Nguyen Gia Triartist's profile
NGUYEN GIA TRI
(1908 - 1993)
Nguyen Gia Tri dominated the field of lacquer painting in Vietnam before 1945. His experiments with lacquer led him to create the best works of the medium in the early 1940s, which include By the Side of Restored Sword Lake and Spring Garden. The world in his paintings appears both real and unreal between layers of lacquer. The paintings typically glisten with a dazzling golden colour that creates a sense of balance, uniformity, rhythm and harmony, and highlights the outlines of human bodies and objects. The surfaces of his paintings are always even, flat and shiny like that of calm water. The different elements in his pictures combine into an entity of clear amber, creating a contrast of exuberance and quiet elegance. Nguyen Gia Tri was at his best in making folding screens depicting scenes of women and landscape.
Born in 1908 in Ha Tay Province and died in 1993 in Ho Chi Minh City
Graduate of the 1931-1936 class of the Ecole Superieure des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine
Recognized by the Ministry of Culture and Information as one of the ten painters who made the greatest contribution to the development of Vietnamese modern art
Main works: By the Side of Restored Sword Lake (lacquer), Spring Garden (lacquer), and By a Lotus Pond (lacquer).
Nguyen Gia Tri was born in 1908 in the Ha Dong district of Ha Tay province in North Vietnam. As a student at the L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts de L’Indochina in the 1930s, he was a leading force in turning lacquer painting from a decorative handicraft to a means of artistic expression. Working with other craftsmen, Tri combined foreign engraving and inlaying methods and the basic principles of European painting with new lacquer techniques for preparing, polishing and colouration. Faced with a very limited range of colours – transparent brown, black and a few reds – Tri and others produced new colours from various raw materials like crushed or inlaid eggshells to create pure and bluish white. A wider palate, subtle shading, and greater pictorial depth allowed lacquer painters to explore a wider range of subject matter and feeling.
Tri’s experiments with lacquer led him to create remarkable works with the medium in the early 1940s, which include By the Side of Restored Sword Lake and Spring Garden. The paintings characteristically shine with a dazzling golden colour that creates a sense of balance and uniformity, highlighting the outlines of human bodies and objects. The surfaces of his paintings are even, flat and shiny like the effect of calm water. The different elements in his pictures come together to produce a contrast of exuberance and elegance. Tri is highly regarded for his folding screens depicting scenes of women and landscape.
In 1989, Tri was officially recognized by the Ministry of Culture and Information as one of the ten painters who made the greatest contributions to the development of Vietnamese modern art.
Nguyen Gia Tri’s main contribution to modern Vietnamese art was his original idea of handling traditional craft materials and his success in elevating the status of lacquer painting to that of fine art. Having graduated from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts d’Indochine in 1936, his style is a combination of Western technique with Oriental aestheticism. The artist’s main concern was to search for a nationalistic culture outside of the French school. The artist did not restrict himself exclusively to the medium of oil on canvas and in 1936 he painted oil on silk for his graduation piece. He then produced lacquer work, which would make him an internationally known artist. Equally skilled in both oil and lacquer painting, his favorite subject is the rustic Vietnamese landscape.
This present lot was executed around 1941, a time when Nguyen Gia Tri was taken by the French government to a remote area where the minorities or ‘Muong’ people lived. He stayed there under house arrest during the anti-French movement with ample time to take in his surroundings. The landscape in this painting probably depicts the scenery where he was held with the typical Vietnamese straw huts in the foreground, the graduated farming land on the left and plenty of wild vegetation growing all around. Typical of Tri’s lacquer works, he depicts golden bamboo trees with reddish leaves and green banana trees with the use of green, blue and white eggshells to further define his subjects. The overall effect of the painting is rich and undulating, gold shimmers throughout, bringing rhythm and harmony to the painting. With this traditional and painstaking technique, Gia’s lacquer work is certainly Vietnamese landscape and culture at its best.