North Korea Artwork
While revisiting old photos I took during a 2014 trip to North Korea, I dug up a treasure trove of beautiful artwork from the art studios and museums I visited.

A visitor’s centre near the Workers’ Party Foundation Monument in Pyongyang was adorned with this landscape view of the volcanic crater lake at the top of Paekdu Mountain. Situated on the border between North Korea and China, Paekdu is the tallest mountain on the entire Korean peninsula, and (in the official narrative) the birthplace of Kim Jong-Il. 

Our tour group takes a load off at the Pyongyang Train Museum. Behind us, a gigantic oil landscape of the iconic Kumgang Mountains.

A mural at the train museum depicts the inaugural celebrations for a new railway line.

A wider view of the mural:

In the entryway of the Grand People’s Study House in Pyongyang, a statue of the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung, sits in front of an enormous mosaic of Paekdu Mountain.

In Pyongyang, Mansudae Art Studio is the heart of the North Korean art production industry. Far from creating clichéd soviet-era propaganda, Mansudae is a centre of artistic innovation. One of my favourite art styles is Chosonhwa (조선화), a combination of traditional Chinese rice paper painting and impressionistic styles.

Beautiful portraits at Mansudae Art Studio.

A landscape artist in his studio space at Mansudae.

An artist’s studio in Mansudae.

A beautiful lithograph print of the peak of Paekdu Mountain. On display at the gift shop at Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang.

The North Pyongan Provincial Fine Arts Studio in Sinuiju is a small gallery space, but features an impressive and telling array of paintings. Whereas Mansudae focused on pastoral scenes and experimental work, the gallery in Sinuiju featured pieces celebrating the industrial prowess of the country — scenes of factories, railroads, and infrastructure megaprojects.

A closer look at the painting: Kim Jong Suk (mother of Kim Jong Il) inspects a smelting factory.

An interesting feature of more recent paintings: a youthful Kim Il Sung bears a striking resemblance to his grandson and current leader Kim Jong Un.

Kim Jong Il leads the army through a subterranean canal.

North Pyongan Provincial Fine Arts Studio (Sinuiju) — painting of a young Kim Il Sung.

Tryptic of (from left to right) the founder of North Korea Kim Il Sung, his son and successor Kim Jong Il, and the first lady Kim Jong Suk (first wife of Kim Il Sung). 

At the gallery in Sinuiju, a resident sketch artist was selling portraits; I agreed on the condition that I could return the favour:

But one of my favourite photos of all: Back at Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang, an artist works on graffiti-inspired typography. 

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