Story: Thu Huong
Photos: Vietnam Fine Arts Museum
The Fine Arts Museum is home to works by the most revered painters of Vietnam, including the painting Two Girls and a Child (1944), one of the national treasures of Vietnam.
The Fine Arts Museum in Hanoi boasts a collection that traces the evolution of Vietnamese art from prehistoric times to the modern day. The building itself blends Eastern and Western architectural motifs, and was originally a dormitory for daughters of French officials who studied in Hanoi. It opened to the public as a museum in 1966.
The Fine Arts Museum now has nearly 20,000 valuable artworks and artifacts, including a collection by revered painters such as Nguyen Gia Tri, To Ngoc Van, Tran Van Can, Nguyen Phan Chanh and Luong Xuan Nhi.
Located in the Indochinese fine arts gallery on the second floor of the display hall, the painting Two Girls and a Child by artist To Ngoc Van (1906-1954) is displayed in tandem with works by other contemporaries. The painting depicts inner tranquility, with two young women wearing graceful áo dài chatting on the veranda next to a toddler at play. The three characters are placed in a triangular perspective in a scene that casts an air of silence, balance and serenity.
To Ngoc Van strikes a sublime balance between the natural setting of the flora growing in the background and the gentle, expressive postures of the two women. The triangular perspective in the vertical layout of the three characters is a classical perspective from Western fine art; however, the bamboo pallet, bamboo window blinds, white-flowered hibiscus tree and traditional áo dài of the female characters express a quintessentially Vietnamese setting of the early 20th century.
To Ngoc Van graduated from the Indochina College of Fine Arts in 1931 and is known as one of the four giants of contemporary Vietnamese fine arts. He was honored with the First-Rank Medal of Independence and Ho Chi Minh Awards in Literature and Arts in 1996. His work Two Girls and a Child was created at the apex of his oil career, which reflects the artist’s style of adopting Western techniques and blending them with a strong Asian perspective.
The Vietnam Fine Arts Museum has a collection of 59 works To Ngoc Van in a wide array of media: oil, lacquer, silk, watercolors, pencil, ink and woodcutting, across a time range from 1932 to 1954. Alongside other national treasures, The Two Girls and a Child is a key highlight in the contemporary fine art collection of the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum, an enticement for art lovers to pay the museum a visit.