NGUYEN GIA TRI (Vietnamese, 1908-1993)
NGUYEN GIA TRI (Vietnamese, 1908-1993)

Se souvenir des belles choses (Beautiful Memories)

NGUYEN GIA TRI (Vietnamese, 1908-1993)
Se souvenir des belles choses (Beautiful Memories)
signed and dated 'Ng Tri/1960' (lower right)
lacquer on board
67 x 100.5 cm. (26 3/8 x 39 3/4 in.)
Painted in 1960
Gift from the artist to the previous owner
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Private Collection, USA

Brought to you by

Eric Chang
Eric Chang

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Lot Essay

[Nguyen Gia Tri] 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 langour, 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.

Claude Mahoudeau
French art critic and writer

In the 1930s, as a student at the L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts de L'Indochina, Nguyen Gia Tri was one of the pioneers in transforming the craft of lacquer painting into a heightened means of artistic expression. Combining foreign engraving and inlay methods, along with principles of European painting and new lacquer techniques for preparing, polishing and colouration, Nguyen changed the landscape of traditional Vietnamese lacquer painting. Additionally, faced with the problem of a limited colour palette to work with, Nguyen and his compatriots improvised new colours produced from organic materials such as eggshell to create a pure white. These new developments and techniques allowed lacquer painters to explore a wider range of subject matter and expressions.

The two works presented here, Beaute Eternelle (Eternal Beauty) (Lot 315) and Se Souvenir des Belles Choses (Beautiful Memories) (Lot 316) are two excellent and highly representative works in his oeuvre. In Beaute Eternelle (Eternal Beauty), Gia Tri makes a striking contrast of the figure against the background, contrasting the traditional red lacquer background with the white of the eggshells as well as browns and gold on the figures of the two ladies. The overall effect is rich, shimmering and the gold dazzles through the slightly luminous surface, creating a sense of rhythm and exuberance, perfectly highlighting the figures of the women.

Se Souvenir des Belles Choses (Beautiful Memories) employs an unusual black, red, pink and white palette, creating a sensual and ethereal garden scene for the gathering of ladies. The signature graceful and dreamlike painted landscape, while appearing otherworldly, is painted with an attention to detail of a keen observer of the physical world. To apprehend a work of Nguyen Gia Tri is to be immersed in the enduring elegance and beauty of Vietnam, and be absorbed by the country's inspiring history.

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