Korean Court Paintings: one-day workshop at SOAS and British Museum

Details of the one-day seminar at SOAS on 29 March, including abstracts of the papers to be presented.

Korean Court Paintings

Date: 29 March 2010 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings
Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre

Court Paintings poster


Funded by the Centre of Korea Studies at SOAS and the Academy of Korean Studies in South Korea, this one-day workshop explores different themes and aspects of Korean court paintings of the Joseon dynasty (AD1392-1910). During this period the Joseon royal court initiated the production of a great number of paintings and they range in subject matters from illustrations of various state rituals and other commemorative events to depictions of royal portraits and decorative motifs. As they are representative of court life and reflect the aesthetic tastes of the Joseon elite, such paintings form an important genre within the arts of Korea. In their portrayals of the rulers of Joseon, as well as in their depictions of important court events many stand as visual testimonies to the life of the Joseon elite. Other court paintings are decorative rather than commemorative in nature, and their iconography illustrate everyday concerns of the elite, such as wishes for prosperity, long life and happiness.

At the workshop four papers by leading Korean scholars will be presented. Renowned in their fields of study, they have carried out extensive research on Joseon court paintings in their native Korea and this workshop offers an unique opportunity to learn more about this important and fascinating subject.

The first paper of the day by Dr. Park Jeong-hye (Academy of Korean Studies) will discuss the key characteristics of Joseon court paintings. This will be followed by a paper by Dr Yun Chin-yong (Academy of Korean Studies) who will explore the genre of royal portrait paintings. The next two papers examine decorative paintings that formed part of Joseon palace interiors: Dr Kang Min-gi (Academy of Korean Studies) will examine murals of Changdeok Palace and Dr Hwang Jung-yon (National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage) will analyse the decorative paintings that were placed in late Joseon palace halls.

Also included in the workshop program is a private visit to the British Museum which holds an extensive collection of artifacts from the Joseon period. Facilitated by staff in the department of Asia, British Museum, and Dr Charlotte Horlyck (SOAS), a select number of objects will be shown and discussed.

While the British Museum visit takes place, the film Chihwaseon will be shown in the Khalili Lecture Theatre at SOAS, and participants unable to attend the museum visit are invited to watch it. Made in 2002 by the well-known Korean director Im Kwon-taek who won the Cannes Best Director prize for this film, it maps the story of the 19th century Korean painter Jang Seung-up played by the award winning actor Choi Min-sik. The film will be shown in Korean with English subtitles.

Time Description
10.00-10:10 Introduction by Charlotte Horlyck (SOAS)
10:10-10:55 Park, Jeong-hye
Court Documentary Paintings of Joseon Dynasty
10:55-11:45 Yun, Chin-yong
Royal Portraits of the King
Presented in Korean with English translation
11:45-12:00 Coffee and Cake
12:00-12:50 Hwang, Jung-yon (Researcher at the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, South Korea)
Realms of Royal Dignity: Paintings Decorating Palace Halls in Late Joseon
12:50-13:45 Lunch
13:45-14:30 Kang, Min-gi
The making of the Changdeokgoong (昌德宮) mural and the style of modern Korean painting
Presented in Korean with English translation
14:30-14:35 Concluding remarks by Charlotte Horlyck (SOAS)
14:40-15:00 Coffee and cake
15:00-17:00 Visit to the British Museum (for selected participants only)*
15:00-17:00 Film screening of Chwihwasǒn
17:15-18:45 Drinks reception


Registration: The event is free but registration is essential.

*Due to space restrictions only a limited number of people can visit the British Museum. Priority will be given to speakers, SOAS students and staff and guests who register early.

To register contact the Centres and Programmes Office giving your affiliation. All registered guests will receive an email confirmation which they must bring along to the event.

* Email: events@soas.ac.uk
* Tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4892/3

Enquires about the programme: Charlotte Horlyck, ch10@soas.ac.uk

Organiser: Centres & Programmes Office, British Museum


Park, Jeong-hye

Professor at The Academy of Korean Studies, South Korea

Court Documentary Paintings of the Joseon Dynasty
During the Joseon dynasty (AD1392-1910) documentary paintings were produced to illustrate not only state ceremonies and those involving the royal family, but also those involving yangban families. The majority of Joseon court documentary paintings are commemorative paintings of court rites presided over by the king and the most popular theme of extant court documentary paintings is the court banquet. However, one also finds paintings which depict the king’s initiation into the Office of the Elders (Giroso), his outings, royal processions outside the palace, martial arts performances, the biannual selection of high government officials, congratulatory ceremonies, as well as rituals related to the Crown Prince. Using pictorial records, in this paper I will analyze the origins, general characteristics, and significance of Joseon court documentary paintings.

Yun, Chin-yong

Researcher at The Academy of Korean Studies, South Korea

Royal Portraits of the King

Portraits of the Joseon dynasty, which are the main focus of this paper, epitomize the essence and elegance of Korean art. The value of East Asian portrait paintings lies in their representations of the physical likeness as well as the personal characteristics of the sitter. Particularly noteworthy are portraits of the king, the most powerful person in the country, in that they portray his authority and power. Depicted in a realistic manner, such portraits were painted by the finest professional painters of the time. When portraits of the king were produced strict rules and procedures were observed, not dissimilar to those that shaped the performance of state rituals.

Kang, Min-gi

Researcher at The Academy of Korean Studies, South Korea

The making of the Changdeok Palace mural and the style of modern Korean painting
In November 10th, 1917, the historically significant Changdeok Palace (昌德宮) burnt down. Many buildings were completely destroyed and a large number of valuable and significant artifacts were lost. The Daehan imperial family started work to rebuild the lost palace buildings and to decorate the interior of the buildings. When the buildings were restored in 1920, prominent artists of the period participated in painting the murals that decorated the interior of the buildings. Carried out during the Japanese colonial period, this work was shaped by colonial policies and the cultural sponsorship policy of the great Han empire’s royal family. The painting of the Changdeok Palace mural can be marked as an important event that shows not only the style and characteristics of modern Korean painting but also the arrival of new painting styles. Moreover, the making of the mural demonstrate how modern Korean painting freed itself stylistically from the traditions of Joseon. The mural also signifies the ways in which influences from foreign cultures were accepted and adapted to a Korean context. In this way the mural is significant to our understanding of the development of Korean modern art

Hwang, Jung-yon

Researcher at the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, South Korea

Realms of Royal Dignity: Paintings Decorating Palace Halls in Late Joseon
This paper deals with various paintings produced by the royal family of Joseon and which were installed in palace halls and shrines. Made for a variety of purposes, such as commemorating state events, worshiping royal predecessors and other means of paying homage to the royal family, the structural designs of these ‘decorative’ paintings differed according to the functions of the buildings in which they were displayed. They were mostly mounted in easily transportable forms such as panels, folding screens and hanging scrolls.

Because most parts of the Joseon royal art collection were destroyed during the Japanese occupation period (1910~1945), most surviving works span from the 19th to the early 20th century, and they include colorful paintings of five peaks with the sun and moon, ten longevity symbols, rocks and peonies, famous immortals, landscapes and auspicious patterns. In addition to their decorative value, their importance lie in their meaningful iconography that is linked to the status of the persons who occupied the places in which the paintings were displayed, as well as the functions of those places. This paper centers on surviving documentary and decorative paintings of the Joseon royal court and through a discussion of their themes, motifs, and pictorial idioms I will explore the ways in which they signify the authority of the monarch as well as how they represent wishes for an ideal society.

(automatically generated) Read LKL’s review of this event here.

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