10 most famous and influential Vietnamese painters

When studying Vietnamese painting, especially about modern art, we will be surprised by many masterpieces created by the painters in Vietnam. These authors have been famous not only in the nation but also all around the world. Who are they?

Let’s research these artists and their style!

1. Nguyen Gia Tri (1908 – 1993)

Nguyen Gia Tri is the most influential painter of modern Vietnamese lacquer paintings. He was a pioneer who changed lacquer paintings from decorations into works of art.

Gia Tri created classical beauty in artworks. He was the only one who discovered the soul of traditional lacquer, making it no longer ordinary but noble.

The beauty of the young woman in his paintings shows the wishes of freedom and dream.

Although not yet recognized as a national treasure, all of his works seem to have been implicitly considered as treasures and are prohibited from carrying out of Vietnam.

The work of “Vuon Xuan Bac Trung Nam” (The Spring Garden in the North-Middle-South), which is displaying at the HCMC Fine Arts Museum, has achieved a high quality of lacquer. The artist created this one for 20 years from 1969 to 1989. It is also the last work of Mr. Tri, in which he showed most of the talent and knowledge of lacquer.

Artistic style: He was a leader in lacquer paintings, so he has been dubbed the father of lacquer paintings in Vietnam. He coordinated the etching method with new lacquer skills, and he applied the principles of Western painting structure, to create modern works still carrying a national character.

Main works: Young women in the garden, Spring garden in the North-Centre –South,  and Young woman with the confederate rose.

Vuon Xuan Bac Trung Nam
Vuon Xuan Bac Trung Nam | @meocuckytanac

2. To Ngoc Van (1906-1954) – Pen name: To Tu

To Ngoc Van is a painter who is proud of the art of Vietnam. His name is also given to a street in Hanoi capital and Ho Chi Minh City. He has left the works famous in Vietnam and the international region.

The masterpiece “Thieu Nu Ben Hoa Hue” (Young lady with lily) was written by Tô Ngọc Vân in 1943 when he was teaching at the Indochina Fine Arts College. The painting depicts a young lady in a white ao dai tilting her head gracefully toward the white lily. The figure of the girl combines with the surrounding details and colors formed a homely shape, exuding a gentle sadness. Unfortunately, this masterpiece is now lost somewhere.

And the “Two women and baby” was officially recognized as a National Treasure in 2013. Now, this painting masterpiece is on display at the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum.

Artistic style: To Ngoc Van is the first person to have merit in using oil painting material in Vietnam. He tried to express the gentle beauty of the Vietnamese, typically young women.

Main works: Young lady with lily, Two women and baby, and Young girl with lotus.

Thieu Nu Ben Ben Hoa Hue
Thieu Nu Ben Ben Hoa Hue | internet

3. Nguyen Tuong Lan (1906-1946)

Nguyen Tuong Lan is one of the four famous painters in the early period of Vietnamese art (including Tri, Van, Lan, and Can). It is because of the war, there are not much information and documents about Nguyen Tuong Lan. Also, his paintings are still a few left.

He is considered one of the few painters capable of bringing pure colors for silk paintings into a fictional symbol, and courteous harmony.

As early as the 1940s, with the generous rhythms, Nguyen Tuong Lan broke the way to create the abstract art style.

He studied the 4th course at Indochina Fine Arts College. After graduating, he opened a gallery in Hanoi. He mastered most of the materials in oil paint and lacquer. Although he composed many works, they retained was a few. Perhaps that is why his image in the foursome is quite faint, even though he is a talented painter of Vietnam.

Artistic style: Mastering most of the materials of oil paint, lacquer, silk, woodcarving, and pencil drawing

Main works: Cho Mien Nui (Mountain market), Hien Ve Hoa (Show of flowers), Doi Ban (Two friends)

Doi Ban of artist Nguyen Tuong Lan
Doi Ban of artist Nguyen Tuong Lan | internet

4. Tran Van Can (1910 – 1994)

Tran Van Can leaved the typical works with high value in arts and humanities.

“Em Thúy” is an oil painting created by Mr. Can in 1944. And, it is the pinnacle of his works and also the top of Vietnamese art. With a realistic, gentle and unobtrusive expression, Tran Van Can grabbed and kept the viewers with innocent and pure beauty. He did not care about the style when drawing, but only raised the spirit of the character.

Artistic style: He is also one of the few artists who has experiences with many different materials, and all of which he had successful works. He also contributed to improving the lacquer material into a famous painting material.

Main work: Em Thúy

Em Thuy is a famous work of Tran Van Can
Em Thuy is a famous work of Tran Van Can | @socks.panhi

5. Nguyen Tu Nghiem (1922-2016)

Nguyen Tu Nghiem is also a rare artist of Vietnamese art with his own museum, which is located at 90 B2 Tran Hung Dao, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.

The painting of artist Nguyen Tu Nghiem combined modern style with traditional ways to create his own identity. The lines, colors, and rhythm are always stylized, based on Dong Son drum motifs, Ly Tran pottery patterns, folk paintings, pagoda architecture.

Shaping techniques cover modern and stylized skills. But all still evoke beliefs and cultures in Vietnam and Southeast Asian.

