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Korean J Art Hist > Volume 305; 2020 > Article
Korean Journal of Art History 2020;305:109-147.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.31065/ahak.305.305.202003.004    Published online March 31, 2020.
1950년대 후반 북한미술의 동유럽전시와 민족 미술의 형성
North Korean Art, North Korean Art of 1950s, North Korea and East Europe, Art Exchange of North Korea
Joohyun Lee
Professor, Myongji University
Correspondence:  Joohyun Lee,
Received: 15 January 2020   • Revised: 17 January 2020   • Accepted: 25 January 2020
The late 1950s witnessed a rise of nationalism throughout Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe due to the change of the Soviet Union’s political course from the Stalinist iron curtain to pro-American and anti-War campaigns. The period also saw a reorganization of power relations within the Socialist Bloc as the Soviet-China conflicts began to surface. It was under this international climate that North Korea, desperate to restore economic devastation from the Korean War (1953-1956), has maintained the equidistance foreign policy between China and the Soviet Union during the period. At the same time, the war-ravaged nation tried to discover a diplomatic breakthrough from its relations with Eastern Bloc as a means to diversify sources of economic aid and to achieve a diplomatic balance. “Literature and art can penetrate where politics cannot,” a slogan representing the culture-first policy of North Korea: and it led to signing cultural agreements with Eastern Europe nations, sending out artworks, organizing exhibition committees, and dispatching artists to the comrade nations. Some remarkable shows include Exhibitions of Joseon Art, which toured Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia in 1957 to 58, and Visual and Plastic Art from Joseon held in Germany and Hungary, 1959. The works in display were thematically of a country (North Korea) making way to stability under international aid and visually of native lyricism describing natural sceneries of and around Mt. Geumgang, Mt. Myohyang and Moran Peak without any political implications. North Korea placed ink-painting over oil painting. An acknowledgement, “[R] ealism based on tradition,” was given to artworks that North Korean artists (e.g. Lee Palchan, Lee Seokho, Ji Dalseung, and Kim Yongjun among others) executed in a traditionally valued “idea-writing” manner. On the other hand the North Korean oil paintings on show revealed a localized style featuring a simplified composition and bright color tones rather than simply conforming to a Soviet style that prevailed in the early 1950s. Meanwhile, the North Korean artists learned a lot while in the Socialist Bloc states. They were able to catch firsthand sight of European Medieval art, to which they had access only through reproductions. Realist artists of the nineteenth to early twentieth centuries who brushed in nationalistic modes across Eastern Europe gave inspiration to the North Korean painter’s struggle with an issue of how to establish nationalistic norms of oil painting. These hands-on experiences provided the North Korean artists of limited scope with a chance to broaden their perspective on realism—reaching even a “proto type” fundamental to Realism beyond the Soviet Socialist Realism and the Russian Peredvizhniki, both trends which they have highly valued up to the early 1950s. The wide steps into Eastern Europe helped North Korea truly internalize Realism while properly contextualizing it in the European history of art.
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