Born in 1906 in the province of Ben Tre to a wealthy South Vietnamese family, Le Van Dê is considered a leader of Vietnamese silk painting, and a major contributor to the development of Modern Painting in the country. He was in fact the first of the profoundly talented École des Beaux Arts students, such as Georges Khanh, Le Pho, Mai Trung Thu, Nguyen Phan Chanh and Cong Van Trung, who eventually all became pioneers of Modern Vietnamese Art in the 1930s.
Mastering silk, watercolor, gouache and oil, Le Van Dê in 1931 was granted study in Europe, where he received tremendous merits from his many exhibitions, including second place in the 1932 Salon des Artistes in Paris, and the responsibility to design the Indochinese and Asian showrooms of the Vatican's International Catholic Exhibition in Rome.
The present Lot, Mother and Child (1938), represents the important theme of Catholicism, a theme Le Van Dê visited throughout his career. In 1936, he won first prize and the Pope's Medal from the Supreme Pontiff for his Madonna and the Child. The first Vietnamese artist in history to achieve such an honor, the painter was touched by this act of grace, and converted to Catholicism that same year.
Like the delicate nature of the silk medium itself, Le Van Dê's style emphasized refined touches of color, purity of form, and melodious arrangement of material. In 1939, Van Dê followed his dream to return to Vietnam. He eventually became founder and director of the Saigon Superior School of Fine Arts, where he left a lasting legacy as a visionary who brought together the traditional with the modern in the art and lives of the Vietnamese people.
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