Vietnamese art has a long and rich history, the earliest examples of which date back as far as the Stone Age around 8,000 BCE.

With the millennium of Chinese domination starting in the 2nd century BC, Vietnamese art undoubtedly absorbed many Chinese influences, which would continue even following independence from China in the 10th century AD. However, Vietnamese art has always retained many distinctively Vietnamese characteristics.

By the 19th century, the influence of French art took hold in Vietnam, having a large hand in the birth of modern Vietnamese art.

Vietnam Modern Art includes artistic work which materialized during the colonial period between the 1860s and 1970s. This significantly attributed to the founding of “Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine” (EBAI) in October 1925. Before 1925, paintings and carvings were mainly created for religious purposes in a decorative manner. For example lacquered furniture and utilitarian ceramic and porcelains, meeting demands by local temples and pagodas.

A striking “shift” was obvious after the founding EBAI, marking a gradual change in the perception of art, and the beginning of recognition of art for art’s sake. Vietnamese artists experimented with new ways of seeing, with ideas from two important French teachers. This period saw an intensifying cultural transfer and the advent of modernity.

EBAI was founded by Victor Tardieu, a French academic and naturalist painter. Sent to work with the Government of Indochina, Victor Tardieu recommended setting up a school “EBAI in Indochina” to train true artists. Unlike “Ecole professionnelle” in Hanoi, “Ecole des Arts Cambodgeins” and another three schools set up in Cochinchina between 1902 – 1913 which schools were set up to train professional craftsmen. Tardieu’s idea was to adapt the existing curriculum used in “Ecole des Beaux-Arts” in Paris by including art history and technical courses such as oil painting and perspective. He planned to “help the Vietnamese artist to get back in touch with the deep meaning and fundamental inspiration of their own traditions”.

The magazine publications Ngày Nay (‘Today’) and Phong Hoá (‘Mores’) which were associated with Tự Lực văn đoàn (Self Reliance Literary Association), were committed to modernising Vietnamese culture through the crucial combination of both Vietnam’s tradition and Western modernity. Students in the EBAI were columnists in these two weekly magazines, illustrating cartoons and exhibition information. The stylized cartoon illustrations were in fact very modern, depicting simple messages.


Following closely the curriculum of Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Paris, oil painting was first introduced to students as a completely new medium. Although western art, in this case, oil painting, was likely first encountered by Le Van Mien (1873-1943) in L’Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux- Arts de Paris, who returned to Hanoi in 1895, no record shows that he taught and trained craftsman in this western medium. Oil painting was completelyunknown to the students, and Joseph Inguimberty thought it would be hard for students to assimilate oil painting techniques. Artists like To Ngoc Van was able to combine western aesthetic techniques (like linear perspective, imitation of nature, and modelling in the round) into his own oriental traditions. Stylized as the ‘poetic reality’ style, his works set female ideals into a linear perspective in an enclosed space, juxtapositioned with a flat coloured area. His works simulate idealization imagery.

Ngoc Van, Deux Jeunes filles et un enfants, 1944, oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Hanoi

Artists Include:

Artists – Vietnam – Bui Huu Hung

Bui Huu Hung

Artists – Vietnam – Dao Hai Phong

Dao Hai Phong

Artists – Vietnam – Lê Phu

Lê Phu

Artists – Vietnam – Le Thanh Thu

Le Thanh Thu

Le Ngoc Thanh Artist Vietnam

Le Ngoc Thanh

N-Co_-50-x-45 Rice paddy

N Co

Na-Hanh-97-x-97 Chess Players

Na Hanh

Nguyen van Cuong Artist Vietnam

Nguyen van Cuong

Nguyễn Văn Linh Artist Vietnam

Nguyen Van Linh

Artists Malaysia

Tran Luu Hao