Korea Around 1900: The Paintings of Gisan

Front Cover
Royal Ontario Museum, 2006 - Art - 127 pages
Gim Jun-geun (artist name: Gisan) is a well-known Korean genre painter who documented daily life in late 19th-century Korea. Born in the mid-1800s, towards the end of Korea's last dynasty, he worked mainly in Busan, Jemulpo, and Wonsan, major port cities that witnessed a lively trade in goods from Japan, China, and the West. Gisan was a prolific artist who produced at least one thousand known works, most of them for the western export market that flourished in these thriving trading centres. As export art, Gisan's oeuvre had a tremendous influence on the shaping of early western conceptions of Korea.
The twenty-seven paintings by Gisan in the Royal Ontario Museum are atypical because of their unusually large size, but, in spite of the fact that they bear no signature or seal, they can be attributed to the artist based on their distinctive style. The ROM paintings are accompanied here by twenty-three paintings from the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, unquestionably painted by Gisan, so that readers can compare the more typical Gisan oeuvre with the exceptional ROM set.
In her introductory essay, Christina Hee-Yeon Han places Gisan in the context of the rapidly changing society of late 19th-century Korean genre painting. She reveals how the ROM paintings, probably commissioned by a Canadian Christian missionary, may have been used in Canada around 1900 to unveil Korea and its people to Canadians, at a time when Korea was still largely a place of mystery to the western world.

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Foreword by Klaas Ruitenbeek
Gisan and Genre Painting in Late 19thcentury Korea

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About the author (2006)

Dr. Janice Hughes received her Ph.D. in ornithology from the University of Toronto. She is a Royal Ontario Museum departmental associate and a professor of vertebrate ecology at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Dr. Hughes has authored numerous scientific and popular publications on birds, including four species accounts for the "Birds of North America: Life Histories for the 21st Century" series. She lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

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