An Chung-sik (1861-1919) was the Korean painter, the last gentleman painter of the great Korean Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910). He was also called Shimjon (Korean: “Heart Field”). His work belongs to the highest achievements of Korean culture. He was a key person to pursue the transition that started from the “true view landscape” of Jeong Seon (1676-1759) towards the nowadays way of handling the fine arts in both Korea’s.
An Chung-sik was born in Seoul and studied painting under Owon Jang Seung-eop. Together with Jo Seok-jin (1853-1920), he was sent to China for training by the Korean court. During this one-year sojourn, he studied Chinese and the next coming painting trends. After his return he became a great painter of the popular Southern style, that was based on fingertip technique. He was also an outstanding calligrapher who mastered all the writing styles. In 1900, An Chung-sik painted the royal portrait of King Gojong.
In 1918 he organized the association of paintings and writings artists. As the leader of the association, he made an effort to educate the younger artist generation.
An Chung-sik died in 1919. As a proof of his success in confirming the new trends, he was, together with Jo Seok-jin, criticised one year later as “his paintings were conservative, lacking vitality and must be reborn.”
Key Ideas in painting
In the 19th century, some Korean artist began to adopt Western painting techniques like linear perspective and chiaroscuro, suggestion an emerging interest in new types of art. An Chung-sik was one of them. He was highly esteemed painter in the Bureau of Painting that supplied paintings for the Choson court.
In his period, the western modern art was introduced to Korea, and the Korean traditional art was declining. He not only tried to succeed the traditional art but also adapt the western art, a realistic trend. He worked in the tradition, which in turn became the basis of early twentieth-century true- view landscapes. His style of art was unique in its pursuit of the enervated Southern style of the Qing period, with its emphasis on a fingertip.
Chiaroscuro is a particularly prominent feature of the artwork, usually when the artist is using extreme contrasts of light and shade, bold contrasts affecting a whole composition. The main principle of chiaroscuro is that solidity of form is best achieved by the effect of light falling on it, allowing the shading to give two-dimensional figures a sense of volume. Through the value gradation of color and the analytical division of bright and shadowed shapes, the artist creates the illusions of three-dimensional forms and of the light coming from a specific source, often achieving dramatic effects in paintings.
It goes without saying, the artist made the magnificent contribution to the development of modern art. His paintings hide a secret message that unique people can reveal. Moreover, each of us should plunge into its deep context in order to realize the main essence.
Famous paintings made by An Chung-sik
Throughout his life, An Chung-sik has created paintings and sketches. He was excellent at landscape, portrait, flowers, and birds in his drawings. Among his famous paintings are the following:
Spring Dawn at Mt. Baegak” (Baegakchunhyo, 백악춘효)