First Generation Artist: École des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine French Influenced
Hoàng Tích Chù was born on 18 February 1912 in Phù Lưu village, Từ Sơn District, Bắc Ninh Province in the Red River Delta. His father, Hoàng Tích Phụng, a Confucian scholar, taught at the Tonkin Free School (Đông Kinh Nghĩa Thục), helped organize the Đông Kinh Nghĩa Thục Movement and worked at the district’s translation department. He later worked as a district officer. After Hoàng Tích Phụng and another official, Nguyễn Quyền, opened a class for young students, they were seized and put under house arrest. Hoàng Tích Phụng passed away in 1940.1
At 15 years’ old, Chù joined the Vietnam Restoration League (Việt Nam Quang Phục Hội), a secret patriotic society, which organized and financed Chù’s studies in France in order to expand his intellectual interest. In 1929, Chù attended the preparatory class of the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine. Due to his family’s difficult circumstances, Chù studied intermittently and had to take multiple exams in order to graduate.
In 1936, after he passed the entrance exam for the diploma course, Chù studied in the 11th course of the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine alongside other notable artists such as Nguyễn Văn Tý, Nguyễn Tiến Chung, Trần Văn Lắm and Bùi Trang Chọc.2 During his time as a student, Chù also spent three months in Cambodia painting Angkor Wat, monks and the local population. He exhibited these works alongside painters Bùi Trang Chọn and Nguyễn Văn Huệ, winning the Angkor Award.
Graduating in 1941, Chù then opened a painting and lacquer workshop on Hàng Khoai Street, Hanoi. Chù was one of the first four painters to attend the Unique Salon as well as FARTA exhibitions in Hanoi. In 1944, he served as head of the department at the Đông Phương Drama Board. During this time, Chù established a classic style of lacquer art, concentrating on pagodas and landscapes. It was also at this time that Chù began a lifelong friendship with Hoàng Tuyết Trinh, a female journalist who also acted as a valuable partner throughout Chù’s career and, later, became his wife.
After the August Revolution, Chù was made one of the first lecturers of the Hanoi Fine Arts College after the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine reopened in Hanoi in 1946. With the increasing mobilization of the Việt Minh, and the figurehead that Hồ Chí Minh had become, Chù’s artistic style changed from a classic to a realistic interpretation of his surroundings, like many artists, dedicating the majority of his paintings to the subject of Hồ Chí Minh. In 1946, Chù participated in the August Fine Art Exhibition, on the 1-year anniversary since Hồ Chí Minh’s declaration of independence, receiving the government prize with painter Trần Văn Cẩn and the sculptor Nguyễn Thị Ki.
In the atmosphere of building nationwide resistance against French colonial rule, Chù and his family returned to their countryside home in Bắc Ninh Province, taking an active role in the Vietnam Resistance War Association (Hội Liên Việt Kháng Chiến). Shortly after, Chù moved to District 12, where he participated in the district’s propaganda effort and taught short-term art classes for the army. In 1947, during a raid by French forces, he and his family were surrounded and forced to return to Hanoi. While there, Chù was admitted into the Communist Party of Vietnam and participated in clandestine resistance activities, which led to his arrest on 23 April 1953.
After the end of the First Indochina War, Chù resumed teaching at the Hanoi Fine Arts College. He collaborated with Nguyễn Đức Nùng and Nguyễn Văn Tý to establish a decorating curriculum for the college, while at the same time writing his own lacquer textbook. He also collaborated with Huỳnh Văn Thuận to paint a portrait of Hồ Chí Minh hung in the Hanoi Opera House.
In September 1955, Chù was sent to the Warsaw Youth Festival in Poland, accompanied by Đỗ Nhuận, Thế Lữ and, secretary of the delegation, journalist Bùi Sơn Tùng. Returning in 1957 to teach once again at the Hanoi Fine Arts College, Chù was one of the founding members of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association, which was established in the same year.
Bùi Sơn Tùng, journalist and secretary of the delegation sent to Warsaw in 1955.
In 1958, Chù completed what is considered to be a cornerstone piece of lacquer art (Ancestors of the Royal Palace), which became famous for its rich colour palette. In the same year, he attended the National Fine Art Exhibition and won third prize. In the ensuing years, Chù exhibited in Moscow (1958-1959), across the United Soviet Socialist Republics (1959-1960), and India (1960) where he won first prize.
In 1960, he took part in the decoration of the National Assembly Hall for the third Party Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam, which he completed to great acclaim.
On its foundation in 1969, Chù was made and president of the Hanoi Fine Arts Institute until his retirement. In this role, he regularly recruited rural artisans and craftsmen to teach at the institute and make art pieces for the National Institute of Fine Arts. He retired in 1976.
On 1 September 2000, President Trần Đức Lương signed the decision to award the Ho Chi Minh Prize of Arts and Literature to Chù, for the works Exchanging Paddy Rice (lacquer, 1958), Afterlife (lacquer, 1966), Uncle Ho Planted Trees With Children (lacquer, 1971) and Harvest Season (lacquer, 1970).
Hoàng Tích Chù passed away on 20 October 2003 at 93 years old. He was buried in his home village of Phù Lưu, Từ Sơn District, Bắc Ninh Province.
Vietnam Fine Arts Museum
1946 – August Fine Art Exhibition
Unique Salon exhibition
1944 – Head of the department at the Đông Phương Drama Board
1946 – Lecturer at the Hanoi Fine Arts College
1946-1947 – Teacher at the resistance art school in District 12
1957 – Founding member of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association
1960 – Head decorator of the National Assembly Hall for the third Party Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam
1969-1976 – President of the Hanoi Fine Arts Institute
1936 – Third prize at SEDEAI exhibition
1937 – Second prize at SEDEAI exhibition
1946 – Government prize at the August Fine Art Exhibition
1955 – First prize for decoration at the 5th National Literature Congress
1958 – Third prize at the National Fine Art Exhibition
1960 – First prize at the International Art Exhibition in India
1960 – Third prize at the National Fine Art Exhibition
1986 – Award for the Hanoi Fine Art Exhibition
1990 – Award for the Hanoi Fine Art Exhibition
2000 – Ho Chi Minh Prize of Arts and Literature
Award Certificate for 27-nation exhibition in India
Award certificate for graphics exhibitions in Poland and Germany
1983 – First rank Labor Medal
Second rank Resistance Medal
First rank Resistance Medal against the United States
Medal for Vietnam Paintings Career
REFERENCES AND FOOTNOTES:
- Trần Minh Thư, “A healthy person like the artist Hoàng Tích Chù,” 26 January 2014. Visited on 18 June 2019.
- “Hoang Tich Chu – Worthy lyricist in lacquer painting,” 28 June 2017. Visited on 18 June 2019.