|Park Soo-keun's 'Two Women and a Tree' / Courtesy of Park Soo Keun Museum|
By Kwon Mee-yoo
"Two Women and a Tree," one of the major works of late artist Park Soo-keun (1914-65), was acquired by the Park Soo Keun Museum in Yanggu, Gangwon Province.
The museum announced Sunday that it purchased the 27 x 19.5-centimeter oil painting on hardboard from the 1950s, part of Park's renowned "Tree" series.
Park's "Tree" painting series features a bare tree, one woman carrying a baby on her back and another with a basket on her head. Currently, six paintings of similar composition are known to exist.
Museums typically acquire artworks through auctions, but this painting was purchased through an art gallery. The painting was owned by a private collector for 42 years since 1978 and the owner offered the museum an opportunity to purchase it first.
The Park Soo Keun Museum requested authenticity and value appraisal two times by the appraisal committee of the Galleries Association of Korea and the Korea Art Authentication and Appraisal Research Center, respectively, and purchased the artwork for 787 million won.
Oh Kwang-su, art critic and former director of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, said the series best represents Park's sympathetic gaze toward postwar life. "The bare tree symbolizes the difficult times, but the women waiting for someone represents desire for life," he said.
The paintings in this series vary in size and the larger ones reach up to 130 centimeters long, which was captured in a photograph of Park at his home in Changsin-dong, Seoul.
"This painting we acquired is also in a black-and-white photograph in Park's album, which furnishes evidence of its authenticity," the museum said in a statement.
The painting is also known for the link between Park and novelist Park Wan-suh. The two Parks worked together at an U.S. 8th Army PX at Donghwa Department Store (now Shinsegae Department Store main branch) in 1952. Writer Park's debut novel "The Naked Tree" features painter Park as protagonist.
Art critic and emeritus professor at Myongji University You Hong-june said the tree in the painting is not a withered old tree, but preparing for the new spring.
The newly acquired painting will be on display to the public in a special exhibition "The Naked Tree; Park Soo-keun and Park Wan-suh" opening on May 6.
The Park Soo Keun Museum was built on the site of Park's birthplace in October 2002, five years after a memorial project for Park launched in 1997. The museum is operated by Yanggu County.
Currently, the museum owns about 110 pieces from Park's oeuvre ― only about 10 of them are oil paintings while a major part of the collection consists of drawings, watercolor paintings and woodprints. In addition, the museum has about 210 pieces in its archive.