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