Korean Ceramics Gallery: Joseon Dynasty

While a wide variety of ceramics were produced during the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910), porcelain is notable for having been produced consistently during the whole Joseon period. In the first half of the fifteenth century in particular, as a record describes: “Vessels for court use in the reign of Sejong (1419-1450) were exclusively white porcelain”, white porcelain of superb quality ― with a handsome form and a pure-white tone of the glaze ― were produced. Records mention that such high-quality white porcelain was produced at kilns distributed in four locations including Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do. In Gwangju, blue-and-white ware, in which a motif was drawn in underglaze cobalt blue, was produced from mid-fifteenth century onwards. A few extant examples with excellent brushwork may support the record saying that artists from the art academy in the capital were sent to decorate the wares.
During the end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth century, ceramic production of the Korean Peninsula was devastating due to a series of invasions by Japan and Qing China. Since this period, the official kilns were concentrated in the Gwangju area. In the first half of the eighteenth century, white porcelain with a gentle tone of white glaze and blue-and-white porcelain with a simple motif were made, detaching from the influence of Chinese ceramics and developing an original world of aesthetic beauty unique to Joseon dynasty. In the seventeenth century, on the other hand, scarcity of cobalt-blue pigment led to a lively production of white porcelain with underglaze iron-brown painting in Gwangju as well as other parts of Korea. By the eighteenth century, underglaze copper-red painting was produced at provincial kilns. In 1752, the official kilns in Gwangju were moved to Bunwon-ri, at which a steady production system was arranged and thus the production reached its zenith. In 1883, however, national decline led to transfer of Bunwon-ri kilns to private hands, putting an end to the history of official kilns which lasted for 500 years.