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Canton Local History Blog

Patty Ryburn, Local History Librarian at the Canton Public Library, will periodically share her research into town history, library history and genealogy.  Feel free to email her any questions you may have at caill@ocln.org!

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Jun 13

HYUN BO YOO (1946 - 2010)

Posted on June 13, 2020 at 12:04 PM by Patty Ryburn

Hyun Bo Yoo

In the Periodicals Reading Room located to the left of “the dome” as you face the Canton Public Library from outside, hangs an original oil painting by artist Hyun Bo Yoo.  Purchased c.1983, this large landscape over the fireplace depicts a field with wetlands and a variety of colorful plant life surrounding the small figure of a woman and two children at play, along the right hand side of the canvas.  The painting was purchased with money from a memorial fund established in the name of Canton Public Library Director Jeannette McDonald after her retirement and untimely death.  

At the time of purchase, an unveiling and reception in the library Reading Room was planned and Mr. Yoo cordially invited to attend.  The New York city gallery which showed and sold his work for many years politely declined for him however, citing his disinclination to “great crowds”, travel and large cities along with his compulsion “to paint at least nine to twelve hours daily”.  In this correspondence, it was also noted that Mr. Yoo had received a ten percent price increase with the Herbert Arnot Gallery, as they had sold his work to over 100 different galleries and he was by then acquiring nationwide recognition and appeal.  

Born in Seoul, Korea on 12 May 1946, Hyun graduated from Solader National College for the Arts in Korea before emigrating to the United States in 1977 with his wife and son, living at first with his sister and brother in law in Michigan.  His interest in art had begun early in his life when at the age of nine his passion for painting displayed itself; by the age of eleven he was impressing his parents, teachers and classmates.  He then went on to study not only art but also acting and classical national traditional dancing on the college level.  After painting for some local Korean galleries, Yoo opened a studio and private art school after college where he trained several hundred students and in 1971 and 1972, also received major awards from the Korean Government National Arts Competition.  

In Michigan, his artistic gift intersected with luck and good timing as his painting commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Buick Division of General Motors received positive notoriety; shortly thereafter Yoo went in search of a more cosmopolitan area to test his skills.  New Jersey fit the bill, and Hyun reveled in the diversity and cultural richness of this borough just across the Hudson River from New York City where his creativity was more stimulated.  

Invitational shows in Chicago, Houston and Muskegon, MI were some of the events at which Yoo’s work was displayed and noticed in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.  While he had been creatively influenced by the 1960’s culture shifts and art movements, Hyun’s realistic style was also influenced by impressionism.  His unique abilities and expression brought him international acclaim but it was his particular sensitivity to nature that made his landscapes so compelling.

Yoo’s biographical sketch from the Arnot Gallery, which represented him for many years, described him as a quiet man but also “an extremely zealous artist” with tremendous imagination.  He eventually came to view large cities as “an interference to his creativity and work”, however this aversion did not inhibit the international popularity he garnered with his paintings.  After New Jersey, Yoo and his wife eventually settled in Savannah, GA and Vero Beach, FL and though both tragically died in a fire in 2010, there are few to no details to be found regarding this sad event.  The couple is survived by their son and by Yoo’s work, which sells at auction for reasonable but not cheap prices, continuing to delight those who pause to appreciate this gifted and hard-working artist from halfway around the world.




Folder, Director’s Office, Canton Public Library, among records pertaining to the library’s permanent art collection; correspondence relating to Hyun Bo Yoo referencing his biographical sketch and oil painting purchased for the library c. 1983.