Virtual exhibition shows masterpieces of sơn mài

December 13, 2021 - 09:06

An exhibition displaying 50 masterpiece paintings will be shown at a virtual exhibition to popularise Vietnamese sơn mài (lacquer) artworks to Vietnamese and foreign fine art lovers. 


UNIQUE STYLE: Bình Phong (Standing Screen) by Nguyễn Gia Trí. Photos coutersy of Việt Nam Museum of Fine Arts

HÀ NỘI — An exhibition displaying 50 masterpiece paintings will be shown at a virtual exhibition to popularise Vietnamese sơn mài (lacquer) artworks to Vietnamese and foreign fine art lovers. 

The exhibition, entitled 'Vietnamese Lacquer Painting', is being co-held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Cultural Diplomacy, UNESCO and Việt Nam Museum of Fine Arts. It aims to introduce Vietnamese outstanding lacquer paintings to the Vietnamese expat community and foreigners. 

"It is a challenge to organise a virtual exhibition for the first time in the context of COVID-19 pandemic," said Trần Quốc Khánh, deputy director of the department, at the ceremony to open the exhibition last Friday in Hà Nội. 

"But we are eager because it shows creativity and proactive adaption of Vietnamese people. We hope that this exhibition will contribute to popularising Vietnamese unique lacquer painting to the public, including the Vietnamese expat community and international friends."

RENOUNED FIGURE: Gióng by Nguyễn Tư Nghiêm. 

Visitors can attend the 3D exhibition at, where they will see paintings from the museum's collection with the theme of country and people, according to Trần Thị Hương, the museum's deputy director. 

"The exhibition is also a chance for the viewers to enjoy the national treasures by Nguyễn Gia Trí and Nguyễn Tư Nghiêm," Hương said. 

Bình Phong (Standing Screen) by Nguyễn Gia Trí (1908-93) is created on both sides of an eight-piece board, highlighting his unique approach and style. It is a harmonious blend of western and traditional art showing the artist’s talent for applying different techniques, including carving, embossing, gilding, and polishing.

This mixture of styles creates a dramatic effect. The artistic skill can be seen in the way the shell blends seamlessly with the painting. The work raised awareness about and increased the value of the lacquer technique in Vietnamese paintings. 

Two other national treasures by Trí are Thiếu Nữ Trong Vườn (Women in A Garden) and Cảnh Đẹp Nông Thôn (A Rustic Landscape).

Nguyễn Tư Nghiêm's (1922-2016) Gióng is another national treasure. It was created in 1990. Nghiêm was a renowned figure in Vietnamese fine art during the second half of the 20th century.

As a leader in artistic innovation in Việt Nam, he was especially successful in combining traditional art with a modern spirit. His lacquer painting Gióng has been recognised for its unique artistic value. This piece represents the artist’s peak development in style and technique.

Depicting Saint Gióng, one of the "Four Immortals" of Vietnamese folk religion, the painting incorporates both folk art and the modern style of cubism.

Inspired by traditional artwork, the artist used geometric and ancient motifs in his work. The gold, silver, and grey palettes are imposed over an unusual red background, which includes brown and black patches to create depth and highlight the unique form and moving rhythm of Gióng.

Others paintings include Nhớ Một Chiều Tây Bắc (Remembering the Northwest Afternoon) by Phan Kế An; Nguyễn Đức Nùng's Quay Tơ Dệt Vải (Spinning and Weaving Silk); and Trần Văn Cẩn's Tát Nước Đồng Chiêm (Bailing Water into the Rice Field).

Images of lacquer painting, with both Vietnamese and English information, enable visitors to learn about the history and development of Vietnamese lacquer painting.

The exhibition is one of the activities to celebrate Việt Nam Days Abroad 2021, a national programme organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VNS