Trần Hoàng Sơn Biography

Second Generation Artist: Covered the Conflict in Vietnam with America

Trần Hoàng Sơnwas born on 24 May 1934 in Rạch Giá, Kiên Giang Province, the most south-westerly tip of Vietnam.1 Although land owners, his parents aided the Việt Minh by working for the resistance government.2

As a young boy of nine years old, Sơn acted as a messenger for the resistance elements in the town of Rạch Giá between August and December 1945 during the August Revolution. In 1946, he began pasting propaganda flyers and hanging flags as part of the resistance effort, officially joining the Rạch Giá Provincial Youth Union Saving the Country resistance movement in December 1947.

Trần Hoàng Sơn
Portrait of Trần Hoàng Sơn.

After being recognised for his artistic talent during his time with the Rạch Giá Provincial Youth Union, Sơn was given the responsibility of directing children distributing propaganda, a role which he held until December 1948. Subsequently, he was sent to study primary school education by the region’s art office from November 1949 to March 1952. He then joined the Political Department of the Armed Forces of Southwest Vietnam until January 1955.

He moved to North Vietnam in 1955, where he began work at the Hải Phòng Cultural Department in February as an exhibition artist until September 1959. In October, he enrolled in the intermediate course at the Vietnam Fine Arts College, graduating in August 1962. After finishing the course, he was sent to work for the Cultural Department of Bắc Cạn in the Việt Bắc, as a work experience requirement of the college to continue with further education. On his return to Hanoi in January 1964, he enrolled in the diploma course at the Vietnam Fine Arts College, graduating in January 1968 and served in the war until 1974.3

After graduating, Sơn joined the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) in February as an artist for Military Zone 5 where he sketched and painted the people he met as well as soldiers he encountered on his tour of duty. He initially painted in various medical clinics that tended to wounded soldiers in Quảng Nam.4

From March to October 1972, the PAVN and National Liberation Front (NLF) forces launched the Easter Offensive, attacking key military locations in South Vietnam. 

At the end of April 1972, Hoàng Sơn joined this push southwards and travelled from Quảng Nam Province to Bình Định Province. In the small village of Bồng Sơn, he recorded how forces belonging to the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam (PRG) began painting over Republic of Vietnam (RVN) flags and slogans after taking control of the village during the Easter Offensive. Sơn used Leningrad watercolour paints and sketched hurriedly to document the scenes around him. The village was retaken by RVN forces after a couple of days, forcing Sơn back to Quảng Nam.

For the first half of 1973, he and another soldier stayed with the local population in Phước Lảnh, Quảng Nam Province, where he documented their way of life and culture of fishing.

From August 1973, Sơn was an artist at a southern creative camp before joining thr Central Unification Committee in Hanoi. In April 1975, Sơn made his way to Saigon for the liberation of South Vietnam with the PAVN.

While in Saigon after Liberation, he worked as a cadre for the Liberation Bureau from May 1975, being steadily promoted until he joined the Ministry of Information and Culture for the South until October 1976.

When Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City, Sơn became an officer for the Ho Chi Minh City Information and Culture Department from November 1976 to June 1978 and put in charge of the Fine Arts and Culture Room until November 1979.

After leaving his home province twenty-four years previously, Sơn was made the artist for the Information and Culture Department of Kiên Giang Province from 1979 until 1987. After another stint at the Ho Chi Minh Information and Cultural Department, he served as deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum between January 1990 and January 1998.



Realism in Asian Art, 2010, The National Art Gallery, Singapore & The National Gallery of Contemporary Art, Korea

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


Witness Collection

National Gallery, Singapore

Vietnam Fine Art Museum, Hanoi

Ho Chi Minh City Fine Art Museum, Vietnam


2010 – Realism in Asian Art, The National Art Gallery, Singapore & The National Gallery of Contemporary Art, Korea

2018 – Sketches from the Resistance, Danang Museum of Fine Arts, Da Nang

2019 – Our People’s Army, Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum, Hanoi

Official Roles

1990-1998 – Deputy-director of Ho Chi Minh City Fine Art Museum. 


Medal For a Career in Literature

Medal for Vietnamese Fine Arts career


  1. Trần Hoàng Sơn Biography, Witness Collection.
  2. Life and Career: Trần Hoàng Sơn ArtistHo Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum.
  3. Realism in Asian Art, 2010, The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea and The National Art Gallery, Singapore.
  4. From paintings by Trần Hoàng Sơn, Witness Collection.

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