Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — Portraits of Hanoians by painter Lê Năng Hiển (1921-2014) are on display in Hà Nội.
The exhibition wowed visitors, with the talent of a remarkable artist’s lacquer, silk and oil on canvas work.
Hiển was born in Hà Nội’s Old Quarter and trained as an artist. During his 60-year career, he signed Năng Hiển or Zuy Nhất on his paintings.
“Born into a middle-class family in the 20th century with Confucian teachings fused with Western neo-liberalism, Hiển’s life was attached to the ancient capital Thăng Long and the 1,000-year-old Hà Nội,” said art critic Nguyễn Hải Yến. “He absorbed the quintessence of this city and saw social turbulence not many experience, and his works reflect that.”
This is the second posthumous solo exhibition of Hiển’s paintings arranged by his family.
Of the 67 pieces on display, 21 are silk paintings, 16 are oil on canvas and nine are lacquer works. Others are chalk and watercolour paintings, many with classic themes such as young Hanoian women in áo dài (traditional long dress), family portraits and scenes of daily life in the city.
Trần Khánh Chương, chairman of the Việt Nam Fine Arts Association, said that Hiển was very famous in his time and he was one of the few Vietnamese artists of his era who could make a living through painting.
“Hiển was a talented artist, an elegant man of Hà Nội,” he said.
“I remember when Hiển hosted an exhibition to celebrate his 75th birthday in 1996,” said Chương. “All 75 paintings were sold – that’s really impressive for any artist.”
“The large stock of paintings he left behind is an important part of the history of Vietnamese fine art,” Chương said. “Hiển mastered various materials. We must acknowledge his contribution to the development of fine arts in Việt Nam.”
The artist’s 67-year-old niece, Lê Huyền Châu, was moved by the exhibition. She was one of Hiển’s models, an inspiration for some of his beautiful paintings.
“I modeled for him for 10 years,” she said. “All of my brilliant youth and the most beautiful moments of my life were preserved in his paintings.”
As she contemplated the depictions of herself, Châu’s eyes reflected the sparkling pearl áo dài in Hiển’s paintings. Châu is glad she could represent the beauty of Hà Nội’s women through Hiển’s art.
A book on the artist’s life and work will be released next month.
The exhibition will run until September 20 at the Việt Nam Museum of Fine Arts, 66 Nguyễn Thái Học Street. — VNS