Lesson 1


by Heyrling Oropeza and Stephanie S Lee

Brief History

Studying the folk art of another culture can expand our worldview and help us discover the pride people take in creating art for friends, family and special occasions. In many cultures, simple designs often express a wish for good luck, wealth and happiness or provide protection against evil spirits.

The earliest examples of Korean folk paintings are found on the stones and murals of royal tombs in Koguryo (a former Korean empire located in the northern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula). Other works incorporated motifs from shamanism, Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. As time passed, many of these symbols were used together in interesting decorative compositions on royal palace screens, Buddhist temples, commercial buildings, homes, schools and even everyday items.

Minwha (Korean folk painting) is an invaluable part of Korea’s cultural heritage and conveys the mythology, religion and views of the Korean people. The art represents the artistic expressions of individuals who created paintings to decorate palaces and homes to celebrate joyful family occasions, such as weddings and 60th birthdays.

Characteristics found in Minhwa:

The art is stylized and can be very abstract as it expresses the following:

The art does not seek to duplicate reality but fills in open space, positively expresses animals, and can be childlike and complex. The art uses bold compositions, dynamic brushwork and intense colors.

Themes which appear include:nature; yearning for happiness; honesty and simplicity


  1. Show some examples of American folk art, and ask what symbols in art might demonstrate about the values and customs of the country.
  2. Distribute the handouts. Divide into cooperative learning groups to find motifs and artistic principles in one of three photo studies.

Image above: The Sun, Moon and Heavenly Peaches 일월반도도 |

19th century A pair of Four-panel screen, Color on silk, 315 x 257.2 cm |

National Palace Museum of Korea 국립고궁박물관 © 2015 NATIONAL PALACE MUSEUM OF KOREA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED