Vietnamese contemporary art began a mere 75 years ago with a group of artists who were trained at the Indochina School of Fine Arts (Ecole des Baux Arts de l'Indochine) of Ha Noi. During the twenty years of its existence, French Instructors trained 128 artists to apply western techniques to traditional Vietnamese painting. Artists such as Bui Xuan Phai, Le Pho, and Mai Trung painted in a style that was highly influenced by Impressionism, Realism and Cubism. They portrayed the beauty of their native life and landscape through the lens of Western modernism. The subjects they depicted were romanticized and their works were infused with an ambiance of innocence and dream.
The Indochina School of Fine Arts closed its doors in 1945 when Viet Nam gained independence from France and reopened in 1946 as the Hanoi College of Fine Arts. Popular artistic trends in Western art, such as nude, abstraction and surrealism were banned or discouraged from view during this strict Socialist period in Vietnam, because they were seen as products of Western capitalism. Much of the art produced was instead, propagandistic in nature and centered on the theme of the worker-peasant-soldier in the context of socialist realism. In the early 1980's, the country began to move away from this 'nationalized' position for a broader, more liberal and individualistic approach to creative arts. The artists on this website represent the unique development that modern art in Vietnam has gone through.
Pho Le 1907-2001
Born in Vietnam, Pho Le was in the first class to graduate from the Ecole des Beaux Arts de l’Indochine, founded by Victor Tardieu. It was there he met Vu Cao Dam and Trung Thu Mai. He would later become Tardieu’s assistant.
Following his studies at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris, Pho continued to travel across Europe. He went to Belgium, Holland and Italy. He taught at the Indochina Fine Arts School in the 1930’s. He traveled through China, learning classical Chinese painting techniques. He received a commission from the Imperial Palace of Hue. In 1937 Pho went to Paris to serve as the artistic director of the Indonesian section of the International Exhibition that year. He stayed and continued to work in Paris for the remainder of his life.
gallery of asian paintings by Vietnamese artist