In Vietnam, objects of special cultural and historical value are designated national treasures and preserved by the government.
The designation is conferred on an item after it is so evaluated by the National Cultural Heritage Council. Eight paintings have received this honour so far.
Vuon Xuan Trung Nam Bac (Spring Garden of Center, South and North)
Vuon Xuan Trung Nam Bac (Spring Garden of Center, South and North) by Nguyen Gia Tri.
The painting, on which the artist worked from 1969 to 1989, depicts young women from the northern, central and southern regions in traditional clothes on their way to the spring festival against a background of trees and pagodas. Measuring 540 centimeters by 200 centimeters, it is the largest painting by the artist and created by using several lacquer techniques.
It was recognized as a national treasure in 2013. It was bought and gifted by Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee to the HCMC Fine Arts Museum in 1990 and is preserved there. Unfortunately a recent cleaning effort caused a 30-percent damage to the work.
Binh Phong (The Background)
Binh Phong (The Background) also by Nguyen Gia Tri includes two paintings on either side of eight attached wooden pieces. On one side is Thieu Nu Trong Vuon (Ladies In The Garden), which depicts the beauty of young women in ao dai, Vietnam’s traditional costume. The picture gives off an elegant vibe, showing the artist’s ability to use lacquer and materials such as eggshells, silver and gold, Bui Thi Thanh Mai, an art critic, said.
Hai Thieu Nu Va Em Be (Two Girls And The Baby)
Hai Thieu Nu Va Em Be (Two Girls And The Baby) was painted in 1944 by To Ngoc Van. It captures a peaceful ambience with two young women talking on a porch and a child playing beside them. The picture is vertical.
The painting is considered one of the most notable works in Vietnamese art in the first half of the 20th century, and reflects the unique style of Van, according to Department of Cultural Heritage. It has elements of western art but carries the eastern spirit through images such as the ao dai and bamboo bed.
The oil painting is currently on display at the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum.
Em Thuy (Little Thuy)
Em Thuy (Little Thuy) was painted in 1943 by Tran Van Can. The oil painting features a little girl, Can’s neighbor, sitting on a chair, leaning slightly to one side and holding her hands.
Her bright face is highlighted by her black eyes. Em Thuy is considered one of the most remarkable portraits of the 20th century. In 2003, when it deteriorated slightly, it was restored by Australian expert Caroline Fry at the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum. The painting was recognized as a national treasure in 2013.
Ket Nap Dang O Dien Bien Phu (Joining The Party in Dien Bien Phu)
Nguyen Sang’s lacquer painting Ket Nap Dang O Dien Bien Phu (Joining The Party in Dien Bien Phu) was created in 1963. Highly regarded for both its artistic and historical values, it captures realistic images of a party admission ceremony in Dien Bien Phu, a fierce battlefield during the anti-French resistance war.
The picture is important material for studying about the historic Dien Bien Phu battle, according to the Department of Cultural Heritage. The work was recognized as a national treasure in 2013 and is displayed at the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum.
Bac Ho O Chien Khu Viet Bac (Uncle Ho In Viet Bac War Zone)
The picture was painted in 1980 by Duong Bich Lien drawing inspiration from the time he worked beside President Ho Chi Minh. It depicts President Ho Chi Minh and a horse preparing to cross a stream with mountains and vast green forests in the background.
The lacquer painting is 180 centimeters long and 99.8 centimeters wide. It was recognized as a national treasure in 2017 and is kept at the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum.
Giong (Hero Giong)
Nguyen Tu Nghiem’s created Giong in lacquer in 1990. It depicts the hero Giong from a Vietnamese legend who fought off foreign invaders to protect the country. Painted in cubism style, it features a number of geometric shapes besides motifs and patterns from Dong Son art to represent Giong’s costume and copper axe and shield.
The painting won the first prize in the 1990 National Fine Arts Exhibition. The Vietnam Fine Arts Museum acquired it the same year. It was recognized as a national treasure in 2017.
Thanh Nien Thanh Dong (Youth Of The City)
Thanh Nien Thanh Dong (Youth Of The City) was the second piece by Nguyen Sang to be recognized as a national treasure.
According to the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts, the painting was completed in 1978. It depicts a group of Saigon students demonstrating against the war in 1960 and opposing the presence of American soldiers in Vietnam. On the left are two armed American soldiers pointing their guns at the demonstrators. To emphasize the youths’ demand, Sang wrote the words “Go home” in English and Vietnamese.
The piece was donated by the artist to the Ho Chi Minh City Museum in 1980 and was later shifted to the HCMC Fine Arts Museum by the city Department of Culture and Information.
Source: VNExpress – Ha Thu