Born in 1904 in Korea, Lee Ungno started painting when still young. He encountered his first successes soon, in the 1920s. It was only from the 1940s on that his work notably evolved towards modernist tendencies. By the end of 1959, he moved to France, where he stayed most of his life and where he died in 1989 punctuating a career justifying his status as a Korean art pioneer and linking him to the history of the collections of the Cernuschi museum.

Skilful and driven by his taste for experimentation, he produced thousands of works on multiple mediums. During the 1950s, as he emphasized the calligraphic liberty of his brush strokes, he created works visually close to informal art; the subjects disappear behind a surface covered by vigorous lines and colourful spots. When he arrived in Paris, he continued his research on expressivity and on all-over thanks to dense collages of crumpled magazine papers.

His interest for calligraphy led him to create imaginary ideograms. They form the basic vocabulary of his work until the end of the 1970s. The modern aspect of his work still is underpinned by the importance of a pictorial relationship to writing, sensitive in the use of arbitrary plastic signs which link to hypothetical references is voluntarily ambiguous.

Then, his style changed again as he returned to monochrome ink on paper. The repetition of human beings, creating gigantic crowds halfway between abstract calligraphic compositions and a humanist sarabande reflecting his progressive ideals became the most common motive of his painting. The crowds are thus perceived as the symbol of the new Korean democracy.


Reference(s): Christine Shimizu, Activités du musée Cernuschi, Arts asiatiques, 2014, t.69, p.163-172.

Author: Mael Bellec

Goam Lee Ungno's Biography (1904-1989)

1904 born on January 12th, 1904 in Hongseong, Chungcheongnam-do.

1910 entered Hongseong elementary school.

1920 learned basics of black-ink painting skills from Yomjae Song Taehoi, a calligrapher

1922~1923 moved to Seoul.
studied under Haegang Kim Gyujin, a calligrapher, who gave Lee Ungno's first pen-name Juksa.

1924 won a prize withat the field of the Four Gracious Plants in the 3rd Joseon Art Exhibition.

1928 ran a signboard shop after settling down in Jeonju.

1931 won a special prize withat the field of the Four Gracious Plants in the 10th Joseon Art Exhibition.

1932 were submitted at the 11th Joseon Art Exhibition.

1933 received the pen-name Goam from Jeong Byongjo in 1933.

1935~1939 moved to Japan with his family and ran a newspaper agency in Tokyo.
majored in Oriental Painting at the Kawabata Art School in Tokyo.
majored in Western Painting at the Hongo Painting Research Center in Tokyo.
studied in the Deuko painting studio under the supervision of Matsubayashi Keigetsu in Tokyo

1935 won a prize at the 95th Exhibition of Japanese Art Association.

1938 won a prize at the 17th Joseon Art Exhibition.

1939 held the first solo exhibition at Hwashin gallery in Seoul.
won a special prize with and selected for a prize with, at the 18th Joseon Art Exhibition.

1945 came back from Japan, took over Sudeok inn in Yesan
moved to Seoul, and opened the ‘Goam art studio'
contributed to a movement to reconstruct national art with the Joseon Art Research body and the Dangu Art Academy

1948~1954 solo exhibitions at Daejeon Culture Center, Donga gallery, and Seoul Hwashin department store and in Gwangju, Hongseong, Suwon, and Yesan.

1948 worked as head professor at the College of Fine Art in Hongik University

1954 worked as professor at the department of Oriental Painting at Sorabol Art College

1956 published a book Appreciation and Techniques of the Oriental Painting.

1957 displayed and at the Korean contemporary art exhibition (World house gallery, New York)
The Rockefeller foundation bought and donated them to the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
He was invited to France by Jacques Lassaigne, manager of the French office of the International Art Critics Association.
His work was displayed, as the only oriental artist, at an exhibition for contemporary artists sponsored by Chosun Ilbo.

1958 solo exhibition to celebrate his moving to France at the Central Public Relations Office in Seoul.
moved to France in December

1959 stayed in West Germany for one year with West Germany ambassador Hertz's help.
duo exhibition of Lee Ungno and Park Inkyung at the Bonn Museum of Art, Germany
solo exhibition at three places in Germany, Frankfurt Student-house with Galerie Prestel, Galerie Boisserée (Köln), Clubhouse Musenhof (Köln).
, were introduced at NewYork Museum of Modern Art's New Collection Exhibition

1960 settled in Paris in January 1960.
displayed his works at an exhibition for Korean artists in France, at the French gallery Galerie Cercle Volney.
solo exhibition at International Contemporary Gallery in Washington, the US.
group exhibition at Galerie Paul Facchetti
made a contract with Galerie Paul Facchetti in Paris, France for the exhibition of his works.

1962 solo exhibitions simultaneously at Galerie Paul Facchetti and the Central Public Relations Center in Seoul.
participated in Salon Comparaison in Paris.

1963 exhibition organized by three critics (J. Lassaigne, M. Ragon, and P. Schneider) at Max Kaganovich gallery in Paris.
solo exhibitions at Frederick gallery and Dahlem galley in Germany.

1964 founded the L'Académie de Peinture Orientale de Paris under the sponsorship of 14 French celebrities in early November.
? J. Alvard(critic), V. Elisseeff (director of Cernuschi Museum), H. Hartung (painter), J. Keim(historian), J. Lassaigne(critic), P. Soulages(painter), Chang D. Chien(painter), Chou Ling(philoshpher), Fujita(painter), Li Hi Soung(linguisitc), M. Thu(painter), K. Tchang(philoshpher), Zao Wouki(painter)

invited to Pittsburgh, USA.
solo exhibitions at Galerie Numaga in Auvernier, Swiss and at the Max Kaganovich gallery in Paris.

