Vietnamese Silk Art
It can be said that the period of 1925-1945 is not only an early stage of Vietnam’s modern painting, but it is also a final one of French authority. Before a colony regime of French started, Vietnam nearly did not have any painting heritage.
Indochinese art school - born in 1925 in Hanoi – really opened a new way for the development of fine art of Vietnam, since then, sculptures and graphics; painting developed variably, inherited the national tradition and at the first time acquired the European art. The first headmaster of this school was Victor Tardieu- an artist, professor and Asian researcher. Its initial objective was training teachers of high schools in art and painting and teaching decorative industry, mainly technique of Western painting. However, Tardieu realized that the condition in colony destroyed the traditional fine arts, so he provided more artistic heritage into training program. This school itself born brilliant talents such as Bui Xuan Phai, Le Pho, Nguyen Phan Chanh… who created The Parisian school of Vietnam.
Painting on silk by Nguyen Phan Chanh
Oil-paint painting by Tran Van Can
In the pure aspect of painting, the first generation is considered to have been created real valuable works of art, whereas later on thanks to demand in struggling for independence, the art gave way to painting war, appealing to patriotism, hence the art followed socialist realistic line.
Refer to modern painting of Vietnam, we cannot forget reminding of painting on silk and lacquer painting, and the representative of painting on silk was the artist Nguyen Phan Chanh, who brought a series of famous paintings on silk into the world: “Choi o an quan” (1930), “Rua rau tren cau ao” (1931), “Em be cho chim an” (1931)… Painting on silk is a classical genre in the Orient, and its technique requires carefulness and meticulousness, hence it is suitable for the patient and careful artists only. Moreover, the materials as usual stipulates the topics, so it seems that silk can be suited only paintings of the nature, girl, mother, kid, vague scenery, warm family life,… and it is hard to suit topics of painting whose line of drawing expresses the contrast and the violent conflicts. This genre was also applied by Le Pho in the classical time, his style from 1934 to 1944 or 1945 was influenced by the painting style of The Tong dynasty, such as: “Nguoi thieu phu ngoi” (1934), “Chim ngoi” (1937) with a lissome light and flowing line of drawing, flat space, aplat, every having the same colors, sophisticated style of drawing. The paintings were both attractive due to a tender style of drawing and glacial because of using monochromatic color, creating unalloyed atmosphere, and it also reflected a solemn view of Vietnam’s society still mixing deeply the Khong Manh morality of the first century.
“Thieu phu” by Luong Xuan Nhi
“Thieu nu ben hoa hue” by To Ngoc Van
Lacquer painting of Nguyen Gia Tri
The paintings like “Me con” (1938), “Thieu nu va hoa lan” (1938)… later also brought in a refined style of drawing, harmonized both Oriental and Occidental art. Nguyen Phan Chanh, Le Pho together with another great names such as Le Van De: “Co dau” (1937), Luong Xuan Nhi: “Gia dinh thuyen chai” (1938), Mai Trung Thu: “Hoa nhac”, and some oil-paint paintings of Le Pho: “Chan dung thieu phu” (1935), To Ngoc Van: “Thuyen tren song Huong” (1935), Tran Van Can: “Em Thuy” (1944),… “Thieu nu ben Ho Guom” (1941), “Thieu nu ben cay phu dung” (1944) are lacquer paintings of the master Nguyen Gia Tri – an artist has full of passion of traditional materials, a “master” contributed to take lacquer of Vietnam to the position of artistic materials, and Joseph Inguimberty himself brought this material into training and studying program at Indochinese art school from 1927 – the French re-created this local tradition, gradually built up modern cultural characteristic of the Vietnamese. All brought about a tendency of creating of this time that was the reality mixing romantic tendency, Oriental philosophy harmonizing Occidental color, they did not reproduce Oriental- Occidental art estimatively but continued symphonic tradition of Impressionist, coordinated two styles, universe of human life. This made French painting and American later acknowledged the value of Vietnamese artists, they did not refuse the origin like modern Japanese artists: Nishimoura, Okamoto… were descended from the Parisian school at the same time, they acquired the European art based on inheriting national tradition.
The first stage of Vietnam’s modern painting is like the first precious style of drawing for the general view of fine arts of Vietnam, not only does it initiate the development of Vietnam’s painting but also containing the top of artistic value.