Artistic style: Nguyen Tu Nghiem is good at traditional lacquer but not sharpened, and later is color powder and gio paper. Common themes in his paintings are ancient dances, Thanh Giong, Kieu, and zodiac animals.

Main works: Ancient Dance, Xuan Ho Guom, 12 Zodiacs

Xuan Ho Guom of painter Nguyen Tu Nghiem
Xuan Ho Guom of painter Nguyen Tu Nghiem | internet

6. Duong Bich Lien (1924-1988)

Duong Bich Lien created a lot of paintings. When he died, he wanted to burn all of them. Despite that, his works left are hundreds of artworks, mostly kept and cherished by his friends.

“Hao” is a work of Duong Bich Lien currently in the collection of Mr. Ngo Tan Trong Nghia, owner of the famous Apricot Gallery of Hang Gai Street, Hanoi. The picture is set in 1972, the period when the US bombing was fiercest. When looking at this painting on the war topic, we can see the artist’s inner state that is bleak and cold to shudders.

That painting traveled around and came to many places. In the end, it belongs to the owner of the Gallery Apricot, but he did not disclose the purchase price.

Artistic style: Duong Bich Lien has studied the art trends of the world. All materials are shown smoothly and nicely in lacquer and oil paints. He is an expert in portraits with the topic of girls.

Main works: Uncle Ho at the Viet Bac battlefield, Yellow afternoon

Uncle Ho at Viet Bac battlefield
A guest watches Uncle Ho at the Viet Bac battlefield of Duong Bich Lien | @thaonguyenphan_

7. Nguyen Sang (1923-1988)

Nguyen Sang, an expert in lacquer, has a lot of contributions to modern Vietnamese painting. He successfully exploited modern European art combined with Vietnamese traditional art.

He had the honor to design the first postage stamps of an independent Vietnam, released in 1946, showing the portrait of President Ho Chi Minh. Those first stamps have two words “VIET- NAM”  with the image of the leader who founded Vietnam.

Artistic style: Nguyen Sang used his drawing to serve the resistance of the nation. Besides, he also painted on many different topics, such as women and flowers, the ancient scenery of the pagoda, the majestic landscapes, the peaceful countryside, and folk games.

Main work: Adopting the Party in Dien Bien Phu.

Adopting the Party in Dien Bien Phu
Adopting the Party in Dien Bien Phu of Nguyen Sang Paiter | internet

8. Bui Xuan Phai (1920-1988)

Bui Xuan Phai is the most famous painter in Vietnam with street paintings. His paintings are both ancient and very realistic features, showing the essence of Hanoi old streets in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

The color patches in Phai’s paintings often have bold borders. The streets and buildings are the main objects, but they are closer to humans, creating deep living in each work.

In addition to the old town, he also painted other topics, such as rowing, portrait, countryside, nude, and still life successfully.

The Vietnamese village and ancient Hanoi followed him in the life of an artist, creating a passion for painting right from early childhood. In his career, artist Bui Xuan Phai had drawn many different types, reflecting q vividly and honestly activities of the nation.

The paintings of Mr. Phai have their own style and special imprints in Vietnamese art. Typically, he had followed the theme of Hanoi Old Quarter for over 40 years because that place that contained the happy and sad memories, ups and downs of his life.

Artistic style: He specializes in oil painting materials, passionate about Hanoi ancient town. Right from his time, his creation had been admired by the public and called his style “Pho Phai”.

Main works: Hanoi Old Quarter, Hanoi resistance war, and Bullock cart in the old town.

Hanoi Old Quarter
Hanoi Old Quarter of Bui Xuan Phai painter | @philomena.07

9. Nguyen Phan Chanh (1892-1984)

Nguyen Phan Chanh created a different style of Vietnamese silk paintings without mixing with other countries, even famous places, such as China and Japan.

His works often show the images of the farmers, the women, and the love of mother and children. Nguyen Phan Chanh’s success is because he knew how to combine traditional drawing with the scientific knowledge of European painting.

Artistic style: He was the first person to bring glory to Vietnamese silk paintings. He is one of the Vietnamese painters using the Western forming method for oriental silk painting.

Main works: Choi O An Quan (Playing stones in squares), Tien Dung and Chu Dong Tu, Sau Gio Truc Chien (After hours of battle).

Playing stones in squares
Playing stones in squares of Nguyen Phan Chanh Painter | internet

10. Le Pho (1907-2001)

Le Pho is a master in Vietnam and around the world for the last impressionism with many expensive works. He is also referred to as the Vietnamese painter on French land. The public valued his works thanks to his talent for creating impressive paintings. His works often have the highest price in the world art to compare with Vietnamese artists.

Artistic style: The major material is oil paint and silk. The main topics are flowers, dreamy, and noblewomen.

Main works: Hoai Co Huong (Homesick), Kim Van Kieu, Purple curtain, Young widow, Young lady by orchids, Still life, Paysage du Tonkin, Peony vase, Long me (Mother’s heart), Beauty lady in the sunshine.

Hoai Co Huong
Hoai Co Huong of Le Pho painter | internet

These Vietnamese painters are famous in Vietnam and all around the world. Their paintings have become an invaluable price. Some works are preserved in the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum and HCMC Fine Arts Museum. But many are still traveled somewhere, once you find one of their paintings, you can get rich quickly!!!

About the author

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