She broke barriers and made her mark in the world of art. Meet Le Thi Luu, the first female painter of modern Vietnamese art. With her unique artistic style and powerful contributions, she carved her name in history, leaving behind a legacy that continues to inspire.
A Journey of Artistic Expression
Le Thi Luu was born on January 19, 1911, in the village of Tho Khoc, Bac Ninh province. She embarked on her artistic journey at the prestigious Indochina Fine Arts College, where she graduated as the valedictorian of the 3rd class. Not only was she a talented painter, but she also dabbled in poetry and made significant contributions to renowned magazines such as Today, New Woman, and New Woman.
In 1940, Le Thi Luu moved to France with her husband and continued her artistic pursuits. She actively supported the resistance movement in Vietnam, further displaying her dedication to her homeland’s cultural heritage. Her involvement extended to serving as the treasurer of the French Union Cultural Association until her passing. She even played a role in signing the Geneva Accord on Vietnam.
A Trailblazer in a Traditional Society
Le Thi Luu was a modern, Western-educated woman in a society steeped in tradition. While most women of her generation adhered to cultural norms, she fearlessly pursued her passion for art. She enrolled in the Indochina College of Fine Arts and even convinced her family to allow her to study painting, including nude art. Her talent soon gained recognition, with her first paintings winning first prize at an exhibition hosted by the Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. This remarkable achievement paved the way for her membership in the Association.
Furthermore, for seven consecutive years after her graduation, Le Thi Luu also worked as a drawing teacher in prestigious schools such as Truong Buoi, Hang Bai School, Lace School, Hong Bang School, and Gia Dinh Fine Arts School. Her guidance and instruction left a lasting impact on many aspiring painters, who fondly remember her patient and detailed approach to teaching.
Capturing Essence through Art
Le Thi Luu’s artistic repertoire primarily revolved around the portrayal of people, particularly women. Her paintings often embodied classic standards of beauty, featuring oval faces and a sense of balance and harmony. The vibrant colors she employed reflected her affinity for bright hues, occasionally tinged with a touch of melancholy. Many of her subjects, with their wandering eyes, seemed to exist in a world of dreams. Despite experimenting with various styles throughout her life, including impressionism and classical techniques, Le Thi Luu’s work remained imbued with distinct Asian qualities. Notably, her famous painting, “The Girl Bathing in a Lotus Pond,” exemplifies her aesthetic beauty.
An Artistic and Literary Journey
In addition to painting, Le Thi Luu also excelled in the world of literature. She wrote poetry under the pen name Thach An and contributed to magazines such as Today, Women Tan Van, and New Women under the pen name Van Do. Her creative talents extended beyond the canvas, enriching her overall artistic expression.
Leaving a Lasting Impression
Despite leaving behind only a modest body of work, consisting of approximately 300 paintings, Le Thi Luu’s impact on Vietnamese art is indelible. Unfortunately, many of her paintings have been lost over time. However, numerous representative pieces are preserved in various museums and private collections, including the Vietnam Museum of Fine Arts.
“Children Playing with Flowers” at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art auction was held at 10:00 am on April 1, 2018, fetching $207,821.
“Woman Painter” in 1980, silk painting
“Parents and children in the grass” 1960, painting on silk
“Green Age” 1980, oil painting
“Girl Bathing in a Lotus Pond” in 1971, painting on silk
“Storm” in 1980, painting on silk
“Portrait of Le Tat Luyen” 1978, oil painting
“Mama takes me” 1965, painting on silk
The painter Le Thi Luu in Saigon in 1936
For more information about Le Thi Luu and her incredible contributions to the world of art, visit Caravansarai.