Le Van De, also known by his stage name Celso-Leon Le Van De, was an exceptional painter whose talent and artistic prowess left an indelible mark on the art world. Born on August 28, 1906, in Ben Tre, Vietnam, Le Van De’s passion for drawing became evident during his high school years, where he was praised by his friends for his remarkable skills. This early recognition paved the way for a remarkable artistic journey that would captivate audiences worldwide.

A Journey of Excellence

After graduating from high school, Le Van De enrolled in the prestigious Indochina College of Fine Arts in Hanoi. Throughout his years at the faculty, he consistently ranked among the top students in the school, reflecting his exceptional talent and dedication to his craft. In 1930, Le Van De graduated as a valedictorian, establishing himself as a master painter of silk paintings, oil paintings, and frescoes.

Making Waves in Paris

Le Van De’s talent did not go unnoticed, and in 1931, he received a scholarship from the SAMPIC Association to study at the French National School of Fine Arts in Paris. It was during his time in the vibrant artistic hub of Paris that his works began to attract significant attention. In 1933, he achieved a major milestone by winning the second prize for painting organized by the National Association of French Artists. The recognition continued to pour in as his paintings were selected to be exhibited alongside exceptional talents from around the world. French newspapers hailed his work, solidifying his reputation as a rising star in the art world.

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Honoring His Homeland

In 1938, Le Van De returned to Vietnam and turned his attention to the study of ethnic and oriental painting. His work “The Girl Who Sleeps During the Day” became particularly renowned during this time, showcasing his ability to capture the essence of his subjects with breathtaking detail and emotion.

Founding Annam Art

In 1942, Le Van De’s artistic influence expanded as he brought together talented artists of the time to found the Annam Art company. The company organized numerous acclaimed exhibitions, with Le Van De’s works taking center stage. Notably, his silk paintings “Little Curtain” and “Mother” garnered immense attention at the Saigon Tao Dan Garden Art Exhibition. The impact of Annam Art extended beyond Le Van De’s own creations, nurturing the talents of other artists such as Nguyen Gia Tri, To Ngoc Van, and Tran Van Can.

A Symbol of National Pride

Le Van De’s artistic prowess was not limited to canvas; he also played a significant role in the historical landscape of Vietnam. In 1945, his art adorned the stage during the Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Additionally, he was responsible for repainting the national flag, presenting the yellow three-striped design to Secretary of State Bao Dai. The Vietnamese flag, with its iconic visual representation, was subsequently proclaimed by the government on June 2, 1948.

Shaping the Future of Art

In 1954, the Saigon National Academy of Fine Arts was established, and Le Van De was appointed as its director by the government of the Republic of Vietnam. Under his leadership, the academy became a breeding ground for many renowned painters from the South, including Le Thanh Nhon and Do Quang Em. Le Van De’s dedication to nurturing the next generation of artists ensured the longevity and development of the art scene in Vietnam.

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Remembering Le Van De

Le Van De’s contributions to the world of art were immense, and his impact is still felt today. Although he passed away on March 16, 1966, in Saigon, his legacy lives on. To honor his contributions to the art world, the Saigon Academy of Fine Arts erected a statue of Le Van De in their schoolyard. Although the statue was demolished, it remains preserved at the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts, serving as a testament to his enduring influence.

Celebrating Le Van De’s Masterpieces

Le Van De’s talent gifted the world with an array of extraordinary artworks. His creations, such as “Vietnamese Tropical Forest,” “Summer Sun,” “The Girl in the Family,” “Three Boys,” “Girl,” “The Holy Maiden Carrying the Holy Child,” and “The Girl by the Pond Bridge,” continue to captivate audiences with their beauty and depth. These remarkable pieces showcase the versatility and skill of Le Van De, leaving an everlasting impression on all who behold them.

Le Van De
Image source: Caravansarai