Vietnam Art Books -- Master of silk painting lives on in time-honoured body of work
By Kim Lien

Master of silk painting lives on in time-honoured body of work
By Kim Lien

Rua Rau Cau Ao (Washing Vegetables in the Pond).
HCM CITY — The father of Vietnamese silk painting, Nguyen Phan Chanh, is to be honoured in an exhibition at HCM City’s Fine Arts Museum celebrating the 110th anniversary of his birth.

The 74 paintings and sketches displayed at the exhibition are Chanh’s originals, still owned by his descendants.

Some of the works are on public display for the first time in many years, including the famous Co Gai Va Con Trau (A Girl and Buffalo), Chan Dung Thieu Phu (Portrait of a Woman) and Tien Dung Tam (Tien Dung Bathing).

The Viet Nam Fine Arts Museum last displayed these paintings in Eastern European countries, way back in 1982 and 1983.

Nguyen Phan Chanh, born in 1892 in Thach Ha village, Ha Tinh Province, was one of the first Vietnamese students at the Ecole Superieure des Beaux-Arts de l’ Indochine (the Indochina Fine Arts College).

Chanh skilfully combined classical European art, his studies of Chinese and Japanese silk paintings and his love for traditional Vietnamese culture and handicrafts to develop his own distinctive Vietnamese silk painting style.

In 1931, Chanh’s style won international acclaim when he exhibited his now famous painting Choi O An Quan (Children Playing a Game of Squares) in Paris.

French newspapers at the time published many articles introducing the painter and his works.

Chanh’s four silk paintings, including Children Playing a Game of Squares, are printed in France’s Dictionnaire des oeuvres de tous les temps et de tous les pays (Dictionary of the World’s All-Time Masterpieces).

In 1938, Chanh opened his first individual show in Ha Noi and, after only three days, he had sold 40 silk paintings, created in his home village.

The painter said his inspiration was entirely drawn from rural areas in Viet Nam, focusing on the beauty and simplicity of ordinary people.

This is reflected in the paintings Tron Tim (Playing Hide and Seek), Em Cho Chim An (Feeding a Bird) and Rua Rau Cau Ao (Washing Vegetables in the Pond).

His choice of colours was simple yet rich, relying on the deep-red brown of the Vietnamese soil with touches of yellow, green and orange of the landscapes around him, accented by the pure black-and-white clothes of his subjects.

As one of the first students to graduate from the Indochina Fine Arts College, Chanh’s works greatly influenced the silk paintings of the younger generation of Vietnamese artists.

He churned out 173 works, of which 120 are on silk, and are now considered a Vietnamese cultural treasure.

A third of his works are kept at the Viet Nam Fine Arts Museum in Ha Noi.

Many of Chanh’s paintings have been lost over the years.

In 1938, for example, he sent 14 paintings to Japan for showing, but war broke out and the paintings were never seen again.

According to Chanh’s son Professor Nguyen Phan Quang, a number of his father’s paintings are kept in private collections in foreign countries.

The exhibition at HCM City’s Fine Arts Museum, 97 Pho Duc Chinh St. District 1, will continue until July 7. — VNS

Reprinted with permission from VietNam News Agency


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