signed 'ng Tri' (lower right)
lacquer on board
37 x 45 cm. (14 5/8 x 17 3/4 in.)
Collection of the Artist's Family

Brought to you by

Annie Lee
Annie Lee

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Lot Essay

The two lacquers presented here, Woman and Two Ladies by the ultimate master Nguyen Gia Tri, express an art form so unique to Vietnam. The artist takes us on a journey not only as a great artist in this field, but also as a theorist who, through hard work, epitomized the artistic and political Vietnamese history of the 20th Century, to share the elegance and beauty of his country and its inspiring history.

In 1924, Victor Tardieu founded the Indochinese College of Fine Arts, where he gathered closely a generation of the finest painters recognised all over the world today. In 1928, when Gia Tri entered the school, he mingled with artists such as Le Ph?, Mai Trung Th?, Nguy?n Phan Chanh in their fourth year, and To Ng?c Van and Vu Cao Ðam in their third. And Nguyen Gia Tri graduated in the same year as Nguy?n Tuong Lan and Nguy?n Cat Tu?ng (the famous inventor of the Vietnamese national costume, the ao dai).

The best person to choose the right words to talk about Nguyen Gia Tri was the renowned art critic, Claude Mahoudeau, who was not only a friend but also a keen collector of the painter. In 1943, he wrote in the magazine L'Indochine which was published and distributed in Hanoi the following lasting words:

"He has redefined grace..., this grace is the little something that clothes a woman of charm, of coquetry, of a beauty beyond physical beauty. This grace is a subtlety that resembles the smile of a line, the soul of a form, the spirituality of an object. All the seductions of the female at ease, the languor, the idleness, the strut, the lengthening, the nonchalance, the cadence of the poses, the suppleness of the feminine body and the play of the slender fingers on the grip of the fans. (...) The artist's works dazzled everyone."

The process of creating a lacquer is very laborious and technical. The application of multiple layers of coloured and clear lacquer, and having to let one layer dry before being able to apply the next one. After each layer is applied, the artist then uses fine sandpaper, along with charcoal powder and human hair, to carefully rub different parts of the painting in order to obtain the desired colour in each.

The two lots presented here show clearly the artist's mastery and great skill in his wide usage of egg shell and the particularly varied and rich shades in lacquer.

To truly appreciate the immense talent of this master artist, one need only to look closely at the details. The intense care he depicted the portrait on the wall; the grace shown in the lines of the lady combing herself or the lady languorously listening to music. The overall composition of both is replete in its creation of a lyrical poetic scene, which demonstrates the intense emotion of the artist. It could only be expressed by the use of an exceptional technique by an exceptional painter.

Jean-Francois Hubert
Senior Consultant - Vietnamese Art

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