TÚ DUYÊN (1915 – 2012)

Early years

He was born as Nguyễn Văn Duyến on 20 December 1915 in the historic pottery village of Bát Tràng in Bắc Ninh province, about 30km east of Hanoi. He spent six months as a private student in the studio of Nam Sơn before enrolling in the preparatory course of the École des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine in 1935. After the Japanese took control of northern Vietnam in 1940, Tú Duyên moved south to Saigon in 1942, where he started experimenting with woodblock carving, using his knowledge of Đông Hồ folk prints that he had seen created by village farmers in the north.

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Mid career

He devised a new technique, using only positive and negative woodblocks to which he would apply colours using his fingers and then press or rub his hand to apply the image on to silk or paper. He called his new technique ‘hand-stamped printing’. The press soon embraced Tú Duyên’s style and subjects and his work became acclaimed in Vietnam and overseas from the late 1940s onwards. His silk paintings mostly depict scenes from traditional Vietnamese folk tales or morals.

Later years

Tú Duyên passed away on 3 May 2012.

Asiarta Foundation will soon publish a comprehensive book on Tú Duyên’s life and works.