Famous Painter Solgo

sprk stamp pine tree

DRPK Stamp: Pine tree, national tree of the DPRK.


Solgo was a famous painter of Korea active in the 8th century. His activities are described in detail in Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms compiled in Koryo in 1145 and in Jibongryusol published after 1634.


He was unusually fond of painting from his childhood. He often skipped meals for his poor living, but would never do without painting even a day. While helping his parents with their work he often used a hoe or arrowroots to draw on the ground beautiful mountain peaks and deep and quiet streams he saw. Sometimes he carefully observed flowers in full bloom on mountains and fields, and sometimes he drew till late at night without knowing the passage of time.


As he grew up he became more enthusiastic about painting, and produced varieties of pictures of mountains and streams around his village. His skills were overwhelmingly higher than any other contemporary artists', and his name became widely known across Silla (a feudal Korean state that existed from the early first century AD to 935) as well as at his birthplace.


Then, one spring day, he was ordered to paint a picture on a wall of Hwangryong Temple, the biggest of its kind in the country. Reluctantly he went to the temple. On arrival, however, he was at a loss what to do on the wall. After a while of thinking he remembered a pine tree standing alone on a cliff. It grows strong on the cliff all the year round despite violent storms, he thought. Then he began to make a picture of the tree. With a dip he painted branches of the old pine, and at the second and third strokes there appeared pine needles on the branches swaying in an autumn wind. The tree standing imposingly with its root deep in the ground looked just like a real pine tree with thick green foliage, a trunk with rough barks looking like the backs of a dragon and drooping branches—all these were so realistic that one might feel like taking a rest beneath it if it were a hot summer day. Even birds flew to the mural to sit on it only to fall, it is said.


Thus, the painting was regarded as the treasure of Korea. The picture, however, grew discoloured and its corners crumbled with the passage of time. So monks of the temple repainted it with great sincerity. But since then birds never flew to it again because it was not restored to its original state.


Solgo was also good at painting landscapes, portraits and Buddhist pictures. It is said that he painted scores of portraits of Tangun, founder king of Korea.


History of the Three Kingdoms written in the 13th century has a record that the Punhwang Temple in Kyongju, South Kyongsang Province also has a portrait of the Buddhist Goddess of Rain Water painted by Solgo and that the painting was held in affection through generations.


(Uriminzokkiri)

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