Artist Bui Xuan Phai

Bui Xuan Phai was one of the four master painters in the last generation of artists trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de l'Indochine. He graduated from this School in 1946, class 1941-1946. The 1945 August Revolution and then the Resistance war broke out, Bui Xuan Phai joined the Resistance movement and went to Viet Bac, But, half way, in 1952, he left the Risistance and returned to Ha Noi. Though he did not cooperate with the French, this event made him sad and obsessed him for a long time; it also caused him many difficulties in the postwar period. After the restoration of peace, he taught two years at the Hanoi University of Fine Arts and there after was obliged to quit. Having no salary to feed a large family, Bui Xuan Phai had to earn his living by designing costumes for some cheo opera and drama companies and drawing illustrations for newspapers and magazines. While doing this work, he had drawn a famous set of cheo opera pictures.

In the first years of peace, together with many artists and writers, Bui Xuan Phai went to the countryside to "eat, live, and work" with farmers. Besides painting, he worked as a joiner to earn some extra money. Returing to Hanoi in the 1960 and during the US escalation war, Bui Xuan Phai drew several series of paintings on the theme of Hanoi old streets. These works marked the artist's very characteristic stamps in his pictures of the antique capital city with some nostalgia about the past and the deep feelings of a city dweller. Bui Xuan Phai's pictures of Hanoi old streets are so impressive that many people mistakenly believe that he was solely and chiefly the artist of old streets; in reality he also excelled in many other genres such as still life, portraits and landscapes in general. Bui Xuan Phai had a great influence on many generations of Vietnam intellectuals both in terms of his talent and personality. He is perhaps the unique painter who enjoys the great esteem of all people, including those who do not know anything about art.