Lot 321
  • 321

NGUYEN NAM SON | Sunset on Trầm Mountain (Sài Sơn)

100,000 - 150,000 HKD
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  • Sunset on Trầm Mountain (Sài Sơn)
  • Signed
  • Oil on canvas
  • 65 by 80 cm; 25 1/2  by 31 1/2  in. 
  • Executed in 1943


Formerly in the collection of the artist, thence by descent
Private Asian Collection


This work is in good overall condition as viewed. There is evidence of light wear along the edges of the work due to frame abrasions, but this does not affect the overall image. There is some craquelure, but this is consistent with the age of the work. There are some tiny losses to the paint, but these are only visible upon very close inspection. Examination under ultraviolet light reveals areas of restoration, primarily on the edges of the work, at background and at trees. Inspection of the reverse of the painting reveals strip-lining along the edges of the work. Framed.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

In the early 1920s, Vietnamese painter Nguyen Nam Son (real name Nguyen Van Tho) had a chance to meet French artist Victor Tardieu (1870-1937) who arrived in Hanoi on the strength of a colonial scholarship. Tardieu brought the Vietnamese artist to France, where he perfected his craft and was tutored extensively on the blending and application of colors. This rendezvous was a pivotal point of Nam Son’s life, as he consequently gathered the necessary elements to form the basis of the future Indochina Fine Arts College (L’École des Beaux-Arts de l'Indochine) that he eventually cofounded alongside Tardieu A relic of Nam Son’s experiments from the year of 1943, Sunset on Trầm Mountain (Sài Sơn) is one of the artist’s studies into Western forms of art—the very same forms he offered as part of his school’s vigorous curriculum.

As a devoted artist, Nam Son had wide-ranging artistic interests, and he carried the same ambitions for the school. During a time when Vietnamese art took the form of predominantly lacquer and enamel work, Nam Son expressed an avid interest in the Western science of painting. Sunset on Trầm Mountain (Sài Sơn) is an example of the artist’s comprehension of nature, perspective and scale of color. The oil painting bears an obvious influence of Nam Son’s French tutors as it carries aspects of Impressionism in its rendering with loose, weightless brush strokes that still retain a realistic appearance.

The painting exudes a certain vibrancy that is unique to the Impressionistic style. A fiery magenta hue washes over the sky, while the flowers and grass in the foreground are nuanced with just enough detail. The overall ochre and earthy tones leave a tranquilizing impression, as though a rich patina has blanketed the painting over time. Having been acquainted with oil painting in a time when oil on canvas was seldom used, Nam Son follows Western methods of characterizing movement and expression in his painting as he demonstrates an observation of the concepts of anatomy and the study of nature. 

The artist continued to work as a lecturer at the Indochina Fine Arts College until the 1945 revolution, when the college was closed after 20 years of operation. Nam Son’s French training had allowed him to obtain a new energy to save Vietnamese art from decadence, and his talent, modesty and impartial attitude lived on to become legendary among his generation of students.