Byeon Sang-byeok: The Korean Cat Artist

Byeon Sang-byeok's "Myojakdo". (Wikimedia Commons)
One of the most famous artists from Korea's late Joseon period is Byeon Sang-byeok (변상벽; 卞相璧). Byeon was a painter who lived sometime in the late 17th and 18th centuries and became famous as a royal painter who was a member of the Dohwaseo, or the Joseon office of painting for elite painters. Later on, he became a provincial magistrate. Most importantly of all, Byeon was famous for his animal paintings. Most famous of all were his rooster and cat paintings. In fact, he was so famous for both he earned the nicknames (among others) "Byeon Dak" (Byeon Rooster) and "Byeon Goyang" (Byeon Cat)!

Byeon was a keen observer of animals who loved to watch cats and other animals at play, sleeping, or doing all the other things that cats love to do! He accurately depicted what he observed and created some very life-like paintings! Byeon painted in a realist style that became the norm in Korean art during the Joseon period. Unlike artists from other periods in Korean history who painted Chinese-style landscape paintings with an emphasis on the landscape and people and animals as miniature objects in a vast landscape, Byeon painted his subjects up close with intricate brushstrokes and paid full attention to detail.

Byeon's most famous paintings are Myojakdo, or "Painting of Cats and Sparrows" (above right) as it's commonly known in English, and Gyejado, or "Painting of a Chicken and Chicks". In Myojakdo we can just imagine the cat sliding down the tree while the other cat watches! Most importantly of all, we can see Byeon's obvious love for animals and Nature and how much he truly paid attention to the natural world around him.

"Gukjeong chumyo" (Wikimedia Commons)
In addition, Byeon painted a number of other cat paintings, including the one on the right, titled Gukjeong chumyo (국정추묘; 菊庭秋猫), or "Autumn cat in a garden with chrysanthemum". Many of his other paintings are unknown in English, but deserve more recognition in the Western world!

Byeon Sang-byeok was a painter who is not very well-known in the West, but he truly ranks among the great cat painters and cat artists!

For more about Byeon Sang-byeok, be sure to visit:
- (Byeon Sang-byeok at Wikipedia.)

Post a Comment