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.
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