Phan Kế An

Phan Kế An

Phan Kế An (1923 – 2018)

Early years

Phan Kế An was born on 20 March 1923 in Hà Tĩnh province, on the northern central coast of Vietnam. He was the son of senior mandarin Phan Kế Toại, who was the personal envoy to Tonkin of the last Emperor of Vietnam, Bảo Đại, and Deputy Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam from 1955-73.

In 1944, Phan Kế An was accepted into the Fine Art School of Indochina in Hanoi, but did not manage to complete his studies due to the onset of the resistance war against the French. He joined the Việt Minh in the fight for independence from France.

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Phan Kế An participated in Vietnam’s first National Fine Art Exhibition in Hanoi in 1946, winning first prize for his painting ‘Thunderstorm looms over Thanh Hoá Citadel’ (‘Trời giông trên thành Thanh Hoá’). He also won first prize at subsequent exhibitions in 1951, ‘56 and ‘61. Two years later, he was selected by the provisional revolutionary government to paint portraits of Hồ Chí Minh. In November 1948, An was taken to live secretly for three weeks in the countryside with Hồ Chí Minh and his closest advisors. During that period, he produced a series of formal and candid portraits. He made about 20 portraits of the leader which were eventually published in Sự Thật (‘The Truth’) newspaper.

According to Phan Kế An, the earliest wartime works were intended by the artists to provide their patriotic support for the Việt Minh’s revolutionary activities, such as his 1946 portrait of a bare-footed soldier.


Phan Kế An created many newspaper illustrations and caricatures during his life, often using the pen name Phan Kích. His works appear in the permanent collections of the State Museum of Oriental Art, Moscow and the Vietnam Fine Art Museum in Hanoi.

On 21 January 2018, Phan Kế An passed away peacefully in Hanoi.