Lee Ungno (1904-1989)'s Theory of Painting and Art Informel Perception in the 1950s

이응노(1904~1989)의 회화론과 1950년대 앵포르멜 미술에 대한 인식

Lee, Janghoon

  • Received : 2019.03.25
  • Accepted : 2019.05.10
  • Published : 2019.06.30


Among the paintings of Goam Lee Ungno (1904-1989), his works of the 1960s in Paris have been evaluated as his most avant-garde works of experimenting with and innovating objects as an artist. At that time, his works, such as Papier Colle and Abstract Letter, were influenced by abstract expressionism and Western Art Informel, illustrating his transformation from a traditional artist into a contemporary artist. An exhibition, which was held prior to his going to Paris in March 1958, has received attention because it exhibited the painting style of his early Informel art. Taking this into consideration, this study was conducted by interpreting his work from two perspectives; first, that his works of 1958 were influenced by abstract expressionism and Art Informel, and, second, that he expressed Xieyi (寫意) as literati painting, focusing on the fact that Lee Ungno first started his career adopting this style. In this paper, I aimed to confirm Lee Ungno's recognition of Art Informel and abstract painting, which can be called abstract expressionism. To achieve this, it was necessary to study Lee's painting theory at that time, so I first considered Hae-gang Kim Gyu-jin whom Lee Ungno began studying painting under, and his paintings during his time in Japan. It was confirmed that in order to escape from stereotypical paintings, deep contemplation of nature while painting was his first important principle. This principle, also known as Xieyi (寫意), lasted until the 1950s. In addition, it is highly probable that he understood the dictionary definition of abstract painting, i.e., the meaning of extracting shapes from nature according to the ideas which became important to him after studying in Japan, rather than the theory of abstract painting realized in Western paintings. Lee Ungno himself also stated that the shape of nature was the basis of abstract painting. In other words, abstractive painting and abstract painting are different concepts and based on this, it is necessary to analyze the paintings of Lee Ungno. Finally, I questioned the view that Lee Ungno's abstract paintings of the 1950s were painted as representative of the Xieyi (寫意) mind of literary art painting. Linking traditional literary art painting theory directly to Lee Ungno, who had been active in other worlds in space and time, may minimize Lee Ungno's individuality and make the distinction between traditional paintings and contemporary paintings obscure. Lee Ungno emphasized Xieyi (寫意) in his paintings; however, this might have been an emphasis signifying a great proposition. This is actually because his works produced in the 1950s, such as Self-Portrait (1956), featured painting styles with boldly distorted forms achieved by strong ink brushwork, a style which Lee Ungno defined as 'North Painting.' This is based on the view that it is necessary to distinguish between Xieyi (寫意) and 'the way of Xieyi (寫意) painting' as an important aspect of literary art painting. Therefore, his paintings need a new interpretation in consideration of the viewpoint that he represented abstract paintings according to his own Xieyi (寫意) way, rather than the view that his paintings were representations of Xieyi (寫意), or rather a succession of traditional paintings in the literary artist's style.


Lee Ungno;Informel;abstract expressionism;Xieyi;literati painting