Vietnamese masterpiece poised to break auction record

May 30, 2024 | 18:39
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Emerging from nearly a century of obscurity, Sotheby's will offer a rare and remarkable painting by one of Vietnam's leading modern artists, Nguyen Phan Chanh's ‘Les Chanteuses de Campagne'.

The work will be auctioned as part of the Arts d'Asie sale on June 14 at Sotheby’s Paris, and will be on public exhibition there from June 8-13 June alongside other works from the auction.

Vietnamese masterpiece poised to break auction record

Created in 1930 during Chanh's peak creative period, the painting is poised to set an auction record and stands as the artist's most significant work ever to hit the market.

The discovery of this masterpiece is a tale of serendipity. Previously known only through archival records and landmark exhibitions in Hanoi (1930) and Paris (1931), the painting was unearthed in a modest rural French home. Acquired by the current owner's grandfather at the 1931 Paris Exhibition – an inaugural showcase of Vietnamese modernism in the West – the painting has since remained a hidden gem, patiently awaiting rediscovery.

Executed in 1930, 'Les Chanteuses de Campagne' exemplifies Chanh's most sought-after period, from 1930 to 1935, capturing everyday moments with unparalleled intimacy. The painting portrays two women of modest means in a candid moment, rooted in earthy tones. This composition, reflecting Chanh's focus on authentic action over aesthetic novelty, offers viewers a poignant glimpse into everyday life in early 20th-century Vietnam.

Born in a remote Vietnamese village in 1892, Nguyen Phan Chanh defied conventional artistic paths, embarking on his creative journey at the age of 33 after a career as a primary school teacher. This unconventional start did not impede his rapid ascent to international renown as an artist who skilfully intertwined Eastern traditions with Western artistry.

Deeply inspired by the rural world of his early life, Chanh remained closely connected to the people, depicting familiar scenes with an intimate vision that earned him acclaim as a chronicler of traditional life.

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