Tripetta Vietnam
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Tripetta Vietnam

Artist To Ngoc Van’s life paints a different picture

Photograph of To Ngoc Van

To Ngoc Van was born in Hanoi in 1906 into a poor family. To make ends meet, Ngoc Van’s mother had to travel to different villages to sell goods; and this longing for stability eventually led the family to move to the countryside. Ngoc Van was left with his grandmother and aunt back in Hanoi.

Ngoc Van was fond of studying from the earliest moment, but books were expensive, and he had to rely on every penny his mother sent from the countryside. Despite this, he studied hard all through his adolescence and after finishing his third year at the Protectorate Secondary School he left for the Indochinese Fine Arts College where his talent for art attracted great attention.

Although his focus was on oil painting, Van also tried his hand at frescoes and silk paintings. He was fond of Vietnamese folk prints, Japanese wood carvings, Chinese watercolors, and the Impressionist Art of France. These French influences seeped into Van’s work because in college he grew acquainted with French art by the professors of the college, who were from France. He was also educated with some of his generation’s best artists, such as Le Pho, Mai Thrung Thu, and Nguyen Phan Chanh.

By the time he graduated in 1931, his work had appeared in prestigious Vietnamese-language art publications and was even sold at an art gallery in Ho Chi Minh City, then known as Saigon. Unfortunately for him, the early 1930s in Vietnam were a time of economic crisis, and Ngoc Van had to take on teaching positions to make ends meet.

Things started to get better for the artist in 1935 when his work was exhibited at a prestigious art exhibition in Hanoi for the public to view. He wrote essays about art in newspapers as others wrote essays about him in newspapers. He frequently participated in exhibitions of landscape paintings, but his love for the form died two years later.

He painted portraits of women in Vietnamese society. All the women he painted were occupied with important tasks. He thought of Italian art where women were doing nothing, as lame. The women his pictures were occupied because since childhood that is all he saw. His hard-working mother, doing everything to support the family, but still ending up penniless.

He painted young feminine figures with flowers. Flowers in Vietnam, symbolize serenity and beauty. White was one of his favorite colors. He used white on many objects in his paintings, including the aforementioned flowers.

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Tripetta Vietnam will explore Vietnamese culture, history, philosophies, art and everything else in between.

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