Some of his masterpieces were created in the golden period of his career between 1937 and 1945. The first half of the 20th century was a tumultuous time in Vietnam. The wind of nationalism swept across the country, and like many other intellects at the time, Nguyen Gia Tri joined the movement. He was an important contributor to two newspapers “Phong Hoa” and “Ngay Nay”, which were anti French-controlled government. Many of his works during the golden period of his career centered on beautiful Vietnamese landscapes, which served as expressions of his patriotic sentiments.
“Provincial Village” is a rare lacquer masterpiece that was completed during Nguyen Gia Tri’s golden years. It is a 6 panel lacquer screen that contains all of Nguyen Gia Tri’s unique and well known lacquer elements; colored by the use of different shades of eggshells, red and black resin lacquer and gold pigments that shimmers throughout, resulting in an overall rich, harmonious and pleasing work of art. The painting depicts a distant view of a peaceful village in Vietnam, surrounded by mountains amid clouds, softly lit sky, golden bamboos trees accented by reddish leaves, houses by a gentle river covered with beautiful green banana leaves and lush vegetation. The couple on the left of the painting is resting with their water buffalo after a long work day. A family consisting of a mother and her children are finishing up their tasks before heading home. The central figure is pulling up on his horse nearby the slightly rippling river, enjoying a quiet moment while his horse and dogs drink of water.
These images all combine to decorate a picturesque provincial landscape that is eternal yet realistic. It is the unheralded beauty of Vietnam that is in the heart and soul of Nguyen Gia Tri and of the people, a tranquil oasis amid the raging war in Vietnam at the time. In this lacquer masterpiece, the patriotic Nguyen Gia Tri has immortalized the memories of Vietnam for the ages.
When looking at the "Provincial Village" by Nguyen Gia Tri, one is reminded of the poet Ba Huyen Thang Quang’s famous poem "Qua Deo Ngang”, an enduring patriotic and lyrical poem consisting of a stanza of 8 lines, 7 words with allegorical elements, which reads:
“Qua đèo Ngang”
Bước tới đèo Ngang bóng xế tà,
Cỏ cây chen đá, lá chen hoa.
Lom khom dưới núi tiều vài chú,
Lác đác bên sông chợ mấy nhà.
Nhớ nước, đau lòng con cuốc cuốc,
Thương nhà, mỏi miệng cái da da.
Dừng chân đứng lại: trời, non, nước,
Một mảnh tình riêng, ta với ta.
“Over Ngang's Pass"
Approaching Ngang's Pass at softly lit sundown
Foliage among rocks, tender flowers amidst leaves
At the mountain base, the woodcutters stoop
Along the riverbank, few small houses line
The "Nation-bird" cries for its country's fate
The "Family-bird" weeps yearning of his home
Stopping to gaze: heaven, mountains and river
Feel the deepest emotion only I know
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