Long before the general uprising in August 1945, Vietnam’s fine arts circle as well the French art lovers had known Luong Xuan Nhi as a talented painter. He also resolutely fought against the French colonialists’ policy of obscurantism.
When he was a student of the Indochina Fine Arts College, he together with other painters, including Le Van De, To Ngoc Van, Tran Van Can and Nguyen Khang set up Fraeta group. At the time, the director of the college declared that he came there to train artisans instead of artists. When he reached Hanoi, he decided to set up a lacquer co-operative and asked painters to draw according to a fixed form. Being hurt by the act, painter Nguyen Do Cung wrote an article in protest. Before the article was sent to ‘Today’ newspaper, painters Nguyen Khang, Tran Van Can and Luong Xuan Nhi signed the article. The director knew the story, forbidding the four painters to go to the college.
After that, the Fraeta group held a painting exhibition at the office of Khai Tri Tien Duc Association (the Association for Intellectual and Moral of Vietnamese). The activity ran counter to the French colonialists’ rule, so the French stipulated that only one exhibition for Vietnamese painters could be held in year. The director was very angry and immediately convened the group members to meet the French governor, Jean Decoux. Out of every one’s expectation, when meeting them, the governor spoke to Luong Xuan Nhi ‘Your painting I’ll hang here.’
In fact, in his last school year, all of Luong Xuan Nhi’s paintings were bought by the college’s directors board and brought to Paris for display.
When the anti-French resistance war broke out, painter Luong Xuan Nhi evacuated to My Hao, Hung Yen province. There, he, along with regiment 44, disseminated anti-war propaganda among enemy. He painted hundreds of anti-war paintings, calling for enemy troops to lay down their arms and follow the revolutionary force.
Fighters of regiment 44 hung Luong Xuan Nhi’s paintings along National Highway 5. French troops were so worried that every morning they had to drive along the highway to pick up and take away the paintings. After that, the liberation fighters printed the paintings in leaflets which were then scattered among the enemy troops. How effective they were! French troops in Ban military post cried when they saw the leaflets. As a result, some of them changed to the revolution’s side.
In 1954, painter Luong Xuan Nhi (photo) returned the college to work as a lecturer. He trained famous painters such as Phan Ke An, Mai Van Hien, and Than Trong Su. His life had been closely bound to the college until his retirement in 1987.
He went to many places including Germany, Japan, Algeria, former USSR and so on and drew many paintings about landscapes, people, lives and particular the women in the countries he had gone by. When he began painting, women were the main theme of Luong Xuan Nhi. He made great achievements. In 1937, his painting, ‘Girl Sells Drink’ was displayed in Paris. In the same year, another painting of his, was bought by a foreign art collector. And the painting is now owned by a US museum. In 1942, his famous painting ‘Girl And Lotus’ was drawn. The painting was bought when it was first on display.
Women’s images in Luong Xuan Nhi’s painting are diverse. The characters include poor girls and old people who earn their living on the streets. Hanoi’s women are often appeared in his paintings. He has hundreds of paintings on Hanoi’s women.
Nearly 70 years working as a painter and a lecturer, Luong Xuan Nhi has gained some fame but for him, painting is his fate.
Reprinted with permission from Nhan Dan Newspaper