Vietnamese art is art created in Vietnam or by Vietnamese artists, from ancient times to the present. Vietnamese art has a long and rich history, the earliest examples of which date back as far as the Stone Age around 8,000 BCE.
With the millennium of Chinese domination starting in the 2nd century BC, Vietnamese art undoubtedly absorbed many Chinese influences, which would continue even following independence from China in the 10th century AD. However, Vietnamese art has always retained many distinctively Vietnamese characteristics.
By the 19th century, the influence of French art took hold in Vietnam, having a large hand in the birth of modern Vietnamese art.
Vietnamese art throughout the ages
Pottery dating to the Stone Age (approximately 8,000 BCE) has been found in Bac Son, Vietnam. This pottery was made from clay, and in its beginnings was largely basic and lacking any artistic flare. Moving into the neolithic era, however, Vietnamese pottery and ceramics started to develop rapidly, showing signs of decor. Bronze Age art
The highly developed Dong Son culture that flourished in North Vietnam (from about 1,000 BC to the 4th century BC) was the civilization responsible for the world-famous Dong Son drums, a product of their advanced bronze-casting skills.
These drums give us an important peek into early Vietnamese life. They were elaborately decorated with geometric patterns, and most importantly depicted scenes of everyday life such as farming, warriors donning feather headdresses, construction of ships, musicians, etc.
Archaeological evidence from this period also shows that people in the area had long been weaving cloth. Many of the people depicted on the drums are shown as wearing elaborate clothing. Chinese domination from 111 BC to 939 AD
During the ten centuries of rule by the Chinese, Vietnamese began to apply newly learned Chinese techniques to art and specifically ceramics, however this was in conjunction with the continued production of art based on native methods; this is proven by excavation of Chinese tombs in the area. From the Ngô to Trần Dynasty
Vietnamese art and ceramics during this period of independence (approximately 10th to 15th centuries) flourished. The ceramics from this period were thought to have been largely influenced by both ancient native styles and the Tang and later Song dynasty's art, including applying the "three colors" concept to its ceramics. Chinese-influenced philosophies adopted by the Vietnamese such as Confucianism, Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism all had a lasting impression on Vietnamese art. Some also claim there are small traces of Cham influences to be found as well.
The Lý Dynasty, beginning in the 11th century is viewed specifically as the golden age of Vietnamese art, and its ceramics became famous across East and Southeast Asia. The Lý Dynasty also saw the construction of many of Vietnam's landmark structures, including the Temple of Literature, One-pillar pagoda, and Quynh Lam pagoda. The Trần Dynasty that immediately followed in the 13th century saw a more subdued approach to art. Fourth Chinese domination and Lê Dynasty
The fourth Chinese domination of Vietnam was quite short-lived, lasting only about 2 decades, yet it was also seen as the harshest domination. Many if not most classical Vietnamese books were burnt, and thus much documentation of the era of independence lost. It is said that a more extreme than-ever process of sinicization was enforced, and countless Vietnamese resources and goods were removed and taken to China.
Consequently, much of the art in this period and even after liberation by the Lê Dynasty was heavily influenced by the Ming dynasty's art. Nguyễn Dynasty
The Nguyễn Dynasty, the last ruling dynasty of Vietnam, saw a renewed interest in ceramics and porcelain art. Imperial courts across Asia imported Vietnamese ceramics.
Despite how highly developed the performing arts (such as imperial court music and dance) became during the Nguyễn Dynasty, some view other fields of arts as beginning to decline during the latter part of the Nguyễn Dynasty. Modern Art
Beginning in the 19th century, French artistic influences spread into Vietnam. In the early 20th century, the École Supérieure des Beaux Arts de l’Indochine (Indochina College of Arts) was founded to teach European methods and exercised influence mostly in the larger cities, such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Thiếu nữ bên hoa huệ (Young Woman with
Lilly), oil, 1943, by Tô Ngọc Vân
Travel restrictions imposed on the Vietnamese during France's 80-year rule of Vietnam and the long period of war for national independence meant that very few Vietnamese artists were able to train or work outside of Vietnam. A small number of artists from well-to-do backgrounds had the opportunity to go to France and make their careers there for the most part. Examples include Le Thi Luu, Le Pho, Mai Trung Thu, Le Van De, Le Ba Dang and Pham Tang.
Modern Vietnamese artists began to utilize French techniques with many traditional mediums such as silk, lacquer, etc., thus creating a unique blend of eastern and western elements.
Nowadays, besides on working with traditional material like oil, acrylic, lacquer on wood, the young generation of Vietnamese art becomes very active in involving in different forms of arts, such as installation, performance, video art... and many of them have got international recognition for their artworks and have exhibitions worldwide.
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