Kang Hui An, painter in literary artist’s style in 15th century

November 4, 2022

Kang Hui An (1417-1464) was not a professional painter, but served as a government official. He was so good at painting and handwriting that he was known as a typical painter in the literary artist’s style in Korea. 

Born into a family of an aristocratic scholar in 1417, he passed the civil service examination in 1441 when he was 24 years old. He was involved in creating Hunminjongum (Korean Alphabet) as a government official in an academic research institution called jiphyonjon. 

At that time, qualifications that should be possessed by government officials of aristocracy included poetry, writing and drawing, and Kang Hui An was a figure possessed of such qualities and skills.   

An old record said that Kang acquired the gist in terms of sentence and poem. He wrote well in seal characters, ornamental seal characters, printed style and cursive writing and topped others in the painting exquisiteness, it added.

In fact, the characteristic of his painting was that he raised the close observation and power of expression of portrayal object onto a new height.

Typical examples among his remaining works are “Deep in thought” and “Crossing the bridge” which show the leisure life of scholars. 

He got fame when he went to a neighbouring country as an envoy. At that time, it is said that renowned personages of the country were surprised to see his picture and calligraphy and earnestly asked him to draw paintings.

Song Hyon, a scholar in the 15th century, said in his book Yongjaechonghwa that Kang was gifted with high and unusual talent and went deep into a stage that ancient people had failed to reach. His landscape or figure paintings were all prominent and the picture of a beautiful woman he had drawn earlier was really lifelike, he added.

In a word, his pictures were based on the method of boldly using single strokes of the brush to portray the objects in an intensive and three dimensional way, putting the main stress on the depiction of the hero and subordinating others to it. 

His name goes down in history as he offered good experience for the development of Korean pictorial art in the early years of the feudal Joson dynasty.  


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