In a time of political and social unrest in nineteenth-century Korea, an uncouth, self-taught painter explores his natural talent amidst the repressive world around him.


Kwon-taek Im
8 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »





Credited cast:
Choi Min-sik ... Jang Seung-up
Sung-Ki Ahn ... Kim Byung-Moon (as Sung-kee Ahn)
Ho-jeong Yu ... Mae-hyang
Kim Yeo-Jin ... Jin-jong
Son Ye-Jin ... So-woon
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jang-soo Bae Jang-soo Bae ... Kyunghyang newspaper cultural reporter
Tae-hee Kim Tae-hee Kim
Jin-Seo Yoon


The struggles of an artist. Jang Seung-up (1843-1897), also called Owon, focusing on the years 1882 to 1897, when Korea was in political upheaval, caught between China and Japan, the conservative dynasty dying, and peasant revolt at hand. Jang, born poor, has genius; a merchant, Kim, becomes his patron, finding him a teacher. Jang must convince others that a commoner can have talent, then move beyond his ability to copy old masters and find his own style. He's bedeviled by a temper and alcohol, arguments with patrons as he seeks commissions, and relationships with kisaeng, particularly Mae-hyang, that start and stop. It's the life of a restless spirit producing great art. Written by <>

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The Life of Painter Jang Seung-up


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Chosen by "Telerama" (France) as one of the 10 best pictures of 2002 (#10) See more »

User Reviews

Well-made biopic
2 February 2007 | by refresh_daemonSee all my reviews

This film, winning Im Kwon-Taek the Best Director at Cannes in 2002 (tied with P.T. Anderson for Punch-Drunk Love), is about a 19th century Korean painter with a commoner's roots and significant impact on Korean painting. One of the strengths?of the film is that Im tries to help us see with the eye of a painter, so we see multiple scenes and objects which help our drunken painter friend, Jang Seung-up (Choi Min-shik),?receive inspiration.

The costumes and the art direction are all impressive and the acting is even along being good. It's not a movie that moved me, but it was one that made me think about art and what it means to find your own voice in it. That's pretty cool. It's also interesting to see a version of Korea during those times right before the turn of the century, where Chinese and Japanese powers are both in Korea and the Chosun kingdom is coming to an end. More than one revolution and political ideology are gathered in the film, but are never the center. It's firmly on the painter.

In the end, it's a well made film about the life of a painter. But it doesn't exactly have the regular three-act structure plot, so you have to be able to take a non-standard Hollywood story to watch it. Yay for art! 8/10

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South Korea


Korean | Japanese

Release Date:

10 May 2002 (South Korea) See more »

Also Known As:

Painted Fire See more »

Filming Locations:

South Korea


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$8,196, 16 February 2003

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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