Soo-Keun, Park [박수근] (1914–1965) By Youngna, Kim
Park Soo-Keun is one of the most popular Korean painters of modern times. A self-taught artist, he graduated with only an elementary school education and received no regular art classes. However, from an early age, he wanted to become an artist like Jean François-Millet whose paintings he saw in art books. The artist is known to have said, “I have a very ordinary philosophy on art that is an artist should paint the goodness and truthfulness in people. So the people I paint are of humble origins rather than diverse and complex. My favorite subjects are grandfathers, grandmothers, and young children, the ordinary people we find in our households.” Indeed, his paintings are as honest and candid as are his words. He experimented with various techniques to develop his own texture. He would cover his drawing board with canvas and then apply heavy layers of white, brown and black. Taking influence from Buddhist pagodas and statues, he would paint people on top of this thickly built texture with the effect of making them look as if they were painted on rock. His figures thus grew gradually flatter, buried in the thick texture he had crafted as the composition became more condensed.