The year 1937, Mai Trung Thu decided to move to France after teaching for six years in Vietnam. Together with Le Pho and Vu Cao Dam, the three artists formed a trio known to be the first Vietnamese artists working and residing in Paris. With the high demand of their works, exhibitions and achievements it carried them further away from home.
Mai Thu was a graduate of the famed École des Beaux Arts de Indochine, and was renowned for his simple, yet gentle brushstrokes and use of colour. He explored various mediums such as pencil, sanguine, oil and silk. In his yesteryears, among art-lovers Mai Thu was known to be the legend of drawing women with provocative little tear-drop eyes in his paintings.
Love, melancholy and innocence were persistent themes throughout his works, and the delightful Jeune Femme Allongée et sa Servante (1945), was the year which brought peace to the world. The combination of softness and elegant precision in his work is one such reveals the rhythmic style the artist so often displayed in his silk paintings – capturing our view directly to the beauty of the subject.
Inspired by French Masters such as Edouard Manet, Mai Thu often use similar subjects as a homage and combining them with Vietnamese silk painting technique – works such as Mona Lisa and Fontainebleau are great examples to describe the artist's character. This early piece is a series of successful efforts in the artist's mission to conciliate tradition with modernity and innovation, a common goal of all Art Forms during this period. A Vietnamese grand-dame, lounging on her lacquer daybed while being served by her loyal servant exudes this sensibility and captures the elegant, soft lines of the lady's figure. A fine presentation of Mai Thu's precision, skill and flair – resembles the style of Hanoi School's reputation of colour and light on silk paintings.
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