A special program is implemented by The Korea Post to have the portraits of the Heads of Government and other extremely important leaders of Korea and the world painted by the top-notch portrait artists of Korea, including Artists Chung Hyung-Mo, Kim Dong-Hyun and Lee Byong-hun.
Artist Chung painted the portrait of Prime Minister Churchill in 1962 inspired by the unflinching spirit of the British Prime Minister in performing a prominent role in leading the WWII to the victory of the Allied Forces.
Chung is obviously a modest person by nature always condescending when it comes to the appraisal of his works.
He said, "Genius Artist Leonardo Da Vinci expended three full years in painting Mona Lisa and yet the work is termed 'Unfinished,' which reminds me of how difficult it is to seek perfection in portrait painting." He said that there are over six billion persons living on the earth but that they are all different from one another and that it is all but impossible for a human being to get any closer to the mysterious work created by God.
Artist Chung has concentrated on portrait painting all his life but he confesses that he feels his work is not perfect each time he tries to create a portrait painting depicting what appears on the surface and what there is inside, especially the emotional differences characterizing the individuals.
Among the great admirers of Artist Chung is President Park Geun- Hye. She used to say: "I am emotionally attached to the works of Artist Chung as my family and I had always been exposed to his wonderful works at Cheong Wa Dae where I lived." She was reminiscing the days when she was the First Lady as the daughter of the late former President Park Chung Hee after the passage of her mother, Madam Yuk Young-Soo, who was adorably called by a nickname by the common people as an "Opposition Leader within the Presidential Office of Cheong Wa Dae."
Madam Yuk, the wife of President Park, was rated to be the 'Best First Lady in Korea' as her husband (President Park) is rated as Korea's 'Best President' today.
Artist Chung was born in 1936, and his resume shows that he has graduated from the Post-Graduate School of Fine Arts of Hongik University in Seoul, which is considered the best university in Korea in fine arts and various other areas of art. It also shows that he earned a Master's degree from the same university.
He had a solo exhibition of '100 Noted Mothers' at YMCA and Chung Hyung-Mo Portrait Painting Exhibition at the Art Gallery of Chosun Ilbo in Seoul.
Many of his works are preserved at prominent buildings of Korea, including the Presidential Office/ Mansion of Cheong Wa Dae.
According to Art Critic Paek Munki in Seoul, Chung tries to express the inner characteristics of the person whose portrait painting he paints. Thus the portrait work he creates of the person gives the impression that the person is living. "Thus," Paek said, 'Chung must be considered an artist born with the talent for such a job and in this respect he is unique and distinguishes himself clearly from other artists."
The portrait painting of the Joseon and preceding dynasties, when there was no oil painting in Korea (or perhaps anywhere else in the Orient), the work was done in Sumukhwa (ink- and-wash painting or Sumie), where the artists painted the hair strand by strand and every detail true to the object painted. Such portrait picture for the King was called Eojin which is typical of the paintings done with Korean ink.
At a recent interview with The Korea Post, Chung explained as to how he came to paint the portraits of the Presidents of the Republic of Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom, Libya, Oman, Egypt and various other countries of the world.
Artist Chung began his association with the Heads of State of the different countries as well as Korea in August 1976 when the then President Park Chung Hee asked him to visit the Presidential Office of Cheong Wa Dae through the medium of the then Minister Yoon Juyeong of Culture & Information. Chung, like many artists did at the time, had long hair and Minister Yoon hinted that he could give President Park a stronger impression if he had short hair (like President Park himself).
To be invited to Cheong Wa Dae was a great honor for any person as it is true even today and Chung was in a way awe-stricken as he stepped inside the office room of the President. As Yoon introduced Chung, President Park said: “We have more paintings by Artist Chung here at Cheong Wa Dae than any other artists.” President Park then offered a cigarette to Chung and personally lit it for him.
President Park asked Artist Chung to paint the portrait of the late First Lady Madam Yuk Young-Soo who had died two years ago due to a North Korean agent who shot at President Park but missed him and hit Madam Yuk instead. It happened at the National Liberation Day celebration at the National Theater in Seoul. Five years later, President Park, too, died, and Artist Chung painted the portrait picture President Park for use at the time of his funeral procession.
After President Park, Chung continued to paint the portrait pictures of the succeeding Presidents of the Republic Korea, namely President Chun Doo Hwan and First Lady Lee Soon-Ja and President Kim Dae-jung and First Lady Lee Hee-Ho.
At the time of painting the portrait of the late First Lady Madam Yuk (wife of the late President Park), Chung said that he saw the First Lady in his repeated dreams which were of great help in his effort for perfecting his work of her.
“I don’t believe in superstition like many other artists and scientists,” Chung reminisced, “but I can hardly explain how I had such a dream three times in three weeks in a row and had her assistance in my endeavor for properly completing the work.”
How long does it take for an artist to finish a portrait painting?
It is known to take about one week for an ordinary portrait painter to complete a work, but the actual time expended varies widely depending on the artists, the materials they use and whom they paint.
In the case of noted portrait artists, like Chung, it is known to take several months and even more than a year to complete a work--depending on the occasion.
For further details on his works, inquiries may be made to Lee Sam-sun at Tel 82-2-2298-1745 or 1740/2; Fax 82-2-2298-9506; Mobile 82-10-5201-1740; or email firstname.lastname@example.org or korpost@ chol.com; Internet www.koreapost.com (English) or www.koreapost.co.kr (Korean).
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