Artworks deliver vivid encounters with Tet celebrations through 70 years

By Kieu Duong   January 30, 2020 | 07:34 pm PT
Outstanding artworks in the Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts in Hanoi allow visitors a vicarious experience of Tet celebrations over the last seven decades.

The Lunar New Year festival, Tet, has traditionally heralded the coming of Spring. A wood carving painting called "Spring" by Nguyen Thu (1930-2018), a former doyen of Vietnamese fine arts, was done in 1961.

Having majored in silk and wood carving in college and created many artworks from 1960 to 1980, Thu was once the face of Vietnam's fine arts, promoted heavily in Eastern European countries. In 1985, he was appointed principal of Vietnam University of Fine Arts (formerly Hanoi College of Fine Arts).


A water painting called "Spring Landscape" done in 1989 by Tran Luu Hau (1928). Inspired by both post-impressionist and expressionist trends, Hau is known giving abstract twists that allow personal freedom in interpreting the reality of everyday life.


A silk painting called "Spring Festival" by artist Chu Thi Thanh (1948) done in 1979, harks back to much earlier times and features soldiers interacting with their community.

Thanh, a Nung woman, is one of the most famous ethnic minority painters of the 20th century. She was sent to study abroad in Hungary from 1985 to 1987. Her oil and silk paintings have unique color schemes and pay meticulous attention to detail.


Another silk painting called "Spring Festival", done in 1964 by artist Nong Cong Thang (1928-2011) captures the bonhomie and friendship among villagers as they gather together in the open.

Silk painting is one of the oldest art forms in the eastern hemisphere. When Vietnam University of Fine Arts (known as Indochina College of Fine Arts during the French colonial period) was founded in 1925, French painters like Victor Tardieu guided students in working with prominent Vietnamese traditional materials - silk and lacquer.


A lacquer painting called "Lunar New Year's Eve by the Sword Lake," done in 1957 by artist Nguyen Tu Nghiem (1922-2016) shows a festival crowd of people of all ages and from all walks of life on the move, with its colors capturing the vibrancy of the moment.

During his lifetime, Nghiem was considered one of the four major talents of modern Vietnamese painting.


A silk painting called "Going to the Market around Tet," completed in 1940, by artist Nguyen Tien Chung (1914-1976) captures the scene in vivid, beautiful detail.

Chung was another outstanding 20th century talent in modern painting with a bold oriental style that was also rich in national spirit. He was a versatile artist who could work with many mediums including oil, lacquer, silk and woodcarvings.


A woodcarving work called "My Hanoi" by artist Dinh Luc (1945), completed in 1985, depicts people buying peach blossoms near Huu Tiep Lake, surrounded by typical ancient Hanoi houses.

In the middle is a U.S. B52 aircraft that was shot down in 1972. The body of the aircraft is still under the lake, stark historical evidence of the battle against the US invaders that lasted 12 days and nights.


A lacquer painting called "Welcoming the Lunar New Year" done in 1958 by artist Le Quoc Loc (1918-1989) shows children sharing firecrackers, soldiers patrolling and people walking on the streets during Tet.

Fine arts researcher Nguyen Hai Yen says the lacquer technique of Loc created a distinctive style with overlapping colors, using a lot of yellow on the canvas to convey the depth of time.


"Spring in the Central Highlands" is a lacquer engraving artwork by artist Tran Huu Chat (1933) completed in 1962. Chat is famous for making lacquer paintings with delicate graphics and vibrant colors on war, revolution, ethnic minority culture and festivals in many different regions.

Close up of some details in the engraved lacquer painting. This is a challengeing technique to master since it requires careful use of sketching, composition, and light and dark markings. Engraving details such as facial expressions need to be precise and meticulous to the millimeter. A carved painting takes years to complete. Today, most of these paintings appear only in museums or exhibitions.

A closer look at the details in the engraved lacquer painting captures the gaiety and bustle at Tet time in bygone days.

Lacquer engraved painting is a challenging technique to master requiring careful sketching, composition, and light and dark markings. Engraving details such as facial expressions demand a high degree of precision and meticulousness. Such a painting takes years to complete. Today, such paintings can only be seen in museums and exhibitions.

All artworks are displayed regularly at the Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts, part of the modern - contemporary art gallery (from the 20th century to the present).

The museum, at 66 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Ba Dinh District, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Admission costs VND40,000 ($1.7) for adults, and free for the elderly and children.

go to top