Mr. Yu Kang-yul (劉康烈, 1920-1976) was a pioneer of modern Korean craft and engraving who played a major role in the development of Korean crafts in the 20th century. In 1970, while teaching in the Art College of Hongik University, where he constantly strived to enlighten and excite his students, Yu was honored with the Mugunghwa Medal, a highly prestigious national award for distinguished service.
In 1955, Mr. Yu became the first researcher at Korea’s Creative Culture Institute, laying the foundation for traditional handicrafts education. In 1970, he was commissioned as a standing member of the committee for the construction of the National Museum of Korea, and he designed the interior of the current National Folk Museum of Korea, on the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul. After his death, his widow, Jang Jeong-soon, donated about 650 pieces from his collection, including several treasured print works, so that his connection with the National Museum would live on.
Simple yet stylish, the highly diverse Yu Kang-yul collection includes earthenware and clay figures from the Three Kingdoms period; celadon and ceramics from the Goryeo Dynasty; and paintings, woodcraft works, and textiles from the Joseon Dynasty. For Yu, these items were not merely objects to be visually appreciated; they also served as the basis of his own creative works. His engravings feature motifs borrowed from ancient clay figures, Buncheong ware, and white porcelain utensils, bringing a modern interpretation to traditional Korean art, and thereby widening the world of Korean aesthetics.