Nguyen Tuong Tam, also known as Nhat Linh, was a renowned Vietnamese painter and writer. He co-founded the influential Tu Luc Van Doan cultural association with his literary friend Khai Hung. Born in 1906 in Haiduong, Nguyen Tuong Tam was a part of the first group of students at the Hanoi School of Fine Arts, where he studied alongside notable artists such as Le Pho, Nguyen Phan Chanh, and Mai Trung Thu.

Pursuing His Passions

Despite his talent for drawing, Nguyen Tuong Tam made the bold decision to study abroad in France in 1927. He left the School of Fine Arts and embarked on a career in journalism and writing. This move surprised his professors, particularly the esteemed artist and director Victor Tardieu. At that time, the French authorities were uncertain about the future of Indochina, as the region underwent significant social and political changes. In 1930, Nguyen Tuong Tam obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and Chemistry and returned to Vietnam.

The Independent Artist

Nguyen Tuong Tam continued to create silk paintings and held exhibitions in Hanoi, Saigon, and Nam Vang. Although the exact number of his paintings from this period remains unknown, they showcase his talent and commitment to becoming an “independent artist.” Simultaneously, he gained recognition as a revolutionary novelist, drawing the attention of French spies.

A Life in Politics

From 1928 to 1963, Nguyen Tuong Tam was actively involved in politics. After 1929, he ceased painting to focus on founding the Phong Hoa newspaper in Hanoi, which became well-known for its innovative and progressive ideas, driving social and educational advancement. Despite his literary and political prowess, few people knew about his contributions to the art world. Nguyen Tuong Tam’s paintings were rarely preserved, making the surviving pieces, such as the Indochina Market Scene, highly valuable relics that shed light on his influential legacy as one of Vietnam’s pioneering artists.

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Legacy and Works

Nguyen Tuong Tam passed away on July 7, 1963, leaving behind a remarkable body of work. Some of his notable paintings include “Scenery of Indochina Market,” “Orchid Flower,” “Old Chrysanthemum,” “Bourges Cathedral,” and “Grenade.” These artworks showcase his diverse artistic style and mastery of silk painting. Additionally, photographs of Nguyen Tuong Tam, such as those taken in Tao Dan Garden in 1954 or alongside his wife in Da Lat, provide a glimpse into his personal life.

For more information on the life and works of Nguyen Tuong Tam, visit Caravansarai, an online resource dedicated to promoting diverse cultural traditions.

Painter Nguyen Tuong Tam
Painter Nguyen Tuong Tam

Scenery of Indochina Market
Silk fabric “Scenery of Indochina Market” (Scène de Marché de rue Indochinois), 20×36cm. At Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong in October 2010, it fetched HKD 596,000.

Orchid Flower
“Orchid Flower” 1957

Old Chrysanthemum
“Old Chrysanthemum,” Hong Kong, 1948

Bourges Cathedral
“Bourges Cathedral,” Paris, 1954

“Grenade” 1957

Da Lat Landscape
“Da Lat Landscape” in 1958

Nguyen Tuong Tam walking with her grandchildren
Nguyen Tuong Tam walking with her grandchildren, Tao Dan Garden in 1954

Nguyen Tuong Tam with his wife in Da Lat
Nguyen Tuong Tam with his wife in Da Lat