Elizabeth Keith’s Korea As It Was


About Elizabeth Keith’s Korea As It Was

This book is a valuable collection that brings together paintings by Elizabeth Keith, a Western artist
who captured the fading sceneries of the old Joseon in vivid colors, along with anecdotes and
explanations. This is based on the book by Keith, Old Korea: The Land of Morning Calm, published in
1946 in the United Kingdom, with a rich addition of a total collection of Keith’s Korea-inspired
paintings and research by Professor Young-dahl Song, who specializes in Keith’s artworks as a collector
and scholar. It took him almost 30 years to complete his Keith collection.

Despite her world acclaim, Elizabeth Keith was little known in Korea. We can have a brighter picture of
the late Joseon Dynasty years, as she photographically painted these sceneries with in-depth
understanding and deep affection for the Korean culture and Koreans. This book digitalized 85
artworks by Keith on Korea, from watercolor paintings to woodcut prints in super high-definition
quality, and also printed them on quality pieces of paper that are fit for art brochures in order to
present them in forms that are as original as possible. Also, the stories and explanations told by
Professor Young-dahl Song, who has studied Keith’s life and artworks for several decades, offer further
understanding of readers.

By publishing this English-language book, which redefines the relations between Keith and Korea in
the richest way possible, readers in the English-speaking territory can now enjoy a look into the old
landscape of Korea, which was loved by Keith but being forgotten. Readers can also enjoy appreciating
Keith’s exotic paintings that were reborn in the best-ever color and quality.

◈ Contents
Preface for the Revised Edition / 9
Artist’s Introduction / 17
Foreword / 20
Preface / 22

1. Seoul / 27
Daily Lives of Koreans / 41
2. The Scholar / 57
Korean Beauties / 67
3. The Sorceress and the Priestess / 83
Korean Customs / 97
4. The Nobleman / 111
Impressive Korean Landscapes I / 125
5. Independence Day / 143
Impressive Korean Landscapes II / 157
6. The Two Viscounts / 169
The Scholar and the Aristocrat / 181
7. Two Wise Young Men / 199
Various Koreans I / 209
8. The Crusader / 225
Various Koreans II / 239
9. The Military Governor / 253
Korean Children / 263
10. A Generation of Koreans in Hawaii / 277
A Portrait of Admiral Yi Sun-sin / 285

Appendix: Artworks in Different Styles on the Same Subjects and More Watercolor Paintings / 301
The Life of Elizabeth Keith and Her Paintings on Korea / 323
The List of Elizabeth Keith’s Artworks on Korea / 346
Bibliography / 363
Index of Artworks / 366


Elizabeth Keith

Born in the Scottish town of Aberdeenshire, Elizabeth Keith traveled to Japan in 1915, the beginning of a
nine-year stay in a number of Asian countries. She found herself deeply attracted to Asia’s beauty and
culture. Keith visited Korea several times starting in 1919 and worked on watercolor paintings of the Korean
culture and daily lives. It was also in 1919 when she held the first-ever exhibition of paintings on Korea in
Tokyo and met Watanabe Shozaburo, who led the shin-hanga (New Prints) movement. This encounter led
her to start working on woodblock prints. She had a prolific career as a woodblock print artist, mainly
working at Watanabeʼs studio. In her later years, she assumed control of the whole process of etching and
woodblock prints.

In 1921, as the first Western-born artist to capture Asian subjects, Keith held an exhibition in Seoul,
followed by another in 1934. From the 1920s, she also often held exhibitions in the United States and Europe.
Her artworks are in the collections of several top-tier museums and galleries worldwide. Korea happens to
be a subject that is most frequently visited in her artworks, and it was those pieces that earned her acclaim.
In this sense, it is only fair to say that Keith and Korea have a special relationship. She was also an author of
books including Old Korea (1946), Eastern Windows (1928), and Grin and Bear It (1917).

Elspet Keith Robertson Scott

Elspet is the older sister of Elizabeth Keith. Elspet ran the New East publishing company in Tokyo for
several years starting in 1915 with her husband, John Robertson Scott. In doing so, she came to understand
the history and culture of Korea and Japan. When James S. Gale, a missionary, translated and published a
Korean classical novel, The Cloud Dream of the Nine, in 1922, Elspet wrote the introduction. It was Elspet
who invited her sister Elizabeth to Japan and visited Korea with her in 1919. The sisters joined hands in
coauthoring Old Korea, which tells the story of Korea’s reality under the colonial rule of Japan. Elizabeth
created the paintings and captions, and Elspet wrote the text.

Young-dahl Song

Born in Seoul, Young-dahl Song studied at Seoul High School, Yonsei University, and the University of
Georgia in the United States. He earned his Ph.D. in public administration at the University of Pennsylvania
in 1967. After teaching politics and administration at Yonsei University and East Carolina University for over
thirty years as a professor, he retired as an associate professor emeritus, and is now based in Florida.

Professor Song has long focused on collecting old books, paintings, and other publications on Korea by
Western writers and artists. By translating Keith’s books Old Korea and Eastern Windows into Korean, he was
among the first to acknowledge the historical and cultural importance of her artwork. Professor Song has
held several exhibitions of Keith’s art in museums across Korea and the United States, including the National
Museum of Contemporary Art, the Jeonbuk Province Art Museum, and the Gyeongnam Art Museum. He also
translated Mary L. Taylor’s Chain of Amber, a story of Seoul under Japanese colonial rule.

In this edition, he provides the whole collection of Keith’s artworks on Korea and includes several pieces
on Keith’s life and art.

367 pp.
LC# 2023949852
Hardcover 17.8 x 22.5 x 2.4 cm
ISBN-13: 9781565915169
ISBN-10: 156591516X