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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

NGUYEN VAN PHUONG (1930 - 2006)

Nguyen Van Phuong by his statue MOONLIGHT.

(Born: Hanoi 1930 - Died: Dalat 2006)

Spring Flowers
Gouache on paper - 80cm x 60cm

Nguyen Van Phuong started engaging in art and cultural activities at an early age.

Before the Franco-Vietnam war broke out in 1945, he studied music with a German professor. Her husband was both a mathematics professor and an amateur artist, with a great passion for arts. Inspired by the world of art introduced by this German artist cum math professor, Phuong decided to study drawing under him. 

In 1950, Nguyen Van Phuong was given his first solo exhibition at the Hall of Information of Hanoi City. Another solo show was held at the Hall of Information of Hai Phong City later that year.

Legend of Lac Long Quan and Au Co
oil on canvas - 136cm x 180cm

In 1954, Phuong passed a strict admission exam to enter the National Fine Arts College in Gia Dinh Province (this province was annexed to Saigon City in 1975). He was among the only 9 students admitted to this college that year. All of these 9 students were granted full scholarships. Nguyen Van Phuong decided to major in sculpture. Yet, he studied at this college for only one year. He dropped out during his sophomore year due to a conflict with a professor.

The Nation of Van Lang 
oil on canvas - 136cm x 180cm

From 1959 to 1975, Nguyen Van Phuong actively took part in numerous art exhibitions, including those held at the Information Hall of Saigon City and Asian Cultural Association Headquarters.

LIM Festival - Oil on canvas - 120cm x 160cm

During this period, he had two major contributions to Vietnamese fine arts:

-    He wrote a book titled “Vietnamese Contemporary Art,” published by the Department of Art, Ministry of National Education of Vietnam (South Vietnam) in 1962. Several copies of this book were given to international guests attending The First International Art Exhibition, which was organized at Tao Dan Garden, Saigon, in 1962. This was the first Vietnamese art book ever written and published until that time. 

Vietnamese Contemporary Art 

-    He was also a member of the Art Council in charge of selecting artworks of Vietnamese artists to display at that international exhibition.  

Catalogue of The First 
International Art Exhibition 

In 1998, he held his third solo exhibition, titled “An Eternal Spring,” at Tu Do Gallery (Liberty Gallery), Ho Chi Minh City. This was his first solo exhibition in South Vietnam, following the first two in Hanoi and Hai Phong in 1950. 

Bride Reception Ceremony 
oil on canvas - 136cm x 130cm

We don't have any information about his work displayed at the two exhibitions in Hanoi and Hai Phong. Nguyen Van Phuong was a reserved man and rarely talked about himself.

Yet, all of the artworks he created from 1958 until his death show a consistent thematic approach to art. He loved to revive and glorify the civilization of Van Lang Kingdom (2879-258 BC), the legendary realm of the Hung Kings. 

"TET" Wishes for School Master 
Oil on canvas - 120cm x 160cm
He celebrated The Eternal Spring of Vietnamese people, with jolly festivals throughout the year. Every object or character in his paintings is filled with effervescence and happiness. Even images of country girls toiling in rice fields look cheerful and lovely in their traditional dresses. 

Temple of Letter in the Spring  
Oil on canvas - 140cm x 180cm

Technically, Nguyen Van Phuong used a palette consisting of five fundamental colors of Vietnamese folk art: blue, red, white, yellow and black. He always highlighted people and objects in his paintings with bold, dark contours, a technique used in traditional woodcut prints of Ho village (a village about 30 km north of Hanoi, with a history of almost 3 centuries of making woodblock prints). Nguyen Van Phuong cleverly combined the techniques of western painting with those of Vietnamese folk art. Many other Vietnamese artists tried this approach, but none of them stayed with it long enough. Nguyen Van Phuong, with his passion and persistence, devoted all his life to developing this unique style. He deserves to be considered the most successful Vietnamese artist who developed this style to the next levels. 

A Rosy Silk 
Oil on canvas - 100cm x 140cm

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