Famous Vietnamese Artist Tran Van Can

An exhibition show-casing unpublished artworks by one of the most beloved sons of Vietnamese fine arts, Tran Van Can, opened on Wednesday at the Museum of Fine Arts. The exposition, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the death of the renowned veteran painter, introduces more than 100 of his pieces presented in various materials including lacquer, oil, silk, wood carving and sketching.


Organizers from the museum promise the majority of the artworks on display have never been seen by the public before. The exhibits also include his best-known pieces: the newly restored oil painting Em Thuy (Little Thuy), wood carving Goi Dau (Hair Washing), oil painting Xuong Dong (Getting Down to Fields) and the lacquer paintings Tat Nuoc Ngoai Dong (Scooping Water in Rice Fields) and Nu Dan Quan Vung Bien (Militia Women of Coastal Areas). Em Thuy was recently restored by Caroline Fry, a renovator from Australia’s University of Melbourne.


Tran Van Can later became a teacher at the college. One of his students, painter Vu Giang Huong, former Secretary General of the Viet Nam Fine Arts Association said, “Tran Van Can was a pure artist who devoted his life to creativity. His paintings reveal his profound love for people and the homeland. Many of them depict the Vietnamese people’s will during the wars of resistance against the French and the Americans. He would put himself in life-threatening situations to get inspiration for his paintings.”


Huong remembered that in the central province of Quang Binh, the painter traveled across the war front to meet the courageous female militias of Ngu Thuy. He even ventured in the Truong Son Range and the Central Highlands where he depicted the Vietnamese people at war.


Recalling Can, Huong said, “My teacher was especially successful with paintings depicting young Ha Noi women. His best work in the period was Little Thuy. His painting style and media are typically Vietnamese, but his subtlety made his paintings stand out from others.”


Can trained generations of Vietnamese artists. His talents earned him enormous fame. In 1996 he was posthumously awarded the Ho Chi Minh Award, the most noble distinction for Vietnamese artists.


Can worked as the headmaster for the Fine Arts College from 1954 to 1964 and was the general secretary of the Vietnamese Fine Arts Association between 1958 to 1983. He was also a corresponding member of the Academy of Arts of the then Democratic Republic of Germany from 1978 and the president of the Vietnamese Association of Graphic Arts from 1983 to 1989.


The Fine Arts Museum of Viet Nam houses many of his works, and the rest are among private collections in Viet Nam and abroad.