Nguyễn Văn Tỵ Biography

First Generation Artist: École des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine French Influenced

Nguyễn Văn Tỵ was born on 24 February 1917 in Hanoi. From 1934-35 he undertook his preparatory studies at the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine and subsequently enrolled in the 11th diploma class of 1936, from which he graduated in 1941. Fellow classmates included Hoàng Tích Chù and Nguyễn Tiến Chung.

Nguyễn Văn Tỵ
Portrait of Nguyễn Văn Tỵ. Courtesy of Witness Collection.

In 1936, Tỵ won first prize at an exhibition organized by Société Annamite D’Encouragement à l’Art et à l’Industrie (Annamese Society for the Encouragement of Art and Industry (SADEAI)), a society of artists and artisans that operated from 1935-39 of which Victor Tardieu was the first chairman. Over the next few years, many of Tỵ’s works were sent abroad to take part in international exhibitions in Paris, Brussels, Indonesia and San Francisco. In the summer of 1942, he visited and painted at Angkor Wat in Cambodia and, in 1943, as part of a cultural exchange with Japan involving Japanese artist Fujita Tsuguharu (1886-1968), Tỵ was invited with Nam Sơn and Lương Xuân Nhị to research and exhibit in Tokyo, Kyoto and Kobe. From 1943-1944, Tỵ worked as a stage decorator for Thế Lữ Theater Company in Hanoi.1

“In the late 1930s and 1940s, titanium white powder was not available to colour lacquer paintings. So, he used a large amount of eggshells and oyster shells to get the white colour in his lacquer paintings… We are proud of Nguyễn Văn Tỵ because of his efforts to develop Vietnamese fine art”

Trần Khánh Chương, chairman of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association, as quoted in “Fine Arts Association Celebrates Artist’s 100th Birthday,” 27 February 2017, Việt Nam News

In 1946, Tỵ joined the teaching staff of the Vietnam Fine Arts College but, soon after, became involved in the anti-colonial resistance effort. During the August Revolution against the French, Tỵ’s roles included writing for newspapers, making propaganda posters and teaching art students in the Việt Bắc. Tỵ also made art works at the front, including documenting experiences at the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ.

On his return to Hanoi after the First Indochina War, he taught at the Vietnam Fine Arts College (Trường cao đẳng Mỹ thuật Việt Nam), a post that he held until 1969. He was also appointed as the first Secretary General of the Fine Arts Association of Vietnam from 1957-58. During the late 1950s and 1960s, many of Tỵ’s paintings were shown at national art exhibitions. In addition, some of his works were selected in 1960 to be part of a travelling exhibition in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. In 1965, his work won the silver medal at an international exhibition of graphic arts in Leipzig in the then Democratic Republic of (East) Germany.

Nguyễn Văn Tỵ passed away in Hanoi on 19 January 1992. In 2001, he was posthumously awarded the Hồ Chí Minh Prize for his contribution to the arts. His works are in the permanent collections of the State Museum of Oriental Art in Moscow and the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum in Hanoi.2


  • Nguyễn Văn Tỵ, May 1949, Sầm Sơn, Thanh Hóa Province. Graphite pencil on machine-made paper. Collection of National Gallery Singapore.


Editions: Thế Giới, 100 Peintres et Sculpteurs Vietnamiens du 20th Siecle, 1996, LIKSIN, Hồ Chí Minh


National Gallery, Singapore

State Museum of Oriental Art, Moscow

Vietnam Fine Art Museum, Hanoi

Private international collections


1937 – SADEAI exhibition

1942 – Solo exhibition in Hanoi

1944 – Solo exhibition in Bắc Giang

1965 – Leipzig Raffia Art Exhibition

1971 – Solo exhibition in Hanoi

1988 – Solo exhibition in Hanoi

Official Roles3 4

1945 – Executive Member of the Central Cultural Association

1946 – Lecturer of the College of Fine Arts of Vietnam

1947-1950 – Member of the Executive Committee of Cultural Resistance, painter of laboratory workshop IV  and art teacher in Interzone IV

1951-1954 – Lecturer of the Vietnamese School of Fine Arts in Việt Bắc

1957-1970 – Lecturer of the Vietnam Fine Arts College

1957-1958 – Appointed as the first Secretary General of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association

1957-1970 – Professor at the Vietnam Fine Arts College

1957-1983 – Member of the Executive Board of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association, Course I

1957 – Member of the Executive Committee of the Union of Arts and Crafts in Vietnam

1983-1989 – Member of Executive Board of Vietnam Fine Arts Association, Course II

1989-1994 – Member of the Central Art Council III


1937 – Gold Medal at SADEAI exhibition

1939 – Outstanding diploma awarded by SADEAI

1965 – Silver medal at the Leipzig Raffia Art Exhibition

2001 – Posthumously awarded the Hồ Chí Minh Prize

Third Class Independence Medal

Second-Class Resistance Medal

First Class Anti-American Resistance Medal

Medal for the cause of Vietnamese Arts and Arts


  1. Dr. Le Van Suu, head of the Vietnam Academy of Fine Arts, quoted in Vietnam News.
  2. Nguyễn Văn Tỵ biography from independent research compiled by Witness Collection.
  3. Editions: Thế Giới, 100 Peintres et Sculpteurs Vietnamiens du 20th Siecle, 1996, LIKSIN, Hồ Chí Minh
  4. Vietnam Fine Art Magazine.

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