Libmonster ID: U.S.-1206
Author(s) of the publication: CHOI SOON-HWA

CHOI SOON-hwa (Republic of Korea)

Traditional Korean painting is significantly different from Western painting. It is based on the unique lines and colors of the East. The creative spirit of Koreans found expression in original music, dance, and painting, which developed over the course of the nation's 5,000-year history. Traditional beliefs of Koreans - shamanism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism - have always played a significant role in the socio-cultural development of the country. In folk Korean painting, as it were, the ideas of these religions are fused. And despite the fact that Western culture has recently become widespread in Korea, the unique national art continues to develop both in its pure form and in various harmonious variations with modern genres. The subject of this article is the" pure " genre of Korean folk painting.


In 1919, in the Japanese city of Kyoto, an exhibition of folk applied art products was opened, where the Japanese philosopher, art critic, and specialist in folk applied arts Yanagi Muneyoshi (1889-1961) first applied the term "minhwa" (folk painting) to paintings of the ossue style*. In 1937, he officially proposed to call" all paintings that originated among the people, were drawn by the people themselves and are distributed among the people", "folk painting" and gave a corresponding conceptual explanation.1 This concept was originally applied only to paintings describing local Japanese customs and mores. However, in 1959 Yanagi Muneyoshi, in an article published in the Korean magazine Literature and Art, suggested that the term should also be applied to the ethnographic paintings of Korea during the Joseon period. He wrote that "Korean paintings meet all the requirements of this genre in all aspects (automatic, unplanned, extremely individual sensitivity to supersensible beauty), and the day will certainly come when they will receive worthy recognition"2. Thus, we have revealed the value of our folklore painting thanks to a foreign specialist. However, if we look in retrospect at "Korean paintings of famous artists-natives of the Joseon dynasty period - with elements of folk tradition that originated among the people and became widespread among the people", then we can safely apply this new concept proposed by Ya.Muneyoshi to them. So, the genre of folk painting can be described as an ancient folklore painting, which clearly and visibly describes the folk customs, customs, and aesthetic worldview of the nation.3

However, the dispute between Korean experts regarding the formulation of the concept of "folk painting" continued. In particular, Cho Jae-yong included in this concept not only paintings of wandering craftsmen, but also court artists, and Kim Ho-yong - all national paintings where the general national aesthetic worldview is clearly expressed. Lee Uhwan refers to this genre of paintings that somehow affect the usual themes of ordinary people. Kim Chorsun goes further, referring all the paintings that express the sincere and natural impulses of the soul, which strives to drive out the evil spirit and call happiness to the home with a righteous life and faith, to the products of traditional society.4 In addition, this genre can be considered as one of the types of decorative and applied art for arranging living space according to the type of traditional ethnographic style. Since the late Joseon Dynasty (XVIII-XX centuries), this genre of folk painting has become widespread in the everyday life of ordinary citizens. Even the eighteenth-century philosopher Lee Hugen, in his "Encyclopedic Commentaries on the Ancient Treasures of China and Korea", considered this type of creativity as "genre painting", focused on decorating the home life of commoners (drawings for a screen, a hanging scroll with a picture or inscription, etc.).

In this regard, folk painting is perceived as mass painting, which, going beyond the simple folk craft, as if practically filled the aesthetic vacuum of everyday life of ordinary people. Folk painting does not fully fit into the traditional national school of painting, but it comes from traditional national painting, imitating it, mastering in its own way, spiritually and practically, the world around it. Since folk art is designed to adorn everyday life and works of folk art are created and distributed by anonymous artists, they are extremely simple, free in style and form of expression.

If we summarize the above, we can conclude that, firstly, folk painting concretizes the originality of the life philosophy and aesthetic receptivity of the people in the form of fine art. Secondly, folk painting exists in the traditions of mass culture,

* Ossue (literally, big canvas - Japanese) is a type of Japanese folk painting. Powder from shells is applied to the mascara. The paintings were sold to temple pilgrims as souvenirs. The genre existed from the 17th century until the 19th century.

** The Lee Dynasty of Korea from 1392 to the annexation of the country by Japan in 1910 . During this period, Confucianism became the dominant ideology in Korea, and Korean art was strongly influenced by Chinese cultural traditions. (Approx. ed.)

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but it does not limit itself to the everyday life of ordinary people, but, by concentrating the potency of the entire people, highlights the essence of aesthetic taste peculiar to Koreans. Third, folk painting draws attention not to private life, but to the life and dream of a particular community, which already requires solidarity creativity, which brings diversity and enriches life itself. Folk painting is free from sentimentalism, it is more practical as a means of decorating everyday life.5


It is difficult to clearly determine where folk painting originates from, but in the late Joseon Dynasty, it became widespread. Of course, we can assume that the roots of folk painting are still in prehistoric primitive drawings, in cave images of the Stone or Bronze Age. However, documentary evidence can only be found in the Three-State period*. In the historical records of the Three states (Samguksagi), there is a mention of King Chin Pyeong-wan (663), who performed a sacrifice with a prayer for sending down rain during a drought using a painting with the image of a dragon. So, the use of folk painting was not limited to the lower social strata, the ideas of the national community and the collective creativity of the masses formed its characteristic features.

