VN master painter’s work auctioned in France

Update: March, 21/2018 - 11:00
Delicate work: Silk painting Thôn Nữ Bắc Kỳ by Nam Sơn.
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI A silk painting by master Nguyễn Nam Sơn (1890-1973), one of the leading artists in modern Vietnamese fine art, will be auctioned by the Aguttes company at Drouot auction sale centre in Paris, France, on March 26.

Titled Thôn Nữ Bắc Kỳ (Peasants of Tonkin), the painting, ink and colour on silk, measures 65 by 52.5cm, with the painter’s signature on the upper right and lower left and its title on the lower left.

The painting is expected to be sold for 35,000-50,000 euros.

The painter, real name Nguyễn Văn Thọ, was a co-initiator of the Indochine Fine Arts College in Hà Nội with Victor Tardieu (1870-1937). Working as a painter for nearly six decades, he left behind 400 works on various materials, 20 of which are on silk.

According to Aguttes, the painting has spent the last 50 years with the family of a private collector in Hà Nội.

It is said the painting was completed in 1935. It appeared once at an art fair called "Salon de la Sadeai" in Hà Nội in 1936. At the same fair, Nam Sơn exhibited three other silk paintings.

The Thôn Nữ Bắc Kỳ was also mentioned in archives held by Nam Sơn’s family. Besides this, his signature, seal and a sentence appear on the left corner of the work in Han Chinese, translated as "This painting was drawn by painter Nguyễn Nam Sơn, residing by Hoàn Kiếm Lake”.

According to researcher Ngô Kim Khôi, the whole painting is a transition from the colour green to turquoise, featuring three female peasants carrying bananas on a pole, wearing typical costumes of women in the northern plains.

“Though he did not specialise in silk painting, the audience can see delicate lines on the painting,” said Khôi. “The colours seem to go through the texture of the silk background.”

The same technique can be seen in his silk painting, titled Về Chợ (Return from Market), drawn in 1927, which was exhibited once in Paris.

The painting Về Chợ may be the first silk painting in modern Vietnamese fine arts because Nguyễn Phan Chánh, who is considered the pioneer of modern Vietnamese silk painting, did not learn the technique of drawing on silk until 1928 in Yunnan, China.

At the same auction on March 26, works by other Vietnamese painters such as Lê Phổ (1907-2001), Vũ Cao Đàm (1908-2000), Lê Thị Lựu (1911-1988) and Mai Trung Thứ (1906-1980) are displayed.

The most expensive estimate of the sale may belong to a work by French painter Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), which is expected for 500,000-600,000 euros. The runner-up will be Lê Phổ, with two works: Mẫu Tử (Maternity) ink and water colour on silk, 59.5 by 48cm, and Thiếu Nữ Bên Hoa Hồng (Young Woman by Roses), the same material, 41 by 32.2cm. Both paintings by Lê Phổ are expected to be sold at the same price of 150,000-200,000 euros.

The event will take place at 2.30pm Paris time on March 26. VNS


Long career: Painter Nguyễn Nam Sơn in 1919.