Vietnam News

New publication on Vietnamese modern art released

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The book entitled ‘Nghệ Thuật Hiện Đại Đông Dương’ (Modern Art in Indochina) is published in French, Vietnamese and English by In Fine editions d’art publisher.

A book by French expert Charlotte Aguttes Reynier on the establishment and development of the Indochina School of Fine Arts has been released in Hà Nội.

The book entitled Nghệ Thuật Hiện Đại Đông Dương (Modern Art in Indochina) is published in French, Vietnamese and English by In Fine editions d’art publisher.

The 432-page book is the fruit of Reynier’s ten years of research and expertise on the genesis of Vietnamese modern art and will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the school this year.

“Publishing in three languages is important,” said Reynier at the book launching recently at the Việt Nam Fine Arts University, its precursor the Indochina School of Fine Arts.

“It will help to reach a wider audience, with a trilingual book. The book lifts the veil that was cast over 70 years ago on an entire section of international art history. It bears witness to the way in which the art market enriches art history and contributes to the advancement of this long-forgotten school.”

The Indochina School of Fine Arts (L’Ecole Superieure des Beaux-Arts d’Indochine) was founded in 1924 by the first French principal Victor Tardieu and his Vietnamese colleague artist Nguyễn Nam Sơn.

The school opened admissions with the first class in 1925. The curriculum developed over the years, expanding from oil on canvas to sculpture and lacquer, and from fine arts to architecture and decorative arts.

Besides Tardieu, the school also included permanent staff like Joseph Inguimberty, Alix Aymé and Évariste Jonchère, who succeeded Tardieu as principal upon his passing in 1937. It closed down when the Japanese occupied the country in 1945.

During its 20 years of existence, the school launched numerous artist-pioneers like Lê Phổ, Mai Trung Thứ, Vũ Cao Đàm, Tô Ngọc Vân, Nguyễn Tường Vân, and others.

The book recounts the highlights between 1925 and 1945, and describes the exhibitions organised in Hà Nội, Sài Gòn and Paris, as well as how they were received by the critics.

It includes 319 illustrations and 28 biographies of students and teachers, as well as multipal archive documents. The author also opens the doors of numerous private collections and museum reserves.

From teachers and students like Inguimberty, Ayme, Đàm, Thứ and Phổ, they drew, painted, sculpted, worked with lacquer, and exhibited.

Directed by Tardieu and then Jonchere, the school experienced rich artistic emulation during the 1925-45, at the origin of the revival of modern Vietnamese art.

In the book Reynier sets out to explain the decisive stages that led to the emergence of the artistic elite envisioned by Tardieu and sheds light on the many grey areas that until now have masked the richness and artistic importance of this period in Indochina.

“The book provides many documents that we have never seen before,” said fine arts researcher Ngô Kim Khôi, artist Nam Sơn’s maternal grandchild.

“France has very good archives and I hope Reynier’s research will help us better understand fine art that we did not know well before.”

The book provides missing pieces of the 100-year history of the school, according to fine arts researcher Nguyễn Hải Yến.

Reynier, an expert in Asian modern art has been president of the Asian Artists in Paris Association (AAP) since 2019. She works with the association to highlight and document various facets of Asian modern arts, and more particularly to list the master works of artists Thứ, Phổ and Đàm.

She has spent the last ten years focusing on the works of artists with dual training in Việt Nam/France and China/France. Since 2013, she has paid particular attention to promoting the works of Asian artists.

The book launching ceremony was held by the French Institute of Hà Nội, the Việt Nam Fine Arts University and the Viet Art View Company.

The book will be distributed in February at a price of 75 euros, tax included, in France. It can be purchased online at 

Vietnam News – January 16, 2024

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