|Prolific painter: War painter Huynh Phuong Dong died yesterday, aged 88. — Photo doanhnhancuoituan.com.vn
HCM CITY (VNS)— Viet Nam's greatest wartime artist Huynh Phuong Dong passed away yesterday, leaving behind thousands of paintings and sketches and a huge number of unfinished works.
Dong, 88, is survived by his wife and three children.
His wife, Le Thi Thu, told Viet Nam News that he fell in the bathroom while taking a shower, and died due to a stroke.
Despite his age and ill-health, Dong did not stop working, carrying with him colours and papers every time he went out.
Recently he had begun to convert many of his 20,000 war sketches into paintings.
He told this correspondent in the past: "Much material recorded during the war still remains, but I am not healthy enough to complete it all."
Thu said the task remains uncompleted.
"He was digitising his works, but that task has not been finished [either]."
Tira Vanichtheeranont, a Thai art collector, who has a lot of works composed by Vietnamese artists in his collection, said: "Huynh Phuong Dong is the all-time greatest war artist, even greater than Le Lam, who is Dong's friend and lives in Ha Noi."
Dong refused to sell his works, though he tried to buy, he said. He only had his portrait drawn by the painter and got two or three paintings as gifts, he said.
"Dong has a lot of nice paintings not shown to the public. His nude paintings are especially wonderful. I have been trying to do a book on [them], but ... he has gone already. So sad..."
Decades ago during the dark period of the war, Dong was a prolific artist who did thousands of paintings and sketches.
"Doing a painting was difficult, but keeping it was much more challenging," he is reputed to have said.
He buried his works in various places during the war, putting them in metal boxes and hiding them under termite nests.
Last year Dong, real name Huynh Cong Nhan, celebrated his birthday by displaying oil paintings, sketches, posters, and statues he had created over the last several decades at an exhibition at the HCM City Museum of Fine Arts.
In 1940 he studied at the Gia Dinh Painting College before plunging into the revolution in 1945 in Soc Trang Province.
His first work was a portrait of President Ho Chi Minh.
Many of his works are on display at HCM City's Fine Arts Museum and Military Museum. The former holds the largest collection of what is known in Viet Nam as Liberation Art.
Dong told this correspondent once that during lulls in fighting during the war he would put up his works to enthuse fighters and remove them hurriedly when hostilities resumed. — VNS