This is where you can read the manhwas. https://www.lezhin.com/en/comic/painter https://www.tappytoon.com/comics/painter-behind-curtainm. But be aware that these manhwas are mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes, although there is a softer version for “A Painter Behind The Curtain”. Here is the link, if you are interested in more analyses about this manhwa and others https://bebebisous33analyses.com/2021/06/06/table-of-contents-of-analyzed-mentioned-manhwas/
If you have already read the analysis about “Traces of “Dangerous liaisons” and “Justine: The Misfortunes of Virtue”, you know why I am now using the other manhwa “A Painter Behind The Curtain” created by Munamu. Both works have a lot in common, not only the historical setting but also the story as such. Both stories have a painter as a protagonist and the latter share a similar fate: a lot of suffering.
Since many are not familiar about A Painter behind the Curtain, I’ll just give a short summary. The story has 70 chapters but only 26 have been released in English. The main character is Ian Sconel, a talented painter who was sold as a child by his father to the Bardis, as soon as Mr. Bardi recognized his talents.
Since The Bardis have a long tradition of painters in their family, the father wanted to use the young boy’s talents in order to maintain the family’s reputation and their high lifestyle as renowned painters for the aristocracy. Mr. Bardi let his buyers think that his second son Jeremy was the genius one, whereas Ian Scornel was the one who created all the masterpieces. That’s why the author chose the title “behind the curtain”, as he painted the whole time hidden from the eyes of the others. The title is also referring to the meeting of Ian Sconel and the other protagonist, Mr. Raymond.
If we compare the two artists, we will notice that despite the different location (Italy-Joseon) both come from the bottom of the society. That’s the reason why the two men are illiterate.
Moreover the two felt the need to paint all the time as children.
Although they were both passionate about painting, Baek Na-Kyum’s drawings were limited to one subject: erotic pictures of sodomy. The difference is quite easy to understand: Baek Na-Kyum was raised at a gisaeng house, where sex was a common thing. Besides, this also outlines that the korean boy knew right from the start about his sexual orientation. For Ian, we discover that Mr. Bardi is sexually abusing him. So his homosexuality wasn’t determined right from the start. Little by little, Ian falls in love with Mr. Raymond because the latter treats him so well. But since servants confessing their love to Mr. Raymond are immediately fired, Ian has to hide his feelings for him. Baek Na-Kyum has also to hide his feelings in front of the lord, or better said, he has to fight against his repressed sexual desires (chapter 6), as he has been manipulated by the teacher Jung In-Hun that homosexuality is something filthy and immoral. (chapter 34)
The other common denominator is that the two men became victims of rape, (chapter 26) even if Ian was sexually abused quite often as he spent many years at the Bardis before getting “rescued” by Mr. Raymond.
Notice that during the rape, Ian has to listen to Mr. Bardi’s words that the latter is his benefactor, since he gives him the opportunity to paint and he has a roof over his head. All this leaves deep scars in the painter’s mind which explains why later he refuses to paint any longer.
The blond haired man vows not to paint any longer as he saw it as the cause for his misery and suffering, while Baek Na-Kyum was coerced by Jung In-Hun to abandon paintings due to the sodomy. The two painters have at some point kept their distance from their passion.
But let’s go back to Ian’s paintings. Ian is forced to paint what Bardi wants so he is limited in his creativity. Whereas Yoon Seungho also restraints the low-born in his creativity, since he has to paint sex scenes, Ian has to create religious paintings or scenes with nobles.
Both sponsors use their position to impose their will. The painters have no right to refuse and to choose their subjects based on their inclination or inspiration. This outlines their precarious situation as they are dependent on the sponsor. Yoon Seungho’s attitude does resemble Mr. Bardi’s behavior, yet there is another huge contrast too. Ian is kept captive in his room, can only get food if the picture is finished. That’s why he is often hungry and very skinny.
On the other hand, Yoon Seungho shows a certain favoritism because he placed Baek Na-Kyum right next to his bedroom and the former is even willing to eat his lunch with him. (chapter 11) Despite the difference, they both have to please their sponsor with their work. If there is disobedience, then there is also punishment:
(chapter 13) The low-born was about to get the straw mat beating, until the lord changed his mind. However, just like Ian, the young man had been slapped and even pushed by his “sponsor” before. Ian’s suffering lasts much longer because he arrived at the house as a child and he was already a young man, when he was able to leave this hell created by Bardi.
