Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Korean Contacts with Europeans in Beijing and Western Inspiration in Early Modern Korean Art
Burglind Jungmann, Art Historian, UCLA
Ford Lecture Hall, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
Presented by the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art sponsored by the Farwest Steel Endowment Fund. For more info, please call (541) 346-0968.
“Study screens” or paintings of Books and Scholarly Utensils most convincingly exemplify the early modern Korean reception of European art. The arrangements of collectibles, even though here of Korean and Chinese origin, reminds us of still lives that were fashionable all over Europe, from Italy’s Villa Urbino to Dutch paintings of flowers, glass, porcelain and fruit. Even more “Western” are the painting techniques of shading and perspective that evoke an illusionist space, quite different from traditional Korean conventions.
In order to trace the early Korean reception of European culture, that provided the circumstances for the European inspiration in art, we have to look into the travel diaries of Chosŏn envoys to the capital of the Chinese Empire. The diaries record actual encounters between envoys and Jesuit scientists and priests working in Beijing and reveal the curiosity of Korean visitors to China about everything foreign.
Study screens are, however, not the only genre in which we can find traces of European inspiration – albeit the most obvious ones. As I shall try to demonstrate, how more highly regarded traditional Korean genres such as portrait and landscape painting show often less obvious, but still astonishing traces of new ideas integrated in an overall familiar composition and iconography.