Vietnamese Artists in Paris By Proctor, Ann
Vietnam was a French colony when the artistic and cultural influence of Paris was at its peak. Despite this, few Vietnamese ventured to France in order to establish or further their artistic education. Reasons for this anomaly include the fact that prior to the middle of the 20th century few Vietnamese left the place where they were born, and that French colonial rule restricted overseas travel for their subjects. The very few artists who went to France were from privileged backgrounds, and generally traveled either under a scholarship or in association with international exhibitions, such as the Colonial Exhibition in Paris (1931) or the 1937 World’s Fair. Artists who moved overseas for political reasons rarely returned to Vietnam, but those who did return in the first half of the 20th century contributed to a radical transformation in Vietnamese painting and sculptural practice, moving Vietnamese art into a modern international framework. Changes occurred in the aesthetic and physical appearance of art works, the way arts education was received, the manner in which art works circulated, and ultimately in the societal role of the artist (prior to colonization, Vietnamese art was generally produced within specific guilds).