Nguyễn Sỹ Ngọc Biography

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

Nguyễn Sỹ Ngọc (also written as Nguyễn Sĩ Ngọc) was born on 25 December 1919 in Tam Khương Commune, Thanh Trì District, Hanoi. He graduated from the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine as part of the 13th diploma course from 1939 to 1944. During the first days of the 1945 August Revolution, he became a member of the National Salvation Cultural Association. From 1957, Ngọc was a member of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association.1

Nguyễn Sỹ Ngọc
Portrait of Nguyễn Sỹ Ngọc. Courtesy of

During the First Indochina War against France, Ngọc joined the Việt Minh forces in South Vietnam. He worked as a soldier-artist in charge of the resistance theatre in the Military Zone 4, where he documented life in the Quảng Ninh coal mines, among other areas. Later, he worked at the Interregional Workshop IV, and from 1950 to 1954 worked as a lecturer at the Vietnam Fine Arts College in the Việt Bắc. There is documented evidence that in the mid-1950s he acted against the policy of the Communist Party of Vietnam to limit freedom of speech. For his participation in the journal Nhân Văn, he spent 1956-1959 in a re-education camp.2 Despite his political leaning, Ngọc won the 1951 and 1954 National Fine Arts Exhibitions.

From 1955 to 1965, he lectured at the Vietnam Fine Arts College, and became a Member of the Executive Board of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association from 1957 to 1983. He held the position of deputy secretary general of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association from 1957 to 1958. Between 1965 and 1973, he worked as a painter at the Vietnam Fine Arts Association, and later moved to work as an illustrator for Văn Nghệ (Arts and Literature Magazine) until 1975.

Ngọc specialized in lacquer, silk and oil, using these skills at the Vietnam Fine Arts College in training young painters. Ngọc is also well known for his book and magazine illustrations and criticising the Beaux-Arts programme. Some of his most notable pieces included Guerrillas by Cạnh Đường (watercolour, 1949), Camaraderie between the People and the Army (lacquer, 1949) and Taking of Quarter (lacquer, 1962).3

Nguyễn Sỹ Ngọc passed away on 6 April 1990 in Hanoi. A posthumous solo show was held in Hanoi in 1992 to honour Ngọc’s legacy of contribution to Vietnamese art.


  • Nguyễn Sỹ Ngọc, 1957, North Vietnam (exact location unknown). Ink on Vietnamese hand-made giấy dó paper. Collection of National Gallery Singapore.


Editions: Thế Giới, 100 Peintres et Sculpteurs Vietnamiens du 20th Siecle, 1996, LIKSIN, Ho Chi Minh City

Hội Mỹ Thuật Việt Nam, Nghệ sĩ tạo hình Việt Nam hiện đại (Ký Hệu Hội Viên), 2009, Nhà Xuất Bản Mỹ Thuật, Hà Nội


National Gallery, Singapore

Vietnam Fine Art Museum, Hanoi

Private international collections


1951 – Painting exhibition in Việt Bắc

1954 – First in National Art Exhibition in Hanoi

1992 – Posthumous solo exhibition in Hanoi

Official Roles

1950-1954 – Lecturer of Vietnamese Art School in Việt Bắc

1955-1965 – Lecturer of the Vietnam Fine Arts College

1957-1958 – Deputy Secretary General of Vietnam Fine Arts Association

1965-1973 – Painter of the composition of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association

1973-1975 – The painter for artist Văn Nghệ

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


Third Class Independence Medal

Third Class Labor Medal

Anti-American resistance war first class

Medal for the cause of Vietnamese Arts and Arts

Medal for the cause of Vietnamese art

2000 – Ho Chi Minh Prize for Art Literature II


  1. Nguyễn Sỹ Ngọc biography taken from independent research.
  2. Nora Taylor, Establishment of Indochina Fine Arts College and painting policy in colonial Vietnam, 1925-1945, Nghe Anh Culture Magazine, 22 January 2014.
  3. Editions: Thế Giới, 100 Peintres et Sculpteurs Vietnamiens du 20th Siecle, 1996, LIKSIN, Ho Chi Minh City.

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