Tran Phuc Duyen: A Journey Through Colors and Cultures

Painter Tran Phuc Duyen

Tran Phuc Duyen, an illustrious painter born on February 16, 1923, in Hanoi, devoted his life to the art of painting. Despite lacking the full support of his family, Duyen’s passion for the craft was unwavering. He ventured into the world of painting by passing the entrance examination to the Indochina Fine Arts College, specializing in Lacquerware in 1942.

The Early Years

Duyen’s talents blossomed in Hanoi during the years 1945-1954. Working from his studio on Grand Buddha Avenue, now known as Quan Thanh Street, he received numerous commissions from bourgeois households, French officials, and private companies. His exceptional lacquer works, including a screen with six landscape paintings of Sai Son, Thay Pagoda, were even chosen to be gifted to Pope Pius and exhibited at the Vatican.

During this period, Duyen fostered close friendships with esteemed contemporaries such as Nguyen Tien Chung, Bui Xuan Phai, Ta Ty, and Dinh Minh. Notably, his collaboration with Nguyen Tien Chung left an indelible mark on Duyen’s works, particularly those featuring Vietnamese girls.

A New Chapter: Paris and Beyond

In 1954, Duyen and his brothers Tran Phuc Chi and Tran Phuc Tuong immigrated to France, where he continued his artistic journey. He honed his skills under the tutelage of painter Jean Soverbie at the Ecole des Beaux Arts Paris. Despite the challenges of sourcing materials and creating suitable climatic conditions for lacquer in Europe, Duyen persevered. He researched and experimented, developing innovative methods for painting lacquer with the available resources.

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Duyen’s return to the art scene in France came in 1961 with a remarkable exhibition in Nice, featuring 20 lacquer paintings and 20 silk paintings. From 1961 to 1968, he held four additional solo exhibitions in Spain and Switzerland. In 1968, he decided to settle in Switzerland, where he held a total of 12 solo exhibitions from 1968 until his passing in 1993.

Tran Phuc Duyen’s Artistic Evolution

Duyen’s artistic career can be divided into three distinct periods. From 1945 to 1954, he focused on creating homogeneous lacquer works. The late 1950s to the 1970s marked a shift towards glossy lacquer paintings. Finally, from the late 1970s until 1993, he explored the fusion of ink and lacquer, producing abstract artworks.

Throughout his years abroad, Duyen’s creative spirit remained firmly rooted in his Vietnamese heritage. His favorite subjects included landscapes from the northern and central regions of Vietnam and modern Vietnamese girls adorned in the elegant ao dai. His artworks from this period emanated a sense of peace, freedom, and a deep connection to Buddhism.

Legacy and Lasting Impressions

Tran Phuc Duyen bid farewell to the world on September 9, 1993, at the age of 70. However, his artistic legacy lives on through his exceptional works. Some of his notable creations include “Upside Down Landscape,” “Back to Market,” “Temple of Literature,” “Midland Landscape,” “Ha Long Bay,” “Moon Night,” and “The Silence of Night.”

Let us take a moment to appreciate some of the remarkable artworks by Tran Phuc Duyen:

Water ball
Water ball, 45x57cm

Hoa An 3
Hoa An 3, 40x50cm

Road to the village
Road to the village, 32x30cm, lacquer

Messenger, 32x30cm, lacquer

Night sun
Night sun, 55×32.5cm

Landscape upside down
Landscape upside down, 50x100cm, varnish

Landscape of Middle Earth
Landscape of Middle Earth, 50x45cm, watercolor on silk

The silence of the night
The silence of the night, 32x30cm, varnish

Moon Night
Moon Night, 32x30cm, varnish

Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay, 50x40cm, varnish

Temple of Literature
Temple of Literature, 1946, 30x45cm, woodcuts and watercolors

Go to the market
Go to the market, 65×110cm each (Total 65x220cm), varnish

Capturing Memories in Frames

In addition to his stunning artworks, let’s delve into some cherished moments captured through photographs:

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Family photos of Tran Phuc Duyen
Family photos of Tran Phuc Duyen: From top to bottom and from left to right: Chi and Tai, parents, Vien, Tue, Truong, Duyen

Phuc My Wood Workshop
Phuc My Wood Workshop in Dang Dung of the family

Tran Phu's studio
Photo taken from a corner of Tran Phu’s studio

Tran Phuc Duyen in Ha Long Bay
Tran Phuc Duyen in Ha Long Bay around 1952-1953

Tran Phuc Duyen and family in Paris
Tran Phuc Duyen and his family in Paris – On the wall is an oil painting of Hoa An

Tran Phuc Duyen at the 1967 exhibition
Tran Phuc Duyen at the 1967 exhibition in Lugano, Switzerland

Visitors to the 1967 exhibition
Visitors to the 1967 exhibition in Lugano, Switzerland

1966 individual exhibition in Zurich
1966 individual exhibition in Zurich, Switzerland

Last individual exhibition in 1989
Last individual exhibition in 1989 in Bern, Switzerland

Jegenstorf Castle
Jegenstorf Castle, where Tran Phuc Duyen lived and composed between 1968 and 1993

Tran Phuc Duyen’s artistic journey encompassed a vibrant palette of colors and cultural experiences. His dedication to the lacquer medium and his unwavering passion for Vietnamese subjects left an indelible mark on the art world. Through his unique vision, Duyen captured the essence of Vietnam’s landscapes and people, preserving them for generations to come.

To explore more about Caravansarai and its captivating world of art, visit Caravansarai’s official website.