The origins of folk painting can also be found in the frescoes of ancient burials from the times of the Three States. Consider the fresco "Four Spirits". In its eastern part, the spirit "Blue Dragon" is depicted, in the southern part - "Red Falcon", in the western part - "White Tiger", and in the northern part - "Black Turtle" as symbols of the guard in the person of four animals**. Art historian Im Dubin believes that wall murals depicting the faiths of the Korean people are the origins of Korean (Joseon) folk painting as a reflection of the collective expression of the aspirations of the people. In ancient times, shamanism filled this potential function of art. The belief in the ability to exorcise the evil spirit and invoke the desired components of happiness by some symbol served as a prototype of folk painting.

However, the roots of modern folk painting are found in the fine arts of the late Joseon Dynasty. The subjects used in folk painting were typical of the folk art of the entire East Asian region. Created by Chinese folk artists at the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the beginning of the

* Three early Korean states - Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla-ruled the entire Korean Peninsula and much of Manchuria. The period of their rule (57 BC-668 AD) is known as the Three States period. (Approx. ed.)

* * The symbols are drawn in kind in the form of a bird, tiger, dragon, turtle. "Red Falcon" is identical to the native Korean symbol of "phoenix", here borrowed from the Chinese principality of Zhou to raise the collective spirit of the people.

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during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), works with characteristic patterns were an example of an intuitive and naive style of painting, and the image of a lotus was often used. By the method of wood engraving, they were produced in large quantities and found a wide demand. Thanks to small merchants from the Hwiju area, they have spread throughout China. These works were exported to Vietnam, Burma, and Japan. They seem to have been introduced to Korea as well, having a major influence on folk painting in the late Joseon Dynasty. [6]

In the late Joseon period, the rapid growth of agriculture, industry, and trade is outlined based on the movement of the so-called "idea of real sciences". The material-rich population has expanded, which has led to an increased interest in art, and this interest is turning away from the strict landscape painting characteristic of the dominant ideology of Confucianism, towards more accessible folk paintings that express the faith and aspirations of ordinary Koreans. The subjects of folk painting are very diverse, in form close to the way of life of ordinary people. Most of the stories that celebrate happiness and longevity in this mortal world are directly or indirectly drawn from three religions - Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, which preach the ideas of happiness and joy, and carry the mission of educating the people. The very spirit of folk painting lies in Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, but with a significant share of shamanism, this originally national form of religion of the people.

Therefore, folk painting can be described as a painting that expresses the aesthetic worldview and feelings of that period on the basis of elements of three religions, colored by the shamanic ideal of being (exorcism of the evil spirit).7



Folk painting as a form of expressing the aspirations of the masses, as an element of everyday life can be proud of its longevity. The works of folk painting that have come down to us are very diverse - sophisticated miniatures and pictures that were used to decorate the doors and windows of rich houses on New Year's Eve, pictures that were attached to the doors of houses to ward off evil spirits and misfortunes, paintings on large and small screens. These paintings were passed down from generation to generation. At first, the pictures that were attached to doors and windows were painted with a brush. But to meet the rapidly growing demand for them, they also began to produce them by the method of wood engraving. Very few examples of such paintings of that time have survived to this day, since such pictures were actually consumer goods that were purchased anew every year8.

If landscape painting aimed at a sentimental perception of the world, then folk painting is directly related to the problems of everyday (religious and ritual) life-such as "salvation from evil spells", "calling happiness to the house", "calling to do good deeds", "warning against bad deeds", etc. 9

On holidays and birthdays, Koreans gave each other pictures with images of boys playing, peony flowers, birds, etc. with wishes for long life and happiness, wealth, lots of children, etc. During the sacrifice with a prayer for sending down rain, paintings with the image of a dragon were most often used. Paintings intended for everyday use should only be placed in the designated area. For example, a picture of a tiger chasing away an evil spirit is hung on the front door, and a picture of a dog is hung on the pantry door. In the bedroom, there are usually screens with images of flowers, birds or babies. Folk paintings from the Joseon Dynasty show the rich, sensual world of everyday life.

Humor and satire

Culture is formed in accordance with the specifics of a particular region and the mentality of the people inhabiting it. Consequently, both humor and satire as components of culture differ by region and nationality. Oriental humor is mild in nature and helps to overcome difficulties. This is the value and charm of Korean humor, which has its own specifics. The way of life and spirit of the Korean people are largely determined by shamanism. However, the adoption of Buddhism, then Confucianism and Taoism introduces a certain "combined" dispassion in everyday life. Often, religious motives are so intertwined that it is absolutely impossible to determine which direction they belong to. All this affected the humor and satire of Koreans and determined the peculiarity of the humorous attitude of the people to themselves.

