Are you a fan of unique and mesmerizing art? Look no further! Let us take you on a journey to explore the captivating world of Vietnamese lacquer paintings. With a rich history and distinctive artistic features, these masterpieces are sure to leave you in awe.

Lacquer painting by artist Dang Tin Tuong
Image: Lacquer painting by artist Dang Tin Tuong

Unveiling the Artistic Features

Vietnamese lacquer art boasts a rich heritage that dates back to ancient times. Lacquer works were discovered in Vietnam’s ancient tombs dating from the 3rd to 4th century BC. Over the centuries, Vietnamese master artists and craftsmen have honed their skills in using lacquer for decorative and preservation purposes.

Unlike paintings on silk, oil, or watercolor, lacquer paintings possess a unique style. Traditional lacquer comes in three colors: brown, black, and vermilion. However, in the 1930s, artists started incorporating a new technique called chiseling. This technique enhanced the color palette, creating a richer blend of colors and adding a sense of size and distance to the artwork.

The process of creating a lacquer painting begins on wood. The wood is covered with a cloth coated with lacquer sap and then layered with a mixture of resin and earth. After sanding down the board, a layer of hot sap is applied, resulting in a smooth black surface with a brilliant shine. The artist uses hot lacquer to draw, applying colors layer by layer once the underlying layer has dried.

Dawn on the farm of the painter Nguyen Duc Nung (1914-1993)
Image: Dawn on the farm of the painter Nguyen Duc Nung (1914-1993)

The final steps involve careful polishing and re-washing of the paint. While this may sound like a rigorous treatment of the artwork, it is done with great care to achieve a brilliant and flawless image. To add creativity and a touch of personality to their artwork, artisans have experimented with additional materials such as vegetable ashes, crushed eggshells, gold, and silver.

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Lacquer work by the painter Nguyen Gia Tri (1906-1993)
Image: Lacquer work by the painter Nguyen Gia Tri (1906-1993)

The Fascinating History of Vietnamese Lacquer Painting

Lacquer art has a rich history in Vietnam, spanning centuries. Although it appeared between the 3rd and 4th centuries BC, it wasn’t until the 20th century that it gained popularity through systematic and professional training. Joseph Inguimberty, a professor at the Indochina Fine Arts College, introduced lacquer art courses in 1927. Vietnamese artists successfully infused their works with a distinctive Vietnamese flair and personal style, making them stand out in the art world.

Vietnamese art lovers take immense pride in the talented painters who constantly push the boundaries of lacquer paints. Notable modern art pieces such as “Horse Giong” by Nguyen Tu Nghiem, “Front” by Nguyen Gia Tri, and “Joining the Party at Dien Bien Phu” by Nguyen Sang have elevated Vietnamese lacquerware to new heights in the 20th century art scene.

Meet the Maestros of Vietnamese Lacquer Painting

Several renowned painters have made significant contributions to the world of Vietnamese lacquer painting. Let’s shine a spotlight on a few of them:

Nguyen Gia Tri (1906-1993)

The work of the people, author Nguyen Gia Tri
Image: The work of the people, author Nguyen Gia Tri

Nguyen Gia Tri is one of the most influential lacquer painters in Vietnam. His peak years were between 1938 and 1944 when lacquer painting reached its zenith. Tri’s meticulously crafted works exude a magical beauty. He experimented with new colors like yellow to achieve a velvety look, and he incorporated various materials such as eggshells and gemstones into his creations.

Nguyen Khan (1911-1989)

Peace and friendship, author Nguyen Khang
Image: Peace and friendship, author Nguyen Khang

Born in Hanoi, Nguyen Khang is the mastermind behind many famous lacquer works in Vietnam. He played a crucial role in the creation and development of lacquer paintings by introducing various materials into his artwork. Khang was not only a talented painter but also an esteemed member and former rector of the Vietnam College of Industrial Fine Arts.

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Hoang Tich Chu (1912-2003)

The work of the mountain team, author Hoang Tich Chu
Image: The work of the mountain team, author Hoang Tich Chu

A native of Hebei, Hoang Tich Chu specialized in lacquer painting. He graduated from the Vietnam University of Fine Arts and gained recognition for his exceptional lacquer art. Despite working with various media, including oil and graphic arts, Chu’s name became synonymous with lacquer paintings. His masterpieces are displayed in prestigious art museums, such as the Vietnam Museum of Fine Arts and the Moscow Museum of Oriental Fine Arts.

Huynh Van Gam (1922-1987)

Works by Co Lien, author Huynh Van Gam
Image: Works by Co Lien, author Huynh Van Gam

Huynh Van Gam, born in Long An Province, left an indelible mark on Vietnamese art. He graduated from the Indochina University of Fine Arts and received recognition with the Salon Unique Award in 1944 while still a student. Gam’s revolutionary artwork greatly influenced Vietnamese art during that era. He was also the editor-in-chief of Vietnam’s first art magazine, leaving a lasting legacy.

Dang Tin Tin (1945-)

Construction Works (1979), author Dang Tin Tuong
Image: Construction Works (1979), author Dang Tin Tuong

Dang Tin Tin, a contemporary artist, carries the torch of Vietnamese lacquer painting. With a career spanning several decades, Tin’s artwork represents the fusion of tradition and modernity. His creations showcase the versatility of lacquer as a medium, captivating viewers with their intricate details and evocative storytelling.

So, why not delve into the enchanting world of Vietnamese lacquer paintings? Immerse yourself in the richness of Vietnamese culture and witness the extraordinary artistic prowess of these masterpieces. For more information about Vietnamese lacquer paintings and to explore other art forms, visit Caravansarai, your gateway to the wonders of art and culture.