At the website of the Ministry of Culture of France at www.culture.fr introduce the list of 10,140 painters having works bought by the French State for display at the French national museum system. Along with names of famous painters such as Leonard de Vinci, Cezanne, Degas, Gauguin, Goya, Raphael, Rembrandt, Rodin…, there is a Vietnamese name - painter Nguyen Nam Son - with the painting 'Cho Gao Ben Song Hong' (Rice Market by Red River) which was exhibited in Paris in 1930.
Who is painter Nam Son? The book 'Art Schools of Indochina' (Les Ecoles d'Art de L' Indochina) published in Hanoi in 1937 of the National Library states that "Mr Nam Son is one of the two creators of the Indochina Fine Arts College."
Nam Son was the pen name of artist Nguyen Van Tho who was born in 1980 in Hanoi. In the early the 20s decade of the 20th century, Nam Son had a chance to meet Victor Tardieu (1870-1937) when the lather came to Vietnam to study Orient at art. Nam Son showed V. Tardieu Orient art through pagodas, temples, statues of Buddha, the art of calligraphy and folk and water-colour paintings while V Tardieu showed Nam Son the western art. From that time Nam Son wanted to develop the art in Vietnam. He wrote a draft on the Vietnam Fine Arts which was to build and develop the Fine Arts College while suggesting V. Tardieu to ask the French government to set up the Indochina Fine Arts College. In October 1925, the college officially opened with ten students and 20 alternates from 270 candidates in the Indochina. In the meantime, V Tardieu sent Nam Son to France to together with him prepare facilities for the college and sent him for service training to the French National Fine Arts College and the National Decoration College. Nam Son worked as a lecturer for the Indochina Fine Arts College from its opening to 1945, closing the 20 years of operation of the college.
Apart from the painting 'Rice Market by the Red River' (Chinaese ink 1930 - prize of the Salon de Paris 1930), Nam Son also had many paintings winning prizes such as 'Co Trang va Ca Vang' (White Egret and Gold Fish) (seven coloured wood cut, prize of Salon de Rome 1932) and 'Chan Dung Me Toi' (My Mother's Portrait) (1930, silver of Salon de Paris 1932).
Painter Nam Son - Nguyen Van Tho, a teacher of many Vietnamese painters, with his talent, contributed to lighten the Vietnam Fine Arts. He passed away on January 26, 1973 at the age of 83 in Hanoi.
To date, many generations of students has been successful in the art at the Hanoi Fine Arts College in Yet Kieu street, Hanoi which teacher Nam Son built the first brick, the only Vietnamese person recognised by the French as one of the two co-creators of the Indochina Fine Arts College.
By TAM HIEU
Reprinted with permission from Nhan Dan Newspaper.