Vietnamese lacquer painting fetches $1.4 mln under French hammer

By Hieu Nhan   October 23, 2021 | 06:00 pm PT
‘Paysage de Phnom Penh’ (Landscape of Phnom Penh) by Vietnamese artist Le Quoc Loc was sold for €1.22 million ($1.4 million) by French auction house Millon.

‘Paysage de Phnom Penh’ ('Phong Canh Phnom Penh' in Vietnamese), a 1.99 x4 meter painting with eight panels, has a delicate and gentle beauty, auction website Asium wrote.

‘Paysage de Phnom Penh’ by Le Quoc Loc. Photo courtesy of Asium

‘Paysage de Phnom Penh’ by Le Quoc Loc. Photo courtesy of Asium

It is divided into three parts: monks praying, the blessing of women, and people walking. Signature trees of Phnom Penh like jaggery, palm, coconut, banana... are included in the work. Lacquer is made from natural materials like wood, gold leaf, and eggshell, creating a feeling of warmth and peace. The two main colors are yellow, symbolizing spirituality and happiness, and red, adding life and warmth.

Estimated to fetch up to €300,000, the painting was sold for €1.22 million on Oct. 21, according to the French auction house.

Painter Le Huy Van, Loc’s son, said the work was created in 1943, the year his father graduated from the Indochina College of Fine Arts.

Vietnamese art researcher Ngo Kim Khoi said he was contacted by the auction house, asking him to write an introduction letter. They also provided him with documents related to the origin of the painting.

"In addition to the beauty and grandeur of the painting, the clear origin of the work is also an important factor. This is a good sign for the Vietnamese fine art market as more paintings reach the million-dollar milestone."

The painting in Nguyen Thu Lais house in 1964. Photo courtesy of Le Huy Van

The painting in Nguyen Thu Lai's house in 1964. Photo courtesy of the family

The painting belonged to the Kraemer family. Henry Kraemer - working at Hanoi Military Court - married businesswoman Nguyen Thi Lai. In 1943, Henry and his wife bought an eight-panel screen by Le Quoc Loc, a painter who had just graduated from college with no fame and money. In 1953, Henry Kraemer's family left Hanoi for France.

Loc was born in northern Hung Yen Province in 1918. He studied in the lacquer department at the Indochina College of Fine Arts. He won the gold medal at an exhibition in Leipzig in 1973. He also won second prize at an exhibition in Germany in 1973, and first prize in 1978.

Loc passed away in Hanoi in 1987.

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