The painter Hoang Tich Chu is a significant artist amongst his contemporaries Nguyen Tien Chung and Nguyen Khang and is best known for his lacquer works. Born near Bac Ninh, he studied at the École Supérieure des Beaux Arts de l’Indochine and graduated in 1941). Versatile across the mediums, he was part of the nationalist movements of his time. In 1945, he fought against the French presence in Vietnam and actively campaigned for the Vietminh. After a brief period spent in imprisoned, he taught lacquer painting at the Vietnam College of Fine Arts and eventually became the director of the Hanoi Institute of Applied Arts.
Behind the appearance of an easy life, the artist lived around two passions in his life: his wife Hoang Tuyet Trinh (1917-2012) and lacquer paintings. Unfortunately, very little works from the period before 1956 are found. In those days, the local political committee demanded he took out all his works, perceived as too bourgeois and decadent, to be burned on the streets. Consequently, Hoang did paint some more pictures aligned to the party line: for example, Labour Corporative Group in the Mountainous Area (1958) and Carrying Harvested Rice Home (1961), two magnificent paintings showing peasant women at work found at the Fine Art Museum of Hanoi.
The two lacquers presented here are significant for their dating, subject and technique. Created in 1986 and 1989, they illustrate perfectly the spirit of Doi Moi. The artist does not adhere blindly to the style of socialist realism prevalent then but insists on his own artistic style showing up.
Mother and Daughters is an introspective examination of simple Vietnamese daily life, where the artist emphasizes the richness of the material culture of a Vietnamese household, in spite of their modest wealth as symbolized by the small bowl on the ground in front of them. Completed three years later, Lady with a Fan takes on a different subject, more luxuriant and elegant in character. The lady depicted is with a fan, with a decorated fruit plate at her feet, sitting on a rug with an almost phantasmagoric fauna and flora around her.
From more austere times, Hoang Tich Chu’s oeuvre ranges from depiction of more austere times to a more familiar classical elegance and femininity. Between 1986 and 1989, the shift in character in his works becomes strikingly clear. The later work is enriched with golden and silver tones, and the artist’s ultimate message is clear: individualism is not taboo, and Lady with a Fan depicting his beloved wife shows the Vietnamese artist as an individual with free expression who can paint without restraint on theme or style.