In the 1930s, Kim Whanki studied in Japan, where he worked and became close with many Japanese avant-garde artists. After establishing himself as one of Korea’s first abstract artists, Kim began incorporating elements of traditional Korean culture into his paintings, starting in the late 1940s. He produced many works featuring modernized expressions of popular motifs from the Joseon period, such as mountains, plum blossoms, and white porcelains, especially moon jars.
In 1956, three years after the Korean War, Kim moved to Paris, where he stayed for three years. In France, even though he was immersed in the new trends of Art Informel and Nouveau Réalisme, he continued to develop his own unique style.
It was in Paris that Kim painted Mountain and Moon, which captures a theme that was very dear to his heart: the natural landscape of Korea. The work combines both figurative and abstract characteristics, with an accumulation of geometric shapes and lines forming a discernible image of mountains and the moon. In the upper part of the canvas, thick brushstrokes represent mountain ridges, while the lower half of the painting is dominated by a round full moon. The white color of the moon is evocative of Joseon moon jars, but the overall tone of the painting is blue, the color that became increasingly prominent in Kim’s palette as his career progressed.