shrine, built in the mid-eighth century near Kyongju, represents the best Buddhist sculpture of this period. As the Koryo Dynasty proclaimed Buddhism as its state religion, Buddhist carvings continued to flourish during the period, which produced a great number of Buddhist images and pagodas of excellent artistic quality.
Buddhist sculpture rapidly declined with the inception of the Choson Dynasty in the late 14th century, as its ruling aristocracy suppressed the religion as a national plicy. Sculptural art in general experienced a notable deterioration during the entire Choson Period because its Confucian-dominated society held it in litle esteem.
In spite of a brilliant tradtion of stone and bronze sculpture in the ancient and medieval periods, Korea saw the birth of modern sculpture only recently.
A variety of bronze relics, including mirrors, axes, knives and bells, all dating from the Bronze
Age, have been discovered all over Korea. These artifacts, decorated with interesting geometric and animal patterns, are evidence
of the advanced craftsmanship of ancient Korean metalsmiths.
The art of metalcraft made steady progress through the early Iron Age and by the time the Three Kingdoms of Koguryo, Paekche and Shilla emerged in the first century B.C., quite a high level of sophistication had been reached. Archaeologists found that the large mounded tombs of the Shilla(57 B.C. - 935 A.D.) aristocracy are a great source of brilliant metalcraft opjects produced by ancient Korean artisans, The tombs have yielded rich collections of fantastic gold accessories of kings and queens, such as crowns, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and girdles.
The gold crowns in particular attest to a remarkable standard of artistic sophistication. Linear engraving and repousse work embellish the upright tree-shaped ornaments, the diadems and the pendants, which are further decorated with gold spangles and comma-shaped jade attached with fine wire. The earrings show a refined filigree combined with granulation.
Ceramics are by far the most famous Korean art objects among the world's art historians and
connoisseurs. From the Neolithic earthern pots with their rustic surfaces to the elegant celadon vases adorned with exquisite
inlaid patterns, Korea boasts a great legacy of ceramics.
Shilla stoneware produced after the fifth century, however, tended to be less spirited, possibly due to the influence of Buddhism.
From the 12th to the 13th century during the Koryo Dynasty, the art of pottery making in Korea reached its apex with the development of a mysterious bluish-green celadon glaze and the inlaying technique. Celadon techniques originally came to Korea from China during the Sung period(960-1279), possibly from the Tzu-yao kilns in the 10th century. However, Chinese influences were disregarded by the first half of the 12th century, and indigenous creativity achieved its highest degree of refinement.
The technique of inlaying, which was devised by Korean potters, involved incisiong designs into the clay and filling the recesses with white of black slip. These designs, applied in a simple and restrained manner in the early stage, gave a suble and dignified beauty to celadon vessels.
The dominant social influence of the Choson Dynasty was Confucianism and this shift from the leisurely aristocratic Koryo Peiod to the more pragmatic social conepts of confucianism is reflected in ceramic art. White porcelains were the dominant sytle of the Choson Period.
Korean Traditional Architecture
The natural environment was always regarded as an element of supreme importance in Korean architecture.
Numerous Buddhist temples across the country, for instance, were located in mountains noted for their scenic beauty, and their
structures were carefully arranged so as to achieve and ideal harmony wiht the natural surroundings. In selecting the site
for a building of any function, Koreans tended to attach special meaning to tyhe natural environs. They did not consider a
place good enough for a building unless it commanded an appropriate view of "mountains and water." This pursuit
of a constant contact with nature was not only due to aesthetic reasons, but also because geomantic principles dominated the
Pre-modern Korean architecture may be classifed into two major styles: those used in palace and temple structures, which were largely influenced by Chinese architucture, and those used in the houses of common people, which consisted of many local variations.