• A painting of Nguyen Thi Cao who courageously stopped American tanks ? Le Lam

    Or consider the paintings and drawings of front line infantry at the siege of Khe Sanh and the battle of Dien Bien Phu by Pham Thanh Tam, or the vivid story of the painter, Le Duy Ung, who when on his way down to the liberation of Saigonm was hit by a straying piece of shrapnel which blinded him for life and who, right at the moment of being wounded, drew a portrait of Ho Chi Minh, the great and inspiring leader - a story known to few outside this rare group of artists. [read more...]

  • Front line soldier on the way to Khe Sanh ?Pham Thanh Tam December, 1967

    So we come to appreciate that beyond the extraordinary circumstances that may stimulate an artist to create a masterpiece, these men and women also had to have great hearts, embracing mankind and risking their lives for love and the aspiration for peace.

    Today's Vietnamese descendants can learn more about the history of the resistance to foreign invaders through the lively paintings and posters which the artists have created and drawn from the depths of their own experience.

    Being an artist of today's generation, I have also been charmed by Vietnam's 4000 years of culture and have written theatrical works about prominent historic figures such as the patriot-sage Nguyen Binh Khiem; the first female newspaper editor, Suong Nguyet Anh; the poet, Ho Xuan Huong, and the heroic woman general of the famed, "Long Haired Army" Nguyen Thi Dinh. This has all led me to now, and the discovery of paintings which made the beholders' hair stand on end and have driven me to research and write about 'The search for the history of the propaganda artists of Vietnam'. [read more...]

  • A warrior of the "Long haired Army" from the Dogma collection gallery - Women in Combat - The text reads - FORGE OUR LOATHING FOR OUR ENEMIES - INTO THE BARREL OF OUR GUNS

    I am deeply grateful to the Dogma Collection which enabled me to view literally hundreds of propaganda posters created by my people, to appeal and motivate the population to unite and participate in resisting first the French and then the Americans, and of which the following is an example. [read more...]

  • MOTHER AND CHILDREN FIGHT THE AMERICANS TOGETHER - From the "Children and Students" gallery

    or in striving to create and preserve peace? as may be viewed in the following image. [read more...]

  • THE WORLD MUST BE AT PEACE- 1968 - From Victory, Peace and the Revolutionary gallery

    Feeling my way for signatures under each painting of the collection I had patiently studied, I learnt more about 'The fighters on the cultural front' of those days.

    There was the great master painter, To Ngoc Van who laid down his life for the country on the battle field of Dien Bien Phu.

    There were numerous unsung heroes who left their bodies on the fire and sword of the Truong Son mountains (known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail) and those that died whilst climbing precariously high to hang posters to encourage the population to join the struggle or to persuade the enemy soldiers to surrender, as with Mai Van Hien's posters at Dien Bien Phu.

    The more I studied these people and their stories, the more I realized how great was the love in their hearts for their country and their fellow countrymen ? how great they were!

    Back to the search for personal histories of the painters listed in the Dogma Collection. With the liaison skills of the former Dien Bien Phu fighter and artist, Colonel Pham Thanh Tam, everything fell into place as if in a dream... From Saigon, we arrived in the capitol, Hanoi, in the blink of an eye, and the first person I interviewed was Professor Nguyen Thu, former dean of the Hanoi University of Fine Arts (creator of the images following). [read more...]

  • Propaganda poster by Nguyen Thu from the Women Under Arms gallery

    Then I interviewed Thuc Phi, artist widely known both for her talent and beauty, who had held the important position of director of the Army Propaganda printing works. [read more...]

  • Thuc Phi

    Being able to meet and exchange stories with these two artists I felt transported to a night-time sky full of stars with the painters they spoke of, seeming like stars in the sky, glimmering, appearing then disappearing in ways in which I had no way to count!

    Our next destination took us through the numerous alleyways of the 36 Streets of the Guilds of Hanoi to the home of the artist, who has the distinction of having the highest individual representative presence of propaganda posters in the Dogma Collection, Pham Hoc Hai.

    Welcoming me at the door was a woman well into her sixties with a fine complexion and a beaming smile showing even white teeth. [read more...]

  • Propaganda poster by Pham Hoc Hai from the Victory, Peace and the revolutionary spirit gallery

    I boldly stepped into the house at that hearty welcome. It wasn't far from the front door to the reception table but my steps faltered and I felt a feeling of regret and awareness of human frailty rise with in me when I suddenly saw him as he had been in the recent exhibition catalogue but but now he was sitting behind incense smoke spiraling up and around him on the altar. [read more...]

  • Self portrait ? Pham Hoc Hai - 2008

    As if predicting my questioning look, his oldest son said fittingly, 'Although cancer is a disease of imprisonment my father always stuck to the thought of breaking free of this prison!' Then, pointing his finger at numerous paintings of flowers of all kinds, hung everywhere in the house, he went on, 'These are the last works of my father' as his eyes moistened he choked with emotion, 'My father was a great man! He would readily sell his paintings so that my mother, I and our family could have a comfortable life'. Little wonder that this woman, young for her age, who was Hoc Hai's widow, radiated such a touching depth of feeling. As if to illustrate what her son had said she added, 'Hai said: "I know my paintings are my children. If you hold them in custody in the house, who would know if they are good looking or ugly, they must make their own way in life, and parting with them serves, at the same time, to help us survive"'. [read more...]

  • Portrait of his wife by Pham Hoc Hai- 1974

    After that she hurried to the next room and came back with a portrait in her hands. Handing it to me she said, "This is my portrait which he painted when I carried my first-born in my womb. One day a Frenchman came for a visit and expressed his desire to purchase it. My husband answered, 'No! I will never sell my wife!' [read more...]

  • Propaganda poster by Pham Hoc Hai from the Ethnic Groups gallery

    Thanks to this visit, I found out the source and reason for the frequent presence of Pham Hoc Hai's posters in the Dogma collection

    In life there are sayings such as 'Do not celebrate triumph before victory'. But it was delightful to have an out of the blue encounter such as that which led me to meet Le Lam, 'the greatest painter of Vietnam' according to Colonel ?writer, Nguyen Tran Triet.

    Everything fell into place simply and perfectly, a phone call, and there we were meeting Le Lam ? the artist pseudonym of Vu Quoc Ai, who lives on Thanh Cong in Hanoi. There was not enough time to say everything we wanted to, but I saw with my own eyes posters, paintings and photographs of him painting in the forests and jungles of the South. Enough to understand what a patriot he was ? a daring fighter on the cultural front who left his wife, a pretty traditional Northern operetta singer-actress and his two children back in his hometown, and volunteered to "Go B" (code for South) and "Go K" (Cambodia) to fight in those terrible years.

    War is over now, and the artists are old, some with frail, some still living with suffering. But the talent and enthusiasm of these cultural fighters who drew under bombs and bullets during those dark days, keeps flowing endlessly.

    Le Lam, Thuc Phi, Nguyen Thu, Pham Thanh Tam, Huynh Phuong Dong and their companions may be in their eighties but these painters have continued creating works voicing the thirst for peace, the hope that people on earth may help one another and live together in affection.

    Parting company with the Hanoi autumn, I flew back to Saigon, carrying unforgettable memories and reflecting on how such terrible times and circumstances produce such people. I can not keep feeling stunned, thinking of these artists made of flesh and blood, and how extraordinary they were. [read more...]