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In the traditional Korean folk paintings, tigers appear as Janus-faced creatures. One side is a beast with merciless savage nature while the other a humane animal. The two contrasting images of the fierce animal have been a distinctive feature of the Korean art which is rarely seen in other countries. The Tiger and Magpie folk paintings in Korea present tigers as a comic character. In the paintings, the tiger indulges in smoking, assuming a haughty attitude, or carrying a silly or delightfully dainty appearance. What made the painters depict the fearful beast as a cute, ludicrous pet-like animal? According to an American art historian John Carter Covell, the ability to turn the admiration for the ferocious beast into depiction of the Tiger and Magpie as a funny tiger forms the pinnacle of Korean art history. The Tiger and Magpie provides a valuable clue for viewers to delve into the cultural identity of Korean people and their aesthetic sensibility.
Hatcher Graduate Library | Gallery
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Byung-Mo Chung is a professor of Gyeongju University. He is the first scholar to travel the world to propagate and research the value and meanings of Korean traditional Decorative Art culture. He had given lectures on Korean art at UC Berkeley, UCLA, Rutgers, USC and other colleges.