Huỳnh Văn Thuận Biography

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

Huỳnh Văn Thuận was born in the Bình Thạnh District of Saigon on 18 April 1921, into a family with no art tradition.[1] He began his art education in the School of Applied Arts of Gia Đinh, excelling to the point that, when he was in his third year, he went straight to the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine. After passing the entrance exam, Thuận moved to Hanoi in 1939 and joined the 13th diploma course. He graduated in 1944 and soon joined the resistance movement against the French, producing propaganda artworks to support the Việt Minh.

After the August Revolution, he painted for the Hanoi Information Office until 1946, whereby he joined the Central Youth Union in Việt Bắc (1947-1951) and then worked at the Fine Arts Department of enemy operations in Thái Bình until 1954. During this time, Thuận contributed to and organised exhibitions, sometimes collaborating with his contemporaries. In 1946, he and painter Lễ Phật organized an exhibition in Hanoi named “Two groups of graphic art exhibition,” featuring wood-coloured prints with propaganda content for the revolutionary movement. In mid-1951, in Việt Bắc, shortly after the National Youth Union Congress, he and painter Tôn Dức Lượng were assigned to draft the Youth Union trophy. His sketch was chosen by President Hồ Chí Minh as the symbol of the delegation, engraved underneath with the slogan, “Young man holding red flag stars gold forward”.

 “I specialized in drawing Uncle Hồ. I specialized in drawing paintings about Uncle Hồ to more exemplify his moral revolution; to exemplify Uncle Hồ’s morality.”

Ho Chi Minh City University of Fine Arts Online Journal, “Huỳnh Văn Thuận with Paintings,” Fine Art Information No. 17-18

In 1953, along with artists Lê Phổ and Bùi Trang Chước, Thuận worked for the State Bank of Vietnam and created the first portraits of Hồ Chí Minh for the country’s new banknotes. Thuận then took over capital and land reform until 1957. In 1957, Thuận became a founding member of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association, then instated as Deputy Secretary-General not long after joining.

Thuận was best known for his many revolutionary posters and for being a talented coromandel (engraved lacquer) artist. His paintings quickly gained national acclaim, which started to accumulate awards and prizes. He was awarded the First Prize in the National Art Exhibition in 1958, and Second Prize in 1960 and 1990.

After the war ended and Liberation Day in 1975, Thuận returned to Saigon – newly renamed as Ho Chi Minh City – and became Head of the Department of Fine Arts under the Ministry of Culture and Information (now the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism) from 1977 to 1979. Thuận held his position as Deputy Secretary General of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association until 1983, when he was promoted to Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association from 1983 to 1989.

Thuận was granted several State awards and medals during life lifetime as an artist. During his career working for various governmental institutions, he was awarded the Third-Class Independence Medal, Second-Class Resistance Medal, Anti-American Resistance Medal first class, Medal for the cause of Vietnamese Arts and Arts, Medal For the Younger Generation and Badge of 60 years old Party.[2]

His most recent spate of awards came from the State Awards for Literature and Arts in 2001, for artworks considered to be of national value. These included some of his most iconic paintings: Vinh Moc Village (1958); No title (1984); Cleaning and drying rice before storage (Làm Sạch Thóc Nộp Kho, 1981); Harvest Time in Vinh Kim Village (Ngày Mưa Ở Vĩnh Kim 1960-1997); and Tracks of the Enemy’s Tanks (Vết Xích Xe Tăng Giật, 1998).

Thuận passed away at the age of 96 in Ho Chi Minh City on 20 October 2017. The funeral ceremony was held at Ho Chi Minh City Funeral House on Lê Quý Đôn Street in District 3; he was buried at the Ho Chi Minh City Martyr and Cemetery of Credited People in Củ Chi District on 22 October that same year.[3]

GALLERY

  • 1950, "Yellow sunshine of the afternoon dyes deep the pink flag Dare whom to go to the battle and make achievement this trip This trip has to kill lot of westerners Destroy the enemy force, show up as a ""new hero""

Publications

Tran Co Ðong, Hoa si Huỳnh Văn Thuận, 2006, Nhà Xuất Bản Mỹ Thuật, Hà Nội

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

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

Vietnam 1954-1975: War Drawings and Posters From The Ambassador Dato’ N. Parameswaran Collection, 2015, National University of Singapore Museum, Singapore

Collections

Private international collections

Exhibitions

1946 – Thuận and painter Lê Phổ organized “Two groups of graphic art exhibition”, Hà Nội

2015 – Vietnam 1954-1975: War Drawings and Posters From The Ambassador Dato’ N. Parameswaran Collection, National University of Singapore Museum, Singapore

Official Roles

1945-1946 – Painter for the Hanoi Information Office

1947-1951 – Official for the Central Youth Union in Việt Bắc

1951-1954 – Worked at the Fine Arts Department and enemy operations in Thái Bình

1953 – Worked for the State Bank of Vietnam

1954-1957 – Managed land reform policy

1977-1979 – Director of the Department of Fine Arts, Ministry of Culture and Information

1957-1983 – Member of Executive Committee Deputy General Secretary of Vietnam Fine Arts Association

Until 1983 – Deputy Secretary General of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association

1983-1989 – Member of Executive Committee and Vice President of Vietnam Fine Arts Association

Awards

1958 – First Prize in the National Art Exhibition

1960 – Second Prize in the National Art Exhibition

1981 – Award for the complete work

1985 – First Prize for National Graphic Arts Exhibition

1987 – First Prize in the National Painting Competition

1990 – Second Prize in the National Art Exhibition

1995 – Second Prize in the National Painting Competition

1998 – Award of the Vietnam Association of Fine Arts in Hà Nội

2001 – State Award for Literature and Arts

Hà Nội Art Exhibition Award

Third Class Independence Medal

Second-Class Resistance Medal

Anti-American Resistance Medal first class

Medal for the cause of Vietnamese Arts and Arts

Medal for the Younger Generation and Badge of 60 years old Party

REFERENCES AND FOOTNOTES:

[1] Huỳnh Văn Thuận biography from Witness Collection Research Archives.

[2] Huỳnh Văn Thuận biography, Vietnamese Fine Art Magazine.

[3] Minh An (translated by Kim Khanh), Vietnamese master of lacquer painting passed away, Culture & Art, Saigon Newspaper Online, 20th October 2017.

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