Jong Kwan Chol (1916-1983), Kim Il Sung Prize laureate and winner of the title of “People’s Artist,” is one of the most famous artists in the DPRK’s history of artwork.
His first work was Scenery of Pothong Gate (painted in 1932), depicting a scene where he frequently painted in his schooldays. But, as the Japanese maintained hold over the Korean colony, his talent was widely disregarded by the authorities.
However, his family pushed him to continue his artwork and efforts. The resulting work was a collective masterpiece.
After Korea’s liberation from Japan, he became quite famous by successfully creating the portrait of President Kim Il Sung, the first of its kind, to be hung in the place of a mass rally held in Pyongyang to welcome the President’s triumphal return to Korea.
He created many works portraying the leader, including President Kim Il Sung Drawing up the Ten-Point Programme of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland (1956), Dawn Is Breaking over Homeland (1966) and We Will Follow the Leader Only (1982).
His oil painting The Torch in Pochonbo (depicted above this article) is of great historical significance as it was created on the basis of a sketch he made at an audience when the President met writers and artists on May 7, 1946. The painting gives a vivid portrayal of the President commanding the Pochonbo Battle during the anti-Japanese armed struggle.
Among his works are noted posters Servicepersons, Take Our Revenge upon the Enemy! (1951) and Let Us Return Blood for Blood (1951) and oil paintings Mercenaries for Wall Street Warmongers (1952) and Steelworkers (1957).
Working as the Chairman of the Central Committee of the Artists Union of Korea from 1949, he made a big contribution with his fellow painters to developing the Juche-based fine arts in the early years of the country. He worked with painter Choe Ge Gun on a number of occasions as well.
President Kim Il Sung and Chairman Kim Jong Il met him on several occasions and gave commendations for his development of the Juche-based fine arts, appreciating his talents.
Jong was buried at the Patriotic Martyrs Cemetery, outside Pyongyang, upon his death due to complications of lung cancer in late January 1983. He had just turned 67.