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Korean J Art Hist > Volume 301; 2019 > Article
Korean Journal of Art History 2019;301:67-92.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.31065/ahak.301.301.201903.003    Published online March 31, 2018.
일제강점기 신윤복 풍속화의 浮上과 재평가
신 선 영
문화재청 문화재감정위원
Rise and Reappraisal of Genre Paintings by Sin Yun-bok in the Japanese Colonial Period
Sun-young Shin
Connoisseur of Cultural Heritage, Cultural Heritage Administration
Received: 11 September 2018   • Revised: 17 September 2018   • Accepted: 11 November 2018
It was not until critiques began to seriously make written remarks in the Japanese Colonial period that Sin Yun-bok (act. fl. the early nineteenth century) and his genre paintings received due attention. For example, Chōsen shogaka retsuden (Lives of Eminent Painters and Calligraphers of Joseon) and Geunyeok seohwa jing (Biographical Records of Korean Painters and Calligraphers), published in the 1910s and 20s, are the earliest ones to provide short accounts on Sin’s life and virtuosity in genre paintings. Publications of the 1930s—including Chōsen meiga tenrankai mokuroku (Exhibition Catalogue of Joseon Fine Paintings) and Joseon Joongang Ilbo—assess that Sin’s works are the Korean genre painting par excellence or, from a different perspective, Ukiyoeesque. The recognition of Sin’s depictions of commoner’s daily lives as tours de force extended to an encomium by Gim Yongjun (1904~1967) who saw the painter “the greatest artist with revolutionary spirits.” On the other hand, the stylistic interpretation associating the paintings of everyday life to Japanese Ukiyo-e prints brought to mind his pejorative epithet as a painter of yeosok (lit. lives of common women; or girly things), the reputation which Mun Il-pyeong (1888~1939) consolidated with a comment in Hoam jeonjip (Complete Collection of Hoam’s [Mun’s] Writings) that “[Sin] was ousted from the Royal Painting Academy while painting overly vulgar things.” These written accounts resulted from the growing popularity of Sin Yun-bok’s genre paintings as they met both socio-political demands of the Colonial rule and aesthetic preferences of the public in those days. Particularly in the 1930s, the disclosure of Hyewon jeonsin cheop album (Genre Paintings by Hyewon [Sin Yun-bok]) has prodded the then intellectuals into reviewing and critiquing the painter. Meanwhile, the general audience saw Sin’s works as nostalgia for Joseon traditions or intuitively as erotic images. The eroticism of Sin’s genre paintings was thrown into bold relief by later epigones. An album Genre Paintings purchased by Hermann Sander (1868~1945) contains a leaf that imitates A Widow’s Lust in Spring in the Hyewon album; and similar imitations are discovered in an anonymous album Musan kwaeu cheop, the Unu docheop by Choe Useok, and another anonymous album Sokwacheop. The repetition suggests that the images from the Hyewon album have been so widely circulated since the late nineteenth or early twentieth century as to be used for the pornographic painting albums. When Sin Yun-bok and the Hyewon album reached an even wider audience in the colonial period, pornographic albums under the false authorship of Sin Yun-bok or Hyewon came out in considerable numbers. These phenomena have further enhanced the erotic aspects of Sin’s paintings, eventually contributing to a current notion that Sin Yun-bok is reckoned with a painter of yeosok or of pornographic images.

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