A blend of rich Vietnamese tradition and French allure, La Mystique de L’Indochine is a curated selection of paintings hailing from Vietnam’s halcyon days.
Featuring sentimentalized vignettes rendered in oil paint, watercolor and lacquer, this varied selection demonstrates the influence that Vietnam’s Golden Age of art (1930-1945) had throughout the 20th century. Inspired by idealized themes, artists found themselves entrenched in a heartening new canon of modern art, which ultimately developed into a delightful synthesis of Vietnamese and French artistic styles.
Many pioneers of Vietnamese modern art were trained at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts d’Indochine in Hanoi (EBAI), which was established by the French colonial government in 1925, under the direction of Victor Tardieu (1870-1937). These prominent artists mastered European techniques and media – notably oil painting; transferring the brushwork, life drawing, open-air painting and a particular use of colour to their own artistic tradition, creating a new visual identity for Vietnamese modern art.
In recent years, the Vietnamese fine art market has been attracting more attention. Paintings have commanded higher prices, and talented artists have emerged on the global stage in greater numbers. Artworks by Vietnamese artists began attracting an international audience in 1986, when the country opened its economy. Since then, Sotheby’s has played a part in helping to increase the profile of some of the nation’s greatest artists, bringing gems of Vietnamese art to the attention of the world. Over the past three decades, international collectors have driven interest in Vietnamese Art, but appreciation has increased recently, led by the enthusiasm of collectors in Vietnam.
In the 1940s, artists from EBAI gradually began to break away from the European style to forge their own style of artistic expression. Their experimentation often consisted of taking traditional media and applying it to stylistically more modern works. The use of lacquer, one of Asia's oldest artistic traditions, was a logical medium for Vietnamese artists seeking a new manner of expression. The idea behind this amalgam was initiated by a Frenchman, Joseph Inguimberty (1896-1971), who encouraged his students to combine modern painting with traditional lacquer techniques. Instead of focusing on traditional landscapes and religious figures, the artists began to diversify their subject matter.
Their vision of lacquer art changed, which marked a turning point in aesthetic expression, from functional style to poetic articulation. The height of Vietnamese lacquer art brought innovative and masterful approaches to the painting of picturesque scenes of Vietnamese landscapes, villages, and wonderful reinterpretations of traditional subjects such as deer, goldfish, figures and flowers.