Saturday, March 6, 2010

Returned Joseon paintings go on display

Some Joseon Dynasty paintings that had been taken by the Japanese over the centuries are home for good and will be on public display for the first time.

Hakgojae Gallery in Sogyeok-dong, central Seoul, will present 30 pieces at the exhibition "Homecoming after 500 years' absence" which will open on Wednesday. It is part of the gallery's collection of nearly 500 old Joseon paintings.

During the last 10 years, Hakgojae searched for the paintings in overseas auctions, such as Sotheby's and Christie's, and met individual collectors in Japan. The private gallery went to great lengths to bring them back.
The sad part is that the Japanese still possess more than 61,000 Korean relics, or about 60 percent of the nation's relics currently in foreign countries.

At the exhibition, visitors can see what kind of Joseon paintings the Japanese liked.
"These paintings are like representatives of the first hallyu in Japan. As the Japanese always craved for the continent, or more specifically China, they preferred landscapes, animal paintings or paintings that show ancient Chinese history," said Lee Tae-ho, professor at Myongji University and the organizer of the exhibition.

"Japan thought of Korea as a window to continental culture. They took home many Chinese-style paintings from Joseon," added Woo Chan-kyu, director of Hakgojae Gallery.

Among the exhibits, visitors can find 10 paintings that feature ancient Chinese history. They contain landscapes and stories related to famous Chinese writers of the time such as Wang Hsichih, Li Po and Tu Fu.
Animal paintings feature animals that were considered auspicious in Joseon like tigers, hawks and horses.
Horses, especially, symbolized the king's power as Joseon, which was a country established by soldiers.

There were more than 120 stock farms throughout the country and even a separate government department that managed them.

The painting "Horses Graze in a Field" depicts a farm scene. Various kinds of horses appear in the 34 by 119.5 cm painting. It is assumed to have been painted by a royal artist to be shown to the king.

The exhibition runs from March 10 to April 25 at Hakgojae Gallery in Sogyeok-dong, central Seoul. For more information, call (02) 720-1524 or visit

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