Chun Kyung-ja (1924-August 6, 2015) is the most well-known woman artist of Korean modern and contemporary art history. Although she was trained in traditional Asian painting and continued to use the same Oriental pigment on rice paper method throughout her life, she developed a unique, truly innovative painting style with vivid colors and strong expression, and most importantly powerful, individual themes. Her paintings have captivated the Korean people throughout her long career of seven decades and even after her death; she is called a kukmin hwaga, a people’s artist, by many.
Chun Kyung-ja has often been described by critics as an artist who explored solitude and sorrow—that is, deep human emotions. In her works, she explored the strong human connection with Spirit. She is also known by the nickname of “the magician of colors” for her bold and intense color use.
She often depicted female figures and flowers, but the subject matter that made her famous in her late twenties, during the Korean War, was snakes. In 1952, by exhibiting an extremely realistic painting of dozens of snakes tangled together, she became known to the public as an artist who is bold, unconventional, and, most importantly, deeply talented. Those snakes were painted solely based on her sketches of live snakes. About that period, she later said, “To survive the tragedies that happened in my personal life–the hunger and the war–I had to paint those abominable creatures. That was my scream to confirm my will to live.”