From ancient art forms that have been meticulously preserved over centuries to modern-day reimaginations that fuse traditional motifs with innovative techniques, Vietnam art continues to inspire and captivate art enthusiasts from around the globe. If you are a huge fan of Vietnam art, read on.
1. An overview of the history of Vietnam art
Vietnam art boasts an extraordinary legacy, with roots dating back to the ancient Stone Age. This long journey through time has birthed a diverse tapestry of artistic styles and identities shaped by the ingenuity of Vietnam artists across the ages.
- Neolithic Vietnam art (8,000 BCE - 2,200 BCE): Primitive pottery was a dominant art form throughout this era, with some evidence seen at archaeological sites such as Bac Son.
- Bronze Age Vietnam art (1,000 BCE - 4th century BCE): The ceramic art during this period went through three stages: Phung Nguyen, Dong Dau, and Go Mun. This era witnessed the rise in sophistication regarding decorative motifs.
- Vietnam art in the era of Chinese rule (111 BCE - 939 CE): There was an increase in the level of technical knowledge in pottery, as well as the advent of the potter's wheel, which accelerated the development of pottery.
- Vietnam art in the era of French rule (19th - 20th centuries): Numerous Vietnam artworks depicted the major contrast between the West and the East, as Vietnam artists began to study European methodologies and Classical styles.
- Vietnam art under American influences (1950s - 1970s): Vietnam artists continued to be influenced by the West, producing works using traditional mediums while also experimenting with installation and conceptual art.
>>> Read more: History of Vietnam: Uncover the country's fascinating past
2. How many ways are there to classify Vietnam art?
Vietnam art can be classified in various ways, which reflect its diverse and evolving nature over time. The following are the two primary classifications that provide a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Vietnam's artistic heritage.
Regarding art genres, Vietnam art can be divided into 3 categories:
- Traditional Vietnam art: Rooted in centuries of history, traditional Vietnam art encompasses a wide range of art forms. These art forms are deeply connected to the country's cultural heritage, showcasing the skills and artistic sensibilities passed down through generations.
- Modern Vietnam art: Emerging during the colonial and early post-colonial period, modern Vietnam art reflects the influence of Western artistic styles and techniques. Artists during this era began to experiment with new mediums and approaches, bridging the gap between traditional and contemporary expressions.
- Contemporary Vietnam art: Vietnam contemporary art is a dynamic realm that incorporates various mediums and conceptual approaches. Artists engage with contemporary issues, global influences, and cutting-edge technologies.
As for the types of art, Vietnam art can also be divided into 3 categories:
- Visual arts: Vietnamese visual arts showcase a diverse range of techniques, including silk painting, woodblock printing, photography, and ceramics.
- Performing arts: The richness of Vietnamese performing arts comes to life through traditional music, traditional theater, traditional dance, and water puppetry.
- Language arts: Vietnam's literary legacy is steeped in poetic expressions.
>>> Explore some stunning Vietnamese souvenirs to bring home!
3. TOP 7 Vietnam art forms that you can easily learn
Vietnam lacquerware artworks take up to 100 days and about 20 stages to create. Lacquerware has a wooden base covered in high-gloss lacquer and inlaid with mother-of-pearl, silver, or gold leaves, as well as duck’s egg shells. Lacquerware is currently used to adorn plates, vases, and other furnishings.
- Lacquer paintings: Following the founding of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de l'Indochine in 1925, lacquer paintings began to appear. Vietnamese lacquer paintings have a distinctive aesthetic that stands the test of time due to their complex manufacturing method.
- Silk paintings: Vietnam silk paintings stand out with their delicately refined style, transparent colors, and fluency. Using silk as the backdrop, this traditional art technique often depicts pagodas, rustic landscapes, country life, and historical events. Vietnam artists skillfully blend colors and utilize silk's innate shine to create impressive artworks.
Some of the most famous Vietnam artists are To Ngoc Van, Nguyen Phan Chanh, Nguyen Gia Tri, Le Pho, Nguyen Tien Chung, Ha Manh Thang, Tran Luong, and Danh Vo. Their artistic journeys have left indelible marks on the canvas of history, enchanting and inspiring art enthusiasts around the world.
Vietnam's pottery heritage spans thousands of years, flourishing under the Ly Dynasty and bearing influences from China, India, and Cambodia. Despite external influences, Vietnamese ceramics maintain a distinctive and exceptional style, making them highly sought-after and widely exported. Bat Trang Pottery Village, renowned for its fine Bat Trang ceramics since the 15th century, offers a captivating glimpse into the country's rich ceramic art tradition.
3.4. Hand embroidery
Vietnam embroidery art boasts a rich history spanning over seven centuries, kept alive by local craftsmen, ethnic minorities, and modern artists. This intricate technique adorns ornamental items like pillows, tablecloths, and silk embroidered paintings with harmonious blends of vivid colors and delicate lines.
3.5. Water puppetry
Dating back to the 11th century, water puppetry originated in rural villages as a form of entertainment during harvest festivals and celebrations. These unique performances take place on water-filled stages, with puppeteers concealed behind bamboo screens skillfully controlling wooden puppets, each endowed with vibrant colors and intricate designs. When you are in Hanoi, it is highly recommended that you enjoy Hanoi water puppet shows at Thang Long Water Puppet Theater.
3.6. Hoi An lanterns
Hoi An lanterns, known for their vibrant colors, intricate craftsmanship, and durability, have a fascinating history. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Hoi An Ancient Town thrived as a bustling commercial hub, attracting merchant ships from all corners of the globe. Silk lanterns became popular due to the town's demand for silk, serving as interior decorations. Hanging these lanterns in front of homes was believed to bring luck, health, and happiness.
3.7. Stone carving
With origins dating back thousands of years, stone carving has played a significant role in shaping Vietnam's architectural masterpieces, temples, pagodas, and sculptures. Vietnamese stone carvers are skilled artisans who possess an exceptional understanding of various types of stones, such as marble, limestone, and sandstone. They meticulously select the best stones, considering the texture, color, and durability, before chiseling and shaping them into awe-inspiring works of art.
4. Which are the most famous Vietnam art museums?
4.1. Vietnam Fine Art museums
Fine Arts Museum Hanoi is a treasure trove of artistic heritage, housing an extensive collection of traditional and contemporary Vietnam artworks, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and lacquerware.
Meanwhile, Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts, showcases a diverse array of Vietnamese and international works of art, ranging from traditional to contemporary pieces.
4.2. Precious Heritage Art Gallery Museum
The Precious Heritage Art Gallery Museum is home to a remarkable collection of over 60 authentic traditional costumes, hundreds of captivating photos, and a plethora of valuable artifacts representing various Vietnamese ethnic minorities. As you explore this art museum in Vietnam’s Hoi An, you can gain abundant knowledge of the country's unique traditions.
4.3. Dong Dinh Art Museum
Within the pristine Son Tra Nature Reserve, Dong Dinh Art Museum holds a special role in preserving Vietnam's cultural heritage. With a dedication to conserving the country's artistic legacy, this museum in Da Nang stands as a beacon of cultural appreciation, offering visitors a profound and immersive experience.
During your Vietnam travel journey, you can easily find a treasure trove of souvenirs adorned with bold artistic imprints in some popular tourist destinations in Vietnam, such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hue, and Hoi An.
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The world of Vietnam art is an awe-inspiring journey through time, culture, and creativity. From the ancient heritage of Dong Son bronze drums and traditional silk paintings to the flourishing contemporary expressions that embody the nation's spirit, Vietnam art weaves a captivating tapestry that transcends borders and generations.