Oh Jiho

Oh Jiho

Oh JiHo (1905-1982) Korean painter

See his work at House of Oh  JiHo
275 Jisandong, Donggu, Gwangju
Call before visiting. 062-222-7160

The Oh Jiho Memorial Hall in Hwasun, Jeollanamdo has a permanent exhibition of his work. Pictures

Oh Ji Ho (1905-1982) was a master of Western painting; critics acclaimed that his work was the pursuit of beauty. His original name was Oh Jeomsu. ‘Jiho’ was his pen name used to sign his paintings. Born into the aristocracy of Korean yangban, his family’s wealth allowed him to study at Tokyo Art School’s Western painting department. He introduced impressionism to Korea and especially the Jeolla region. In the 1960s he established the department of art in Chosun University and became a significant influence on the generations studying under him. Oh Jiho was an active painter until his death in 1982 from complications following a car accident.

“In the 1970s when the population of Gwangju was about one million, even taxi drivers knew of Oh Jiho’s birthplace.” This quote from Gwangju Storytelling shows that Gwangju embraced Oh Jiho as a symbol of artistic talent which they could enthusiastically celebrate. Seemingly linking a western painting style to eastern content, Oh in fact combined impressionistic techniques with that of Korean traditional naturalism techniques of the Honam or Jeolla area.

Middle age found him drawing mainly landscape paintings with his vivid and original drawing style. In his later years of his life, he painted many works which expressed the excitement of a journey to Europe. His masterpieces include, ‘Apple Orchard’, ‘Chugwang’, and ‘Port’.

The pull of Oh Jiho’s birthplace is that is harkens back to a familiar style of traditional, rural Korea with a thatched house and a walled garden and backyard. The uniqueness of this thatch-covered house, or hanok, is symbolic of the traditional style of housing used in Korea a century ago. This lifestyle of a rural artist allowed him to concentrate on his art work and the development of combining artistic techniques. It is a romantic place for an urban artist to escape for inspiration or for those burned out by city life to remember that natural surroundings help to inspire genius and harmony as well as simplicity and robust activity. The house, currently owned by his daughter in law, was Oh Jiho’s home until his death in 1982.

In Hwasun there is an official memorial hall built in honor of Oh Jiho as well.

Reworked from Gwangju Guidebook and Gwangju Storytelling.


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