23/04/2015 10:39 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

Huynh Phuong Dong’s Historical Sketches

Witnessing a series of fierce battles in different battlefields during the two resistance wars against the French and the Americans which caused numerous losses in human lives and materials and the sacrifices of his comrades for national salvation, soldier/painter Huynh Phuong Dong recorded the glorious images through his sketches which have now become a valuable historical  treasure.
Painter Huynh Phuong Dong, whose real name was Huynh Cong Nhan, was born in 1925 in Binh Hoa-Gia Dinh (present-day Ho Chi Minh City). After graduating from the Gia Dinh Fine Arts Training School in 1945, he joined the army to fight against the French colonists (1945-1954). After the Dien Bien Phu Victory in 1954, he  continued his studies, majoring in sculpture  at the Hanoi Fine Arts College in the North (1957-1963) and has been a member of Vietnam’s Fine Arts Association since 1957.

Huynh Phuong Dong showed his aptitude for painting  when he was a student and his paintings left a deep impression on his teachers and schoolmates. When the southern General Offensive broke out, the painter joined the revolutionary  army in Soc Trang. He both participated in fighting  and worked as a teacher of two classes for young painters, namely Doi Tho in Tay Ninh in 1964 and Dam Be (Cambodia) in 1968. From 1971-1975 he was head of the liberated painting department and continued teaching young painters. Many of his students then participated in the revolution.

Painter Huynh Phuong Dong possesses over 20,000 sketches about
two resistance wars against the French and Americans. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

Painter Huynh Phuong Dong and his wife, doctor Le Thi Thu, revisit the old battlefield. Photo: File

Painter Huynh Phuong Dong (second from right) at the exhibition of
“Huynh Phuong Dong – a life of artistic creation” held at Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts. 
During his time in the southern battlefields, he witnessed fierce battles which caused numerous losses and sufferings and the undaunted will and sacrifices of his comrades for national salvation. All were reflected  in Huynh Phuong Dong’s sketches.

Always taking an AK gun together with a set of very simple and hand-made tools to paint, Huynh Phuong Dong was present in most of the battlefields in the southeastern and southwestern regions. He painted anytime and any place because he felt that  he seemed to be heavily indebted to the areas where he travelled to, those whom he met and painted as if it was the last day.

With sketching techniques, Huynh Phuong Dong reflected the moments of life and wars in an honest manner. Based on his initial sketches, he created water colour and oil paintings, such as “Ap Bac Battle” (1963) and “Binh Gia Battle” (1965). In his paintings, each character, each scene and each battle were expressed in detail that bring the viewers a feeling of being present at the places where the events were taking place.

All his sketches of great and important events and portraits of real soldiers, messengers and heroic Vietnamese mothers now become valuable archives for the country’s revolutionary fine arts sector.

Talking about Huynh Phuong Dong, researcher Tran Bach Dang said: “Huynh Phuong Dong boasts a huge number of creations, about 20,000 sketches and paintings, which is considered a valuable treasure for the country’s history and art.

Thanks to his creativeness and great efforts, he  was awarded the State Prize for his paintings, “Ap Bac Battle”, “Binh Gia Battle” and “La Nga Battle”  in 2007 which marked an important milestone in his career. Furthermore, many of his paintings have been exhibited both at home and abroad, including Eastern European countries, Cuba and China and are highly appreciated in artistic circles.

Some of Huynh Phuong Dong’s works:

“Binh Gia Battle -1965” won the State Prize in 2007. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

“La Nga Battle 1946” won the State Prize in 2007. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

“Discussing the Combat Plan”. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

“Crossing the Dai Loc Rope Bridge” – Quang Nam on September 15, 1963. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

“An Operation at the Front” created in 1967. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

“Battle in the South of Y Bridge” created in 1968. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

“Liberated Loc Ninh” created in 1973. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

“Guerrilla Lan in Loc Tan Commune” – Loc Ninh on April 14, 1973. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

“Guerrilla Lan in Loc Tan Commune” – Loc Ninh on April 14, 1973. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

In 2006, a bilingual book in Vietnamese and English entitled “Huynh Phuong Dong – A View of War and Peace” was published in the US. The book, consisting of 177 pages, presents paintings selected from tens of thousands of his creations. It is a gift of great significance for  what the painter has done for 70 years.

Although he is now 90 years old, he still has an ardent love for painting. Every day he is in his painting studio to paint what he sketched in the past and it seems to be his work and hobby.

Sharing with us about his career, the old painter talked about his desire to create a set of paintings about people and soldiers who are protecting the seas and borders of the country.

Story: Son Nghia  -  Photos: Le Minh