Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — Some 40 sketches by lacquer artist Nguyễn Gia Trí will be displayed at the Việt Nam Fine Arts Museum to mark his 110th birthday on June 26.
The sketches vary in size, ranging from the smallest measuring 15x11cm to the largest at 67x106cm.
Trí used various materials for lacquer paintings, which is known in Việt Nam as sơn mài, including ball-point pen, charcoal, watercolour, felt-tipped pen, oil on canvas and wax-colour. His sketches depicted landscape, human characters and designs and themes dealing with the national history.
The 40 sketches have been selected from the collection of the HCM City Museum of Fine Arts. The museum collected these sketches from 1991 to 2010.
Trí is considered a legend in the history of modern Vietnamese fine arts. Born in the northern province of Hà Tây, he enrolled at the Escole Superieure des Beaux Arts de I’Indochine (Indochina Arts College) in 1929.
At the college, his talent was noticed by French director Victor Tardieu and his professor, Joseph Inguimberty, early on through his works. Together with his classmates Tô Ngọc Vân, Trần Văn Cẩn and Phạm Hậu, Trí experimented with lacquer resin, thanks to the encouragement and support of Inguimberty.
Trí developed a special interest in the lacquer technique of painting and devoted most of his time to its research. He graduated from college in 1936 after attending two courses.
He had, however, stopped his first course (1928-1933) to study sơn mài.
“During this time, he noticed differences while using lacquer resin to make traditional craft objects and paintings. He made lacquer resin popular in modern painting,” said fine art critic Nguyễn Hải Yến at a seminar on sơn mài held in Hà Nội last week. She added that Trí was the first artist who took up lacquer resin as a new painting medium.
He later returned to college to finish the course (1931-1936).
At the end of the 1980s, artworks by Trí were recognised as national treasure and were prohibited from being exported. During 1938-44, he made master sơn mài paintings, including Chợ Bờ (Bờ Market), Dọc Mùng (Indian Taro) and Thiếu Nữ Trong Vườn (Girls in the Garden).
Vườn Xuân Trung Nam Bắc (Centre South North Spring Garden) is another master painting by Trí. Measuring 540x200cm, the painting was bought by HCM City People’s Committee from the artist in 1991 for US$100,000. It was later presented to the HCM City Museum of Fine Arts.
Trí took 20 years (1969-89) to complete the painting. This was his last painting. He had a stroke while working on it in 1988 and had to ask his student, Nguyễn Xuân Việt, to inlay a golden leaf in the painting.
Trí is the only Vietnamese artist whose paintings have been sold at a special price. The larger the painting, the higher the price.
The exhibition will be open to visitors until July 10 at 66, Nguyễn Thái Học street, Hà Nội. — VNS