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Tree and Two Women

Park Soo-keun Korean

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 233

Having emerged from modest origins, Park Soo-keun aspired to be an artist after seeing a work by French painter Jean-François Millet (1814–1875). During the 1940s in Pyeongyang, inspired by granite Buddhist sculptures, pagodas, and unearthed Goguryeo (37 BCE–668 CE) tomb wall paintings, he cultivated his distinctive style of a muted palette and a textured surface often characterized as “stonelike.” Much of his work spotlights ordinary individuals, primarily women and children, echoing Millet’s influence. After the Korean War (1950–53), the loss of men resulted in widows, mothers, and daughters bearing the weight of reconstruction. Park’s depictions of toiling women, often alongside children, recognize their indispensability and empathize with their burdens. Painted in his rough style, the women take on a monumental permanence inspired by monuments and statues, a connection that may also be an artistic response to Korea’s rapid postwar transformation.

Tree and Two Women, Park Soo-keun (Korean, 1914–1965), Oil on canvas, Korea

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