All these aspects are here dramatized, however this was the reality for painters in the past. Even Vincent Van Gogh couldn’t live properly as he had no real sponsor outside his family. Many painters had to adapt themselves to the taste of their “clients” in order to earn money that’s why many artists chose to paint following the trend and the rules. In other words, the painters’ creativity and curiosity for experiment were bounded, just like in the two fictions.
Baek Na-Kyum became a successful painter because he published many erotic books which the nobility was fond of.
Sure, he had to publish them under a pseudonym, nevertheless his books were quite famous as he was able to survive as a drunk without painting any longer. So even if the topic was taboo, aristocrats were quite interested in such drawings. In order to get attention from the nobility, Ian is also reminded by Henry, a noble, that he should paint based on the trend but this time, Ian refuses. Unlike Bardi and Yoon Seungho, Mr. Raymond gave him the freedom to paint based on his inclination.
The other disparity is that Yoon Seungho wanted to keep the paintings to himself, he never wanted to let people see Baek Na-Kyum’s talents or to earn money with it. It was as if he was determined to own the painter so that he could keep him hidden from people’s attention, as if he wanted to put him behind the curtain. And notice that the noble is not interested in encouraging the artist to develop his talents. (chapter 41) He was jealous and annoyed, when he saw the picture of Jung In-Hun’s inauguration so that he failed to see the talent and dedication in this different type of drawing. So there is a certain selfishness in the seme here but I am expecting that this will change. He could have noticed that the low-born’s talent is not just defined by sex and sodomy but his insecurities made him blind in that moment. Yet, this painting has been given to the loyal valet Kim so that it can get destroyed. But I feel that Kim might give it to his master or keep it. I have the feeling that this painting will play a bigger role in Baek Na-Kyum’s career later.
Now, people who haven’t read “A painter behind the curtain” might think that Yoon Seungho is the Joseon version of Bardi, however they are wrong. Actually, he is a mixture of Bardi (due to his selfish and violent side) and Mr. Raymond. If you look at the image where Mr. Raymond is looking at the painting, you’ll notice his fascination and admiration for the work created by Ian.
The so-called merchant is definitely moved by the creation and the gaze is again revealing the affects caused by the painting. He keeps starring at it, there is a certain calmness and relaxation oozing from his eyes. Just like Yoon Seungho, the bourgeois falls in love with Ian’s pictures. And little by little, he falls in love with the artist himself. As you can see, the paintings serve as a bridge between the two men, Yoon Seungho wants to find the man with the talented hands and at some point Mr. Raymond will realize Mr. Bardi’s fraud and the origin of the paintings: Ian.
However, Mr. Raymond’s kindness and gentleness is not selfless in reality. He needs the artist’s talents in order to get closer to the nobility and as such to power. Art and paintings are linked to power because rulers and even the Church used art in order to legitimate their authority.
At the same time, only painters working for the Church or the King had a rather comfortable life. Yet they had to paint what they were told to. Just like Yoon Seungho, the bourgeois is motivated by revenge but uses art as his tool and not sex. Mr. Raymond has a different approach therefore he needs Ian’s talent and help.
Mr. Raymond is not powerful like the lord from Joseon, since the merchant only belongs to the third state, the commoners. He wants to obtain power as he suffered injustice in his childhood.
His father was executed due to a scheme perpetrated by count Rothsildt. So far, he has internalized that only in a powerful position he can get revenge and protect himself and his family from any injustice. Since he is just a bourgeois, he is despised by the aristocrats, at the same time they seek his company as many nobles are facing financial issues which is historically correct. Just before the French Revolution, many bourgeois were even richer than nobles, especially many low nobles were impoverished… which reminds us of Jung In-Hun at the same time. So his role as a sponsor for a talented painter represents his way to get access to power. Like I have mentioned above, for kings talented painters are a tool for the securing their own power.
Since Mr. Raymond has to rely on Ian’s talent, he can’t behave like Yoon Seungho. He needs to win the painter’s trust hence he teaches him reading and writing. Striking is that Ian is compared to a cat,
whereas Baek Na-Kyum’s behavior reminded me more of a lamb. That’s why their position contrasts so much. Ian has the upper hand right from the start with Mr. Raymond and in Painter Of The Night, it is the opposite. Seungho can use his position as lord to force the man to paint, yet as time passes on, the situation reverses. At the end of the first season, Baek Na-Kyum has the upper hand in their relationship. Seungho wants to have the artist’s consent, when it comes to sex. He no longer uses his position as lord. (chapter 41)
This explains why Ian is given so much freedom by the bourgeois. As time passes on, Ian’s PTSD disappears and the artist can develop his own interest and change his techniques. Thanks to Mr. Raymond’s support, he can choose the topic of his paintings and the methods which announces a huge change and innovation in the art. Ian shows an interest for commoners or for landscapes.
