Nguyen Van Tho, better known by his pseudonym Nam Son, was born in Hanoi in 1890 and studied at the Lycée du Protectorat, where he was introduced to Western art. With his passion for drawing, he helped illustrate many manuals, newspapers and magazines. His talents led him to meet Victor Tardieu, winner of the Indochina Prize of 1920, who became his mentor. Alongside his teacher, the Vietnamese artist developed a flair for oil painting and exhibited his first works in 1923. In 1924, pupil and teacher founded the Hanoi School of Fine Arts together, which taught both Western and Asian art techniques such as lacquerwork and silk painting. He particularly liked this medium which, while it left no leeway for mistakes, set off his precise and delicate style to advantage. Teaching decorative arts at the School enabled him to perpetuate his love of detail, balanced colours and harmonious, sophisticated compositions.
Vietnam’s National Museum of Fine Arts contains several of his works. Two major works painted by Nam Son around 1936 were recently discovered by the Aguttes auction house, which then introduced this artist to collectors around the world. The exhibition and proceeds from the sale were unanimously praised by the Asian press, and the paintings are now in a private collection in Vietnam.
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