Nguyen Tu Nghiem - Vietnam's last big painter of 20th century passes away

The painter died of natural causes on the morning of June 15, 2016 at a hospital in Hanoi.

Nguyen Tu Nghiem, one of Vietnam's most celebrated painters, was born in 1922 to a Confucian scholar's family in the central province of Nghe An. He is best known for portraying traditional folk themes while not sticking to any one specific material; he created from lacquer, oil and silk to pastels, chalk and pencil.

He studied under Joseph Inguimberty, Nam Son and To Ngoc Van at the École Supérieure des Beaux Arts l’Indochine (1925-1945). Nghiem, together with his college friends Nguyen Sang, Bui Xuan Phai and Duong Bich Lien formed the famous four Sang-Nghiem-Lien-Phai, who represent the "second generation" of Vietnam's modern art scene. In 1944, Nghiem the student won the first prize at the prestigious Hanoi Salon Unique.

Four years later, he returned to Hanoi to teach at the Industrial Fine Arts College until 1960, to then gradually go into seclusion to focus more on his work as an independent artist.After graduating in 1946, Nghiem joined the resistance movement and moved to Viet Bac revolutionary base in northern Vietnam. He then taught at the Resistance School of Fine Arts in Thai Nguyen Province in 1950.

Nghiem was a member of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association from 1957 to 1983. His works are displayed at the Vietnam Museum of Fine Arts and the Moscow State Museum of the Orient.

In 2013, his lacquer painting Thanh Giong (Saint Giong) was exhibited at Cambridge University's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in celebration of 40 years of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the U.K.

Influenced by his two respected professors, Jospeh Inguimberty and To Ngoc Van, Nghiem was one of few rare Vietnamese artists whose works were auctioned at Christies' and Sotheby's.

He was awarded the Ho Chi Minh Prize in 1996.