|Although Korean painting is not well known in the west, it has held an important place in Korea from a very early date. One of the difficulties in studying Korean art is that conflict which has been so much a feature of life on the Korean peninsula through the ages has destroyed so much of what certainly existed in prior periods. Additionally, invasion and conquest has resulted in much of the best of what remained after battle being removed to other countries where it is more difficult to study and relate it to other Korean developments.
Despite these complications in the study of Korean art, Korean art is fascinating because although it has been deeply influenced by Chinese art, the most productive periods in terms of art often do not coincide between the two countries. This can be particularly noted in Koguryo wall paintings, Buddhist paintings of the Koryo period, landscape painting in the first portion of the Choson dynasty and the landscapes painted of Korean scenes in the eighteenth century. Korean painting therefore was influenced by Chinese painting while still pursuing its own path. This resulted in different results and developments than that found on the mainland and give Korean art an interest all its own.
The history of Korean painting stretches back to the early murals painted on the walls of tombs during the fourth century, and continues to the present, in which a great number of Korean artists keep the styles and forms of the traditional artists alive, blend the traditional styles with modern motifs, or paint in a completely modern style. Just as today, painters from many countries study abroad to learn the styles of other countries master's or their traditions, so did the early Korean painters travel abroad to study the works of those that were considered the masters. In the fourth century, China was considered, both by itself, as well as by many Asian countries under its influence, to be the center of the universe. As such, many Korean painters were sent to China to learn modern Chinese painting styles. What they learned, influenced not only the paintings of Korea, but also the art of Japan, as many Korean artisans migrated to Japan.
As can be seen by the preceding short introduction, Korean painting although on the face adhering to Chinese models developed a clear Korean tradition in painting that yielded numerous unique developments. As Korea preceded into the 20th Century, Korean artists could look back on a tradition of painting that yielded many Korean forms and renderings of older more traditional techniques and subjects.