Through the Upheavals of History Compared to other Asian countries, and according to several art commentators, Vietnam was the earliest to merge into the main stream of modern art, as defined by the West, in both form and content.
Vietnamese Oil Painting
After the restoration of peace, Tran Van Can produced a canvas retying the rope of the irrigation scoop, which was a creation of high professional level he had long mastered. Duong Bich Lien looked at things in a global way; he brought landscapes and scenes to the level of symbols. In his canvas Harvest, the author has simplified to the utmost the scene of harvest: only golden waves succeeding one another to the horizon.
Nguyen Do Cung who was a veteran graduate of the FACI has made an oil painting, the machine building workers in 1962. He spent a rather long time at the engineering factory of the Cam Pha mines, living and working with the workers. Piles of documents, drawings, and sketches were prepared for this painting depicting a nascent large-scale industry of the country if one pleads for a “painting reflecting the individual” likes Vlaminck – a French painter in the early 20th century – Bui Xuan Phai has been able to materialize this conception.
It suffices to admire his paintings to realize that Bui Xuan Phai was in a state of mind heavy with past memories, that he took the past as a source of inspiration. Bui Xuan Phai was a veteran painter but he began to win public attention from the 1970s with his works on the old streets of Hanoi. He had recourse to bright colors and stylized forms in black outlines, like a glass panes of a window.
He has contacted with the works of Rouault. Toulouse-Lautrec and painters of force and rapidity has given influence which he applied to his paintings, adding the flavor of the old streets of Hanoi to that of modern time.
Many young painters have received his influence and he is considered as one of the four most talented artists of our time. Over two decades 1970s and 1980s, it seemed that oil painting did not surpass that of the first year after the restoration of peace to respond to the demand of socialist realism.
It is easy to understand when many good oil painters had chosen pumice lacquer or silk painting. Since 1925, oil painting in the poetical realist painting has acquired solid traditions and made continuous development, contributing many art works of value to the revolutionary painting.
Vietnamese Paper Painting
Among the Vietnamese plastic arts, wood engraving is a long standing traditional one. We have inherited from our ancients from Dong Ho village a valuable tradition of wood engraving in color. These engravings are appreciated by generation to generation and have become an indispensable moral alimentation. Dong Ho images have their place deep in the soul of the people and their features have kept their sharpness in spite of the upheavals of the times
With color as red as peony, as yellow as ripe paddy, as green as a young rice plant the images have by themselves the taste of rural areas in all their characteristic rusticity.
The engraving is always performed on the wood of persimmon-tree, which is sole and does not swell when dipped in water. In printing, starch plays an important role. Mixed with starch a coloring matter forms a solid and clear paste suitable for creation. Besides, scallop shells give a typically Vietnamese gleam and constitute a decorative element of printed pictures of a very simple treatment. The genre of painting on paper using gouache, water color, pastel, ink, color pencils, drawing charcoal, sauce occupies an important position in Vietnamese painting. In many cases, these pictures have been works of great artistically value, and what is particularly precious is that they have expressed the direct sensations of the painter before the objects, sensations that cannot be repeated. Quite a few of these painters have thus created representative works contributing to the different stages of the history of painting. Sy Tot has created the best of his gouache in the All children can study. The composition of the picture is pyramidal, the drawing without artifice, each figure is set off by light. It is surprising that Sy Tot’s style highly resembles that of Le Nain, although Sy Tot has not even known Le Nain and his style stems merely from his intuition.
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