Second Generation Artist: Covered the Conflict in Vietnam with America
Trần Viet Sơn was born as Trần Thăng Giai on 31 March 1935 in La Hà village, Quảng Văn Commune, Quảng Trạch District in Quảng Bình Province.1 Giai took the name Trần Viet Sơn (translated as Vietnamese Mountain) when he joined the army during the First Indochina War.2
After completing French-Vietnamese primary education, he attended a junior soldier school in Military Zone 4. In 1950 he studied at a secondary school in Kỳ Anh, Hà Tinh Province, where his family sought refuge during the resistance war.
From 1952 to 1954 he fought battles in the Tây Bắc and at Ðiện Biên Phủ as an armed soldier with the E76-F316 troop.
In 1958 he was appointed by the troop to study at the Vietnam Fine Arts College in Hanoi. From 1961 to 1964 he studied at the faculty of graphic arts at the All-Ukrainian Art Institute in Kiev, Soviet Union. Between 1964 and 1966 he returned to Hanoi and studied at the faculty of silk painting and wood engraving at the Vietnam Fine Arts College.
After graduating the Vietnam Fine Arts College in 1966, he worked for the Propagating and Training Department in Military Zone 5, as well as the Literary Arts Association of the Mid-Central Region for Liberation. From 1967 to 1971, he spent four years on the battlefield, subsequently working as a painter in the Literary Arts Creation Camp of South Vietnam.
Between 1975 and 1979, Sơn was a PhD student at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. During this time, Sơn skilfully combined pure Việt folk subjects with scientific European printing techniques, developing a simple and unostentatious body of work that was praised for its beauty. His solo exhibition was held in 1979 at the academy.
Between 1980 and 1985 he lectured at the Vietnam University of Fine Arts and was appointed the vice president of the graphic art faculty as well as vice director of the University. From 1985 to 1997 he held positions as director of the Training Department, director of the Institute of Fine Arts and director of the Fine Arts Department at the Ministry of Culture. Sơn was granted the honorary title of associate professor in 1999 by the Vietnam University of Fine Arts.
He retired in 1999 despite continuing to lecture master students at fine arts programmes in several art universities. He also designed posters and participated in many international exhibitions, such as As seen by both sides: American and Vietnamese artists look at war in Boston and Vietnam between 1991 and 1994; The birth of Modern Art in Southeast Asia in Fukuoka (Japan) in 1997; and, Vietnam-ASEAN Fine Arts Exhibition by Philip Morris from 1996-1998. He exhibited in other countries including Australia, Brunei, France and Madagascar.
Sơn’s works are kept in the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum, the Ho Chi Minh Museum of Fine Arts and the Vietnam Fine Arts Association, in addition to private collections around the world.
Trần Viet Sơn passed away at the age of 77 in Hanoi on 13 February 2009.
Thắng Giai, Trần Viet Sơn, 2010, Nhà Xuất Bản Mỹ Thuật, Hà Nội
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 Fine Arts Museum, Hanoi
Ho Chi Minh Museum of Fine Arts, Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam Fine Art Association, Ho Chi Minh City
Private International Collections
1979 – Solo exhibition at the University of Graphic Arts, Dresden University, Germany
1991 – As seen by both sides: American and Vietnamese artists look at war, Indochina Art Project and the William Joiner Foundation, University of Massachusetts, Boston
1997 – The birth of Modern Art in Southeast Asia, Fukuoka, Japan
1996-1998 – Vietnam-ASEAN Fine Arts Exhibition by Philip Morris, Bangkok, Thailand
2006 – Il drago e la Farfalla, Complesso del Vittoriano, Rome, Italy
1966 – worked for the Propagating and Training Department in Region 5, as well as the Literary Arts Association of Mid-Central Region Liberation
1980-1985 – Lectured and appointed Vice President of the Graphic Art Faculty and Vice Director of the Vietnam University of Fine Arts
1985-1997 – Director of the Training Department, Director of the Institute of Fine Arts and Director of the Fine Arts Department at the Ministry of Culture
1999 – Associate Professor at the Vietnam University of Fine Arts
1981 – Poster design award, Red Cross Organization, Russia
1982 – International book award, Leipzig
1984 – Poster design award, FAO, UNICEF
1985 – Graphic art design award, Vietnamese artists association