Saturday, September 25, 2010

(Social) Realism: North Korea art

Kim Chu-gyŏng (1902-1981)

A native of North Ch'ungch'ŏng Province, Kim graduated from the Tōkyō School of Fine Arts in 1928, and upon returning to Korea became one of the country's most prominent oil painters. Until the late 1930s, Kim experimented successfully with a variety of different styles. However, as illustrated by the images and an illustrated essay in a 1938 book published with his close friend, painter O Chi-ho, towards the end of the colonial period he found his own style in a special kind of Post-Impressionist mode: landscapes depicting the sky and clouds with heavy object colors, and flowers, trees, people in strong bright greens and/or violet. Some of the stylistic elements typical for Kim's work survived the post-Liberation era—he favored desolate landscapes that often seem almost geometrically calculated, and used a reduced palette of colors.

Kim Man-hyŏng (1916-1984)
A native of Kaesŏng, Kim, like Yi K'wae-dae, studied oil painting at the Imperial Art Academy in Tokyo where he graduated in 1940. From 1937, he regularly displayed portraits and landscapes in the Korean national art exhibition (Sŏnjŏn), and during the last three years of the war was also involved in the production of propaganda war art for the Japanese army (such as magazine cover designs, posters, etc.). After Liberation, while still living in Seoul, Kim joined the Korean Artists Union and actively engaged in leftist politics.

Han Sang-ik (1917-1997)
Born in 1917 near Hamhŭng in northern Korea, Han studied at the Imperial Art Academy in Tokyo and after the Korean War became professor at the P'yŏngyang University of Fine Arts. Han's works have appeared in North Korean magazines since the late 1950s. He was honored with the highest awards (such as "People's Artist") by the Kim regime, and together with Ch'oe Ch'ang-sŏng held a two-man exhibition in 1995 in P'yŏngyang's International Culture Center. Seascapes, beach and harbor scenes were his favored subject matters.

Im Hyok

World (Social) Realist Art (Index of Countries)
This blog page is part of an ongoing project by artist and part-time lecturer Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin ( to explore Realist / Social Realist art from around the world. The term Realism is used in its broadest sense to include 19th century Realism and Naturalism as well as 20th century Impressionism (which after all was following in the path of Courbet and Millet). Social Realism covers art that seeks to examine the living and working conditions of ordinary people (examples include German Expressionism, American Ashcan School and the Mexican Muralists).

Click here for (Social) Realist Art Definitions, World (Social) Realism and Global Solidarity, Art and Politics, Social Realism in history and Country Index.

Suggestions for appropriate artists from around the world welcome to

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