1965 won a Special Prize at the 8th Biennale de Sao Paulo.

1966 solo exhibition at National Museum of Denmark, Coppenhagen

1967 solo exhibition at Galerie Numaga in Neuchâtel, Swiss Auvernier.
incarceration in South Korea because of the Dongbaeklim case (He was wrongly accused of spying against the government).

1969 took a rest in Yesan (Sudeok inn) for a while after release and went to Paris.
published Goam's offset print book by Nouvelle Image Publishing house in France.
Solo exhibition at Galerie Paul Facchetti in Paris.

1970 invited to Sables Museum in France.
installed his tower sculpture (height 10m, diameter 1.5m) at the group exhibition on Port Bacvcares beach

1972 solo exhibition by the Querini Stampalia foundation in Venice, Italy.
The Mobilier National requested and bought a prototype of his tapestry.

1973 published Ides et Calendes with Pierre Jaquillard.
a French person bought his work, which won a prize at the 6th International Tapestry Biennale.
solo Exhibition at New Smith gallery in Brussels, Belgium.
exhibitions at Contemporary Surrealistic Abstract Paintings, Calligraphic and Prints and 6th International Tapestry Biennale.

1974~1975 Lee Ungno multi-media exhibition at Wenger Gallery in La Jolla, the US.
Performance of his calligraphy for his solo exhibition at Annick Le Moine in Paris.
Group Exhibition for Paintings and Collages at the Bristol Museum of Art, the UK.

1976 opened Goryo gallery on November 26.
produced a film named Ung-no Lee in France.
produced a wall painting for Joinville's high school in France.
solo exhibitions at Arras gallery in New York, Shinsegae gallery in Seoul, and Goryo gallery in France.
participated to the 2nd International Miniature Textile Exhibition at London Craft Center, the UK.

1977 presented new series at Munheon gallery in Seoul.
trading and presenting of his works were prohibited in South Korea due to his connection to a political case.
print exhibition of Lee Ungno at Goryo gallery in Paris.

1978 solo exhibition at Goryo gallery in Paris.
black-ink painting exhibition of Lee Ungno, Tobey, and Laubies at Goryo gallery in Paris.
Les Arts Décoratifs, Musée Cernuschi acquired his works.
published a Manual Book ?L'art de peindre à l'encre de Chine?, Sarl Koryo, Paris, France.

1979 solo exhibition at Goryo gallery in Paris.
Musée de la Monnaie de Paris acquired his works.

1980 solo exhibitions at BIMC gallery, Goryo gallery in Paris.
Salon Comparaisons, Grand Palais, Paris.
exhibition at Goryo gallery in Paris.

1982 solo exhibitions at BIMC gallery, Salon Comparaisons, Grand Palais inParis.
exhibition .
National Museum of Ceramic produced and bought his works.
Le Mobilier National Paris bought three tapestry patterns.

1983 solo exhibitions at Del Naviglio gallery in Milan, Italy.

1985 exhibitions of the Lee Ungno couple at Hyunmin gallery in Kanagawa and Sanyo gallery in Tokyo, Japan.
published a book ?Lee Ungno - Seoul • Paris • Tokyo (Thoughts about Painting and Nation)?, containing a discussion with Lee Ungno, his wife Park Inkyung, Tomiyama Daeiko in September 1985.

1986 Film entitled focusing on Goam in 1986.
invited to at Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo.

1987 exhibition at Arnoul gallery in Paris.
exhibition at National Museum of Ceramic, Sèvres.
exhibition at Baccarat Crystal Museum in Paris.

1988 published a Mannual book ?L'art de peindre à l'encre de Chine / L'Académie de Peinture Orientale de Paris?.
solo exhibition at Simmons gallery in LA, Retrospective exhibition in New York.
Tokyo Metropolitan Art museum bought his works.

1989 died on January 10th of heart attack in Paris before the opening of his solo exhibition at Hoam gallery (Seoul)
buried at the Cemetery of Père Lachaise in Paris where international artists are buried.
Memorial Exhibitions at Musée Cernuschi (Paris), Indeco gallery (Seoul), Asahi gallery (Tokyo), ABC gallery (Osaka)

1990 Memorial exhibition at Taipei city art museum.

2000 Lee Ungno Museum opened at Pyeongchang-dong, Seoul in 2000 (closed in 2005)

2007 On May 3rd, 2007, Lee Ungno Museum opened in Daejeon.

2012 Daejeon Goam Art and Culture Foundation was launched.

Publications and Films

Lee Ungno, ?Appreciation and Techniques of the Oriental Painting?, Munwha Kyoyuk publishers (Seoul), 1956.
Lee Ungno & Pierre Jaquillard, ?Calligraphie, Peinture Chinoise et Art Abstrait?, Ides et Calendes (Neuchâtel, Swiss), 1973.
Film ?Lee ungno? produced by Atelier Annick le Moine (Paris, France), 1976.
Lee Ungno, ?L'art de peindre à l'encre de Chine?, Sarl Koryo (Paris, France), 1978.
Lee Ungno, Park Inkyung & Tomiyama Daeiko, ?Seoul•Paris•Tokyo?, Kirokusa Publisher (Tokyo, Japan), 1985.
Lee Ungno, ?L'art de peindre à l'encre de Chine?, Atelier de la Bonne Aventure (Versailles, France), 1988.
Interview ?Lee Ungno?, Claude Jeanmart, Centre Régional de Documentation Pédagogique de l'Académie de Toulouse (Toulouse, France), 1972.