May 1964: Trần Viet Sơn in Hà Tĩnh Province

Between 1964 and 1966, Trần Viet Sơn returned to Hanoi and studied at the faculty of silk painting and wood engraving at the Vietnam Fine Arts College. On a scheduled assignment for the college, Sơn travelled to Hà Tĩnh Province on the north central coast of Vietnam. In the intimate sketch (fig. 1), Sơn depicts a man preparing a water pipe with tobacco. These simple bamboo pipes are still used in Vietnam today.

Figure 1: Trần Viet Sơn, February 1964, “Hút thuốc lào (Smoking water pipe tobacco).” Watercolour on machine-made paper.

As part of his trip, Sơn also travelled to Kỳ Phú Commune in Hà Tĩnh Province. In a sketch made there (fig. 2), Sơn depicts a guard post in Kỳ Phú, the shoeless model with his gun and webbing working on a strip of wire.

On the back of the painting, Sơn reveals more details, adding the inscription, “At the guard post; Trần Thăng Giai; (Trường CĐ Mỹ Thuật).” While we know that it was a depiction of a guard post, “Trần Thăng Giai” could refer to a name – possibly the man being sketched. In brackets, “Trường CĐ Mỹ Thuật” means “Fine Arts College,” a certain reference to the fact that the sketch was made on a college assignment.

Figure 2: Trần Viet Sơn, May 1964, Kỳ Phú commune, Hà Tĩnh Province. “Vọng Gác (Guard Post).” Graphite pencil on machine-made paper.

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