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7 Questioning Women’s Place in the Canon of Korean Art History

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Chapter Summary

Since the 1970s, feminist art historians have extensively critiqued the systematic exclusion of women artists and their works from the canon of Western art history . More recently, attention has been directed towards Asia, where women’s contributions to arts and culture were neglected in a largely comparable manner, including in discourses and exhibitions on premodern Korean material culture. Though an ever-growing body of scholarship testifies to the significant role women played as makers, users, and patrons of art in early Korean society, in particular during the Chosŏn kingdom (1392–1910), women’s place in the canon has been treated with ambivalence. This chapter centers on Chosŏn female painters, poets, and needleworkers and explores how their gendered positions and their roles within and outside the home impacted the production and appreciation of their creative outputs during their own time and in present decades. It is argued that women’s place in the canon of Korean art was shaped by pre conceived notions of what art is and how artists should be defined. Thus, the issue lies not so much in the quality of works produced but rather in how such artifacts and their makers have been defined and categorized by twentieth-century art historians.



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