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“Graceful Seoul of 260 Years Ago Comes Alive in the Paintings…”

“Graceful Seoul of 260 Years Ago Comes Alive in the Paintings…”

Posted May. 14, 2004 22:43,   


Seoul in 2004 presents itself with forests of high-rise buildings and waves of automobiles. It is a city where a sense of fatigue and disgust is rampant as in a novel about its highly fast-paced development, “Seoul is full-packed,” and the lyrics, “a city of disgrace” in the musical “Subway Line No.1.”

However, the Seoul scenery of 260 years ago was as fresh as “a young willow shoot in the spring rain” and as bright as “sunbeams on a mid day.” “GyuhmJae (1676∼1759)’s Real Sceneries of Hanyang” (DongA Ilbo) compares the sceneries of Hanyang painted by the painter GyuhmJae Jung Sun around 1740 and reveals the beauty of Seoul.

“Would there be any paintings so ample and so fine of the capital cities in the world? It is a proof that the city of Seoul is that beautiful.”

Gansong Art Gallery Senior Researcher Choi Wan-su, 64, who guides us through the old sceneries of 600-year-old capital city through the GyuhnJae’s painting, calls the era that the painter was active an “era of Real Sceneries (1675∼1800).”

“The era was vibrating with the national pride that Josun is the center of the world culture with the Josun metaphysics, established by Toegye and Yulgok, replacing the old national doctrine adapted from China. The pride about the Josun culture develops into the recognition that the Josun land is the most beautiful land in the world. GyuhmJae’s paintings are the finest fruits of that recognition.”

The graceful scenery of ChungPoongGye, today’s Chungwoong-dong, which boasted the best scenery in Hanyang those days, magnificent views of Jongno and Shinmunno area along with Mt. Nahm viewed from foggy Mt. Inwang, lofty beauty of DaeEunAhm and DokRakJung situated on the sites where CheongWaDae now sits, idyllic sceneries of Apgujung SeokChon Lake area, the old GwangJu rock which lost its mystic view now that it moved above ground from the island with the construction of the Olympic Highway….

However, GyuhmJae (1676∼1759)’s Real Sceneries of Hanyang is not only about recording of the scenery which now would not be reminded even if we stand on the site today. It is also a guide to the customs of the day of Josun’s highest intellectuals with whom GyuhmJae befriended.

Gansong Art Gallery is holding a “Great GyuhmJae” with 100 pieces of his paintings, including 40 of the Real Sceneries of Hanyang, introduced in the book, starting May 16 until May 30. Seoulites who try to evade from the City of Disgrace every weekend and suffer the traffic jam should first look around. There they could find the hidden paintings of Gyuhmjam….

Chae-Hyun Kwon confetti@donga.com