Duong Hai

Duong Hai is a Vietnamese artist who has established a reputation for his vibrant and colourful scenes of Hanoi through the simple palette of leaves and the passing of the seasons. Of the artists of the “French” generation, Duong Hai is perhaps the most deeply marked by European impressionism and as a youth growing up in the French colonial city of Hanoi, Hai had the opportunity to study from a number of foreign teachers resident at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hanoi (founded by the French in 1927). Although Hai was trained entirely in the European tradition, the painter finds inspiration from the beautiful elegance of Hanoi with its scarlet banyen trees, charming streetscapes, promenades by the lakeside, and schoolgirls walking and bicycling home in Vietnam’s traditional dress - all these pieces celebrating the rhythm of street life in old Hanoi.

Born in 1951, Duong Hai’s initial career was as an architect (graduated from Hanoi University, faculty of architecture) and when he finally was able to dedicate his life to painting, the hallmark of his painting style became his highly attuned sense of structure and reverence for the architecture of old Hanoi. Hai’s paintings have been exhibited in galleries since the late 1980s and in 2002 he was invited to participate in a landmark exhibition of master Vietnamese painters (Hanoi in my mind).

Technically, Duong Hai employs an instinctive and rather free brush and impressionist color to depict the dance of sunlight on the tree-lined streets and decayed colonial structures of Hanoi. He has a love for narration, and often incorporates scenes of street cafes or market squares in his paintings. His creations clearly show the influence of the Impressionists, particularly in the cast of light and colour. Hai counts as an inspiration the works of Van Gogh and Matisse and his ability to create lucid and enchanting streetscapes from wild dashes of color, confirms his place among the current masters of the Vietnamese art world.

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