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Bui Xuan Phai – Life & Career
Bui Xuan Phai was born on September 19, 1920, in Kim Hoang village, Ha Noi – a village famous for folk art wood carving. It is Kim Hoang village that has nurtured the soul and the impression from the childhood of Bui Xuan Phai. The brilliant colors, the fascinating drawings associated with the Vietnamese village has created his passion for painting.
Bui Xuan Phai was one of the last generations of painters of Indochina Fine Arts College, along with Nguyen Sang, Nguyen Tu Nghiem, Duong Bich Lien – those who have the influence on the development of modern Vietnamese art. He was also the member of Vietnam Fine Art Association.
After the August Revolution, Bui Xuan Phai took part in art activities serving the revolution. In 1946, at the August Art Exhibition, with the unique colors combined with the material of oil on canvas in his paintings, he was awarded the National Salvation Award. He was also the lecturer at Vietnam Fine Arts College. In 1957, when no longer taught in school, he began drawing about Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
This period also made a mark in the career of Bui Xuan Phai’s painting. When he worked as a painter for Hanoi Cheo Troupe, the topic of Cheo stage was pondered, created and became his outstanding line of painting with the scene of activities of the actor in the backstage. In his career, Bui Xuan Phai has tried on many different genres, reflected quite vividly and honestly each stage of the nation. However, Hanoi Old Quarter is his most successful subject because Hanoi is the place filled with memories, ups and downs in his life. Artist Tran Khanh Chuong, the chairman of Vietnam Fine Art Association, observed: “In Bui Xuan Phai’s painting, Hanoi’s streets are not monotonous but varied in shades of color and viewpoint .” Therefore, he is considered “The king of the old town”. His artworks not only give him individual awards from national art exhibitions, Leipzig Graphics and Capital Art exhibitions, etc. but also contribute to the art of the country priceless achievements.
An Artist with the Love for Hanoi
Bui Xuan Phai’s house, located on 87 Thuoc Bac Street, is considered a small museum, displaying Bui Xuan Phai and his son artworks. That is the place that witnesses the life and career of this brilliant painter. Small alley, small street, but when stepping into Phai’s World, space suddenly become wide and extraordinarily vivid because of the shade of the color in his painting. The room where “Phai’s World” reigns also brightened by the warm colors of countless paintings hung densely on the wall. It is great to see the paintings of the famous painter, not in the gallery but in the place where he used to live, brush, stretch and color…
For more than 40 years of art, Bui Xuan Phai has been closely associated with the ancient streets of Hanoi with profound affection. Bui Xuan Phai’s street paintings are very ancient, reflecting the soul of Hanoi Old Quarter in the 50s, 60s and 70s. The paintings often have bold borders. The streets become closer to the people, from the surface to the landscape are in depth. Seeing Bui Xuan Phai’s paintings, viewers can feel the artist has sent the memory, the nostalgia and also the sadness on each line drawing. His paintings on Hanoi Old Quarter are works of high artistic value with new creation and uniqueness.