Nguyễn Sáng (1923–1988) By Proctor, Ann
Nguyễn Sáng was an artist born in the south of Vietnam who spent two thirds of his life working in the north of the country. Following an initial period of study at the Gia Dinh School of Fine Arts in Saigon, he moved to the École des Beaux-Arts d’Indochine in Hanoi from 1940 to 1945. Best known for his monumental paintings in lacquer and oil, Sáng also designed bank notes and prints with revolutionary themes. Students at the École des Beaux-Arts d’Indochine adapted lacquer techniques—which were previously used on three-dimensional surfaces—to two-dimensional paintings. Sáng, as an early practitioner of lacquer painting, is viewed as one of the innovators for updating and reconciling Vietnamese art with international art.
Sáng’s career was not without controversy, however. He was one of the artists involved in the Nhan Van Giai Pham affair of 1956, during which artists proposed “art for art’s sake” rather than the government’s line of “art for the people.” His best-known paintings include The Enemy Burnt My Village (1954) and Admission to the Party at the Ðiê.n Biên Phủ (1963), both of which are in the collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in Hanoi.