In the early period of the Joseon Dynasty, Confucianism became a state ideology, which led to excessive formalization of life and standardization of the social system. In addition, factional struggles between various power structures and frequent incursions of foreign states are giving rise to a growing number of conflicts in the region.-

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native discontent and contradictions between different segments of the population. One of the most important ways out of this situation is folk painting with its characteristic humor and satire, exposing the vices of society and individual characters of that time. The characters of satirical stories are animals - a crow, a tiger, a chicken, etc. - symbols of a certain vice of a person or society as a whole. Such painting provided an outlet for the discontent of the masses.

Features of folk painting

Only in the late 1960s and 1970s did folk painting receive the proper attention of specialists. This does not mean that it has not been noticed at all before. Artisan artists commissioned paintings in the traditional style, and the subjects were reproduced the same as thousands of years ago, starting from the Bronze Age-paintings with images of birds and flowers, landscapes, characters from Korean mythology, etc. We mostly know paintings from the Joseon Dynasty period. Let's note some distinctive features of folk painting.

1. Folk painting does not adhere to the rules of strict spatial structure, there is no clear division of the spatial location of the object on the canvas.

2. Repeatability and combined nature of the plot. Repeatability (in the context of spells) has a kind of psychological effect.

3. Color contrasts. In folk painting, there are almost no dark, thick colors, everything is given in light colors.

4. Simultaneous presentation of the past, present and future. Folk paintings are not constrained by time frames. The biography unfolds simultaneously in the past, present, and future. Therefore, both the sun and the moon can simultaneously appear in one canvas, or a person in the form of a boy, young man, or old man.10

Content features

1. Decorative features. Most of the works of folk art are stored in the house in the form of paintings on screens, and the content of each picture must correspond to the spatial location of the screen. Paintings that were sent as a New Year's gift, or paintings intended to decorate the walls of the house, also mostly had the style of folk painting.

2. Reflection of ethnic religion and worldview. Folk paintings have a common symbolism of a particular era. This helps to understand the peculiarities of the culture of a particular period of history. Symbolism on the site-

native painting not only promotes mutual understanding between people, but also forms a common worldview of the people.

3. Reflection of popular belief in the power of spells (conspiracies). Folk painting differs from modern painting in its mystical character, the folk painting carried elements of a spell against disasters and misfortunes. People believed that with the help of paintings they could protect themselves from adversity and achieve what they wanted. The paintings intertwined elements of native (primitive) religion and folk customs, which strengthened the spell.

4. Reflection of collective world perception (sensory expression of the supersensible). If in orthodox painting the artist expresses his individuality, his vision of the world, then in folk painting the collective aesthetic taste or collective consciousness of the people is manifested in a very direct, original form. In this regard, it can be argued that folk painting is a means of mastering the general perception of the world.

5. Elements of imitation. Folk painting imitates the style of paintings drawn by professional court artists in plot and form, but differs significantly from them in content and technical techniques.

In this regard, we can say that folk painting developed in endless repetitions, in endless imitations, ultimately acquiring its own specifics. This peculiarity helps to distinguish folk painting from orthodox, based on a standardized drawing technique. Folk painting, intended for decorating everyday life, is created in accordance with the mores and customs of the people, and therefore it expresses in the most direct, truthful form the aesthetic worldview and feeling common to all the people.

Kim Yonghak. 1 Folk painting / De Won sa. Seoul, 1993. p. 40.

Ahn Himjun. 2 Understanding Korean paintings / Si kon sa. Seoul, 1988. p. 346.

Kim Ho-young. 3 Painting folk legends of Korea. Seoul, 1982. p. 7.

Yoon Suyul. 4 Korean Art Book-folk paintings / E Ken. Seoul, 2000. p. 8.

Hong Sojeong. 5 Feature of the plastic structure of the folk art genre and ways of mastering it. PhD thesis. Tangguk University, 2000, p. 6.

Hong Son Phe. 6 Decorative paintings and talisman paintings (protecting from misfortunes). A new understanding of Korean folk painting / / Volgan misul. 2006, N10. pp. 107-108.

Lee Young-soo. 7 Folk painting 1 / E won. Seoul, 1998, p. 7.

Hong Son Phe. 8 Decorative paintings and talisman paintings (protecting from misfortunes)...

Underdison. 9 Thoughts on folk painting (after visiting the exhibition) / Samsung. Foundation for Culture and Art. Seoul, 1983. p. 104.

Lee Mihwa. 10 Folk paintings of the Joseon Dynasty period. PhD thesis. Hannam University, 2004. p. 32.


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