MMCA to Exhibit Lee Jung-seop’s Artwork Donated by Late Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee
The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) will display a new portion of artworks donated by the late Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee from Friday.
This exhibition focuses on the works of Lee Jung-seop (1916-1956), a pioneering figure in Korean modern art. The artist is particularly known for the bold, rough brushstrokes in his oil illustrations of animals such as bulls or chickens.
“MMCA Lee Kun-hee Collection: Lee Jung Seop” goes a step further, however, and focuses on both the artist’s personal life and his artistic career to gain a comprehensive understanding of the significance of his works.
The exhibition features 90 works from the 1940s through the 1950s, and approximately 80 of these were in Lee’s possession until his donation to the MMCA in April 2021. Two paintings, “Chicken and Chicks” (1950s) and “Children Playing in the Water” (1950s), are unveiled to the public for the first time.
Lee’s postcard paintings and tinfoil paintings are particularly noteworthy as they reflect the love and devotion he had for his family: his wife Yamamoto Masako and their two sons.
“Lee spent most of his life away from his family, so he used to draw and send pictures to them, which he drew on postcards and aluminum foil,” said Woo Hyun-jung, the curator of the ‘exposure. “The foil is from his cigarette packs and he used steel pencils or nails to draw on it. It is assumed that he started drawing these paintings on foil after sending his family to Japan because times were tough in Korea in the 1950s. [due to the 1950-53 Korean War].”
Lee treasured his family so much that when he sent his paintings to his two sons, he would draw two identical versions, each signed with his sons’ names so they wouldn’t “fight” over the paintings, Woo explained, as shown the painting “Two children and a fish and a crab” (1950s).
He also drew paintings depicting the family, even scribbling such images alongside the love letters he sent to his wife.
Although Lee was an avid artist, he suffered from many illnesses, such as malnutrition and hepatitis, and died at the age of 39.
“Lee painted his hopes for a better future, and he constantly said that he would earn enough money from his artwork to move to Japan to reunite with his family,” Woo said. “Unfortunately, no one was at his bedside when he passed away.”
“MMCA Lee Kun-hee Collection: Lee Jung Seop” continues through April 23 next year at the Seoul branch in Jongno District, central Seoul. The MMCA is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, hours are extended until 9 p.m. Admission is free but reservations are required with the museum. website.
BY SHIN MIN-HEE [[email protected]]