Vietnam Time

9/19/2017 10:04:03 AM

Class of ’54: Book portrays early Vietnamese artists

A unique newly-issued compillation brings together the story and works of the first graduates of the Vietnam College of Fine Arts, many of them well-known painters, reflecting the role of artists and fine arts in the country’s struggle for independence. 

Relax: A painting by To Ngoc Van.

Họa Sĩ Khóa Kháng Chiến (Artists from the Class of the Resistance War 1950-54) was released on Saturday in the presence of the class of 1954 graduates and their families. It comprises hundreds of artworks by the 22 students and their teacher, artist To Ngoc Van (1906-54).

The Vietnam College of Fine Arts (now the University of Fine Arts) was established in 1945 and enrolled the first students in 1946. But two months later war broke out against the French, and studies were only resumed in 1950. The graduates went on to become noted artists, such as Luu Cong Nhan, Tran Luu Hau, Le Lam and Mai Long.

It took two years for the author, Dao Mai Trang, to complete the book. She visited the painters’ families and had a chance to see handwritten letters, sketches and diaries, which served her in writing the texts.

“The 300-page book reveals 255 paintings of To Ngoc Van and his students. Most of them haven’t been shown before. It gives readers a glimpse of the life and career of the artists in the resistance war,” she said. 

The Tunnel: A 1982 work by Tran Thi Thuc Phi.

The artists built the foundation for the development of Vietnamese fine arts and its introduction to the public, also using their medium to serve the national resistance. Their sketches about the war can be considered lively, authentic diaries in pictures, she said. The class of ’54 also inspired the next generation of artists.

The book’s first chapter is an overview of the college, the class and painter To Ngoc Van. The second is about the 22 graduates as artists, and the third consists of stories told to the author by the writers she interviewed.

Trang currently works as an editor at the Culture and Arts Magazine. She’s the author of two books, both published in English and Vietnamese: Art & Talent, A Foreground On The 8X Artists Generation Of Vietnam and 12 Artists of Vietnamese Contemporary Arts./.

All for the Front: A 1969 poster by Le Lam.

Revolutionary art: The cover of the book, a sketch by Luu Cong Nhan.

Portrait of Wife: A 1991 painting by Luu Cong Nhan.

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