Painters in the early stage of the 1945 August revolution were regarded as the pathfinders for Vietnam’s modern art. Most of them were honored with the Ho Chi Minh Prize, the highest distinction for Vietnamese artists.
Secretary General of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association, Tran Khanh Chuong said, " Most of Vietnam’s first contemporary painters joined the revolution and used fine arts to serve this glorious cause. A majority of them graduated from French-run Indochina Fine Arts College and were subsequently influenced by western style, particularly in oil painting. Leading painters like Nguyen Do Cung, To Ngoc Van and Nguyen Sang were able to have a sound understanding of western lacquer-ware technique and with their creativeness and aptitude turn it into an exclusive Vietnamese style."
Painter To Ngoc Van was considered the founder of Vietnam’s contemporary art. He was a graduate from the Indochina Fine Arts College in 1931 and earned a gold medal and an honorary mention at a painting exhibition in Paris just one year later. Van was also admitted as a member of the French Painters?Association. He has left behind a great number of invaluable works including " Young Lady by the Lily", and " Young Lady by the Lotus". The noted picture " Young Lady by the Lily" features a young girl in the traditional Vietnamese long dress or "Ao Dai" sitting by a bunch of elegant lilies. It is created with the western painting technique but with colors and composition imbued with eastern identity. Painter To Ngoc Van made sizable contributions to nurturing a generation of outstanding Vietnamese painters. Nguyen Thu is one of his very first student said, "I have learnt a great deal from teacher Van, particularly the technique of using strokes and colors to describe the inner feelings of the artist. I think this is an immortal teaching because if the artist fails to instill his soul and sentiments to his paintings, these works would never conquer the heart of viewers."
Nguyen Do Cung was one of Vietnam’s eight leading painters, who have been awarded the Ho Chi Minh Prize. Cung and many painters of his generation, managed to make the best use of Western culture in a blend with Vietnamese culture. Cung rejected any attempt to copy western painting styles but studied western cultural identities in order to integrate them into a Vietnamese approach. After the August Revolution, Nguyen Do Cung joined in and travelled along the trails of the nation’s resistance war against the French colonialists. As a result, the dominating topic of his works is the revolution and national construction. Many of his pictures such as "Guerrillas practicing shooting skills" and "An arsenal" are now displayed at the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum.
Nguyen Phan Chanh emerged in the history of Vietnam’s art as a master of silk painting. He managed to combine eastern style and western colors to create dreamy, spectacular and fairylike pictures. He tried water colour on silk, a completely new method at that time and succeeded. Chanh’s celebrated works included " Spread and Catch Game","Washing Vegetables in the Pond" and " Feeding Birds". During the last years of his life in the 1970s, Nguyen Phan Chanh used only one colour in his works: the smoke-like color. Many of his distinctive images during this period featured bathing women, in which the characters he created are sophisticated and pure and seemingly appear behind a partly-obscured curtain. Art critic Bui Hai Yen has this to say, ‘’Painter Nguyen Phan Chanh was the pathfinder for a new silk painting style, which aims to fade the colour of the pictures. Therefore, his works are distinguished from those by other painters and Chanh left great influence on the younger generation".
Reprinted from VOV News