HA NOI — At the age of 73, Nguyen Duy Tuy is one of a number of elderly men with figures showing the ravages of their age who are nevertheless willing pose as nude models for art students.
|Strike a pose: Sitting for a 45-minute class, a model is paid VND35,000. They receive a 15-minute break before changing to a new position. — File Photo
Tuy leads a five-member group of men between the ages of 52 and 75 who are models for students at the Ha Noi University of Architecture.
In the beginning, Tuy himself was surprised that work like this was available for the elderly.
"How could I become a model at 60?" Tuy asked, recalling the first day he went with a friend to the Ha Noi Fine Arts College.
But, after a time modeling at the college, which was far from his home in Van Phuc Village in Ha Dong, he began to work at the University of Architecture.
Tuy and the other models take the work to add some extra income to meagre retirement pensions.
"We are proud of our work because, in old age, we are still bringing in income for our families and feeling useful to society," said Tuy.
For sitting for a 45-minute class, the model is paid about VND35,000. They get the same rate for 40 minutes as a standing model and receive a 15-minute break before changing to a new position.
The models at the University of Architecture are required to be 80-per-cent nude.
However, said model Do Van Luu from Ha Dong, "we would not be embarrassed if we had to pose 100-per-cent nude. We have been models for many years, so we understand the requirements for figure models. It is not bad to strip naked for students to draw."
"A figure model does not need to have good body," affirmed college instructor Nguyen Duc Hung. "Anyone with a basic figure can be a model."
Male models must be from 1.70m in height and of medium build, said Hung, adding that a rough body shape was desirable. "These models have met the requirements of the University, and they have worked seriously."
The contributions of the models are also recognised by the students. To complete a full, painted portrait, art students come to know their models well, said student Thuy Anh. Working with some models for about two years, Anh said she has shared happiness and sadness with them."Sometimes, I have not been able to finish my work within a fixed time and they still have posed for hours without getting any extra money," she said.
Nevertheless, the elderly models have had to overcome prejudice and gossip behind their backs about their work. Some try to explain the nature of the work, but it is not easy to change prejudice, said Luu.
"I think my job is serious work, and it is supported by my family," he said. "I believe that other people will understand it."
The model is key for art students to learn portrait painting, said artist Luong Quoc Thang. The model makes a significant contribution to training the raw drawing and sculpting skills of students, he said.
But selecting the model depends on the inspiration of the artist. Coming from the Central Highlands, Thang has created many works about the area's people and cultures.
"One of my models was an old woman from the Ba Na ethnic group," said Thang. "I paid attention to her white hair which she had cut with a knife. The wrinkles on her forehead and her bare feet inspired me a lot." — VNS