Văn Đa Biography

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

Văn Đa was born as Nguyễn Văn Đa on 22 December 1928 in Hoàng Kim, Thơ Năm Commune, Hoài Đức District, Hanoi.1

Đa enlisted in the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) at the age of seventeen when he took part in seizing power at the Hanoi Peace Corps in the 1945 August Revolution.2 As part of the resistance against French colonialism, he began drawing for regiment and division newspapers. More specifically, Đa worked as a journalist for the 52nd Regiment of the West and a painter in Division 320 between 1947 and 1954. In 1955, he was the lead painter of the People’s Army Newspaper (Nhân Dân) until 1957, and contributed to the Military Arts School from 1963 to 1988.

Văn Đa
Portrait of Văn Đa in uniform.

He remained in the army for forty-three years and reached the rank of Colonel. It was during his time as a young serviceman that Đa met fellow artist Mai Văn Hiến who quickly became an admirer of Đa’s dedication, endurance and commitment to art.

In 1955, after the end of the First Indochina War, Văn Đa was sent on an intermediary course at Vietnam Fine Arts College in Hanoi by the army to study art in the fine arts department and graduated in 1957. In 1958, Đa enrolled in the Vietnam Fine Arts College on a diploma course and graduated in 1963. He became a Member of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association in 1963.

His dramatic drawings recorded the enormous sacrifices made by ordinary soldiers. He also painted the Long Biên Bridge many times, having seen it being blown up by American forces and rebuilt by the Vietnamese on almost a daily basis. The aerial bombardment of Long Biên Bridge only stopped when American POWs were put to work repairing the bridge.3

As a young artist in the army, Đa met the poet and artist Quang Dũng with whom he used to go on drawing expeditions with. Đa recorded daily events in the army, often drawing military action as it occurred. Equally, he drew aspects of daily life, including activities such as entertainment and education.4

Văn Đa passed away in Hanoi on 10 March 2008.


  • Văn Đa, 20 September 1965, Cát Bà Island. "Cát Bà (Woman's Island)." Ink on machine-made paper. Collection of National Gallery Singapore.


Jessica Harrison-Hall, Vietnam Behind the Lines, Images from the War: 1965-1975, 2002, Art Media Resources Ltd, Chicago

Il drago e la Farfalla, Arte Contemporanea in Vietnam, Gangemi Editore, 2006,


British Museum, London

Vietnam Fine Arts Museum, Hanoi

Vietnam Fine Arts Association, Hanoi

Private international collections


1976 – Second Prize, National Art Exhibition

1980 – B Diploma, National Art Exhibition

1992 – First Capital City Art Exhibition

1985 – Second prize in graphics and illustrations of the National 10-Year Graphic Exhibition 2001 – State Prize for Art Literature

2005 – Persistent Vestiges: Drawing from the American-Vietnam War, The Drawing Centre, SoHo, New York, USA

2006 – Il drago e la Farfalla, Complesso del Vittoriano, Rome, Italy

Official Roles

1947-1954 – Journalist for the 52nd Regiment of the West and painter in Division 320

1955-1957 – Lead painter of the People’s Army Newspaper

1963-1988 – Contributed to the Military Arts Studio


Third Class Independence Medal

Military Order of the Third Class

Anti-American War Medal of First Resistance, Third Order of Victory Medal, Military Victory Medal

Medal for the cause of Vietnamese Arts and Arts

Medal for the cause of Vietnamese art

Medal for the cause of culture and information


  1. Van Da biography compiled from independent research by Witness Collection.
  2. Sports & Culture, “Painter Van Da in the corner of the body,”  VnExpress Entertainment, Friday 12 April 2002.
  3. Jessica Harrison-Hall, Vietnam Behind the Lines, Images from the War: 1965-1975, 2002, Art Media Resources Ltd, Chicago.
  4. Văn Đa,” British Museum.
  5. Văn Đa Biography, The Vietnam Fine Arts Association.

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