Shin Yun Bok
The Great Artist of Korea

Shin Yun Bok is one of the most popular Korean artists in history. Born in 1758, Shin Yun Bok is very well known for a genre painting. He received natural endowments of art from both his grandfather and her father who were artists. There is a special reason why I wanted to investigate about this particular artist. I have always had curious about this artist because there were great controversy about Shin Yun Bok's gender. Some people said that Shin Yun Bok was a male and others said that the artist was a female. As I was doing the research, I finally found out that the disagreement was concluded with the fact that the artist was a male. It was then, when my curiosity got bigger; I wanted to know who created this rumor and when it started. The reason that He camouflaged was involved with complicated factors of ancient Korean society. It was late Jo Seon Dynasty when Shin Yun Bok was born and acted as an artist. Korean society during Jo Seon Dynasty was very conservative and many artists could not express their ability because of many constraint. Many artists tried to portray how people lived in their everyday life, but many of them were either exiled or executed by the king. Shin Yun Bok, However, depicted people's routine in detail. One of his well known drawing that shows people's life is Dan oh pung Jung. Dan oh pung jung means scene of people enjoy during Dano festival which is on the fifth of the fifth-month of the lunar calendar. In the picture, there are some women who wash their hair and body while other rides a swing. There are also young boys who attempt to peek out the women secretly. Shin Yun Bok's name was widely spread among people especially among those from higher class because His works were mainly about routine of people from aristocratic class. He especially described about the relationship between man and woman. At that time, it was strictly forbidden that man and woman meet privately therefore, his works triggered both complaint and acclamation from people. One of the most famous drawing of his that describes about lover's secret love is called, Wal ya jung in meaning meeting at late night. In the drawing, there is a bright moon up in the sky that lightens two people. Many people were shocked by his drawings of rich people's dissipated life. Shin Yun Bok criticized rich and high classed men who were corrupted by drawing them hanging out with prostitutes. Later, some people looked at these paintings with different perspective. They guessed that the artist wanted to reveal human's sexual desire through his works. Many people were shocked by his works but they also felt connected with his drawings that portrait human being's basic instinct. As seen in his drawings, most of them portray a group of men and women hanging together with the instruments. It tells that Shin Yun Bok enjoyed music and dance himself. There is always at least one woman in every of his drawings. That means he stressed woman as his important drawing material. He wanted to reveal unique beauty that only woman possess. He described woman with fine lines and colorful hue. His famous masterpiece called mi in do is very famous for delicacy of his drawing and detailed depiction of woman's body. mi in do was designated as Korean national treasure later During the Jo Seon Dynasty, drawing or even thinking about drawing pictures like what he drew was almost impossible. If He drew these pictures freely, he might not be able to survive due to pressure of the rich and king. That's why he tried to hide his identity, to draw paintings freely with his own style and expression. From many aspects, Shin Yun Bok's works were very notable and striking at that time. The late 18th century when Shin Yun Bok lived was an upheaval period with many chances occurring in every aspects of society. At that time, Korea started to trade with Japan and china and major Korean cities were developing each day. Government official were embezzled money from the poor and they made pleasures with girls all the time. Shin Yun Bok portrayed the way ancient Korean society was with very precise and dramatic ways. He also showed how people especially the rich acted in their every day life. Shin Yun Bok was the first artist who drew the society and people in a very honesty ways. Artists before him drew the painting with platitude materials and colors. Shin Yun Bok was the greatest Jo Seon artist who broke away from banal art techniques and thoughts who tried to convey the way things are as they are.


Baek, Geum Nam, Shin Yun Bok, Miraein Editions, Seoul, 2008
Lee, Il Su, The Genius korean artist, Gu Reum Editions, Seoul, 2009
DuSan encyclopedia. " Shin Yun Bok." 06 October 2008