The way he paints as well, reminds me a lot of the Impressionism, an art current characterized by relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles.
Impressionism originates with a group of artists living around Paris whose independent exhibitions created a wave of scandal and attention at the end of the 19th Century. Famous painters from the impressionism are f. ex. Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, Morisot. But Van Gogh and Cézanne were highly influenced by this art movement until they developed their own style. These painters decided not to follow the rules by the Art Academy which explains why many painters from that current struggled a lot. Only Renoir and Monet could become rich and successful before their death. And now, if you look at Ian’s paintings, you observe that Ian has the same thinking and approach as he paints on his impressions. Now, I am adding a picture where the beholder can view the paintings that the nobility liked.
The beholder observes the huge contrast as Ian no longer paints religious scenes or mythology, his focus is more or less on daily situations: they have less pathos and ooze more humbleness. But thanks to Raymond, Ian Sconel is able to catch the attention of a famous court painter. However, we shouldn’t forget that this young man wouldn’t have been able to develop his skills any further if Raymond had not entirely supported him.
That’s why the attitude of a sponsor is really important, he can brake or improve the artist’s talents.
Now, if we return our attention to Painter Of The Night, the reader notices that Yoon Seungho was only focused on getting new paintings for his own pleasure. The interest of the low-born never mattered. However, I sense that the lord might come to change his attitude and even help him to develop his talents. Just like in “A Painter Behind The Curtain”, I am expecting that the master will teach Baek Na-Kyum to write and read. Secondly, we know for sure that he has connection to the Royal Academy
and Baek Na-Kyum has for the first time painted on another topic: the inauguration of the low noble Jung In-Hun. (chapter 44) The drawing was detailed and totally different from the erotic pictures. So I am expecting that Yoon Seungho turns into a real sponsor and becomes more and more like Mr. Raymond. However, the latter will have to choose at some point between power or love. By taking care of Ian so well, he wanted him to open up but at the end, Raymond fell in love with the genius too. While one artist could incite arousal with his creations, the other could calm the resentful merchant. Strictly speaking, their art had a huge impact on the life of the two semes.
Despite the suffering and their tragic past, both artists have the chance to meet someone who will help them to get recognition for their talents and to become more independent. But just like I have been showing all along, the painter’s life in the past relied a lot of sponsoring. The French novelist Emile Zola wrote a novel called “L’Oeuvre” (The work) where he described the struggling of an impressionist. The latter was determined to create a masterpiece with innovations and to get recognition but failed at the end. Zola, a close friend of Cézanne, was inspired by his friend’s life and the impressionism, yet this book became the reason why Cézanne cut ties with his childhood friend as the painter Claude Lantier was portrayed in a rather negative way: he was obsessed and neglected everything else including his family. The reasons why I am mentioning this work are the following. First, it outlines the importance of a sponsor and confirmed what the manhwas are telling in their fiction. Then it reveals the difficulties the avant-garde painters had in order to get accepted. Finally here comes the biggest reason. I had to read this book when I was a high school student and through this work, I came to understand the significance of paintings. That’s how I discovered the impressionism and fell in love with their works. Because of this novel, I could finally understand better why innovations in art movement were related to a fight against Academy and rules. Painters are indeed fighters because what they do can go against social norms and etiquette. That’s why their life is so difficult. The rape, the exploitation might be fiction in the manhwas, yet they symbolize the struggles painters from unknown origins had in order to make a breakthrough.
Feel free to comment. If you have any suggestion for topics or manhwas, feel free to ask. If you enjoyed reading it, retweet it or push the button like. My Reddit-Instagram-Tumblr-Twitter account is: @bebebisous33. Thanks for reading and for the support, particularly, I would like to thank all the new followers and people recommending my blog.
2 thoughts on “Painter Of The Night/ A Painter Behind The Curtain: The difficult life of painters”
I wished Mr. Raymond wasn’t so possessive. The ending was not what I’d hoped for it feels tragic.
No, it’s not tragic, because Ian gets what he has always wanted : home and not fame. Simultaneously he can still paint