Just like Vietnamese long-lasting history and culture, Vietnamese Fine Arts has pulled through many ups and downs, along with the construction and defense of the nation. Therefore, art retains the oldest time-honored history of development. Along with other modern arts, modern Vietnamese paintings has also made great strides from the beginning of the 20th century with the influence of Western art under the French colonial period. Although heavily influenced by the West, Vietnam’s modern artistic trend is still associated with the country’s history.

Vietnamese Fine Arts involve three basic types including sculpture, painting, and architecture. Each of them owns some famous and invaluable masterpieces. In sculpture, we have Dong Son bronze drums, patterns. About architecture, we have Hanoi One Pillar Pagoda – influenced by the Buddhist under Ly Dynasty. In painting, we witness the strong development in not only the brushstrokes of artists but also classes of pictures over decades. Let’s take a deeper look at this top-notch art of Vietnam!

Vietnamese Modern Fine Arts

History of Development

Through historical upheaval

Compared with other Asian countries and according to some art commentators, Vietnam is the earliest country to join the flow of modern art both in form and content. This can be easily seen when Indochina Fine Arts School was born in the early 1930s in the presence of French professors.

In the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, the first generation of Vietnam to enter the international art market was modern artists and was famous both in Vietnam and abroad.

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The resistance wars against the colonialists and American imperialists accidentally divided Vietnamese modern fine arts into many different styles, each with its beauty. This difference was most evident in the fine artworks of the North and the South during the period of divide between two regions. On the one hand, fierce battles and fighting spirit of the people have been reflected. On the other, realism-criticism, romanticism, and escapism with the dream of peace permeated the compositions of southern artists.

Standing Screen (Lacquer painting) by Nguyen Gia Tri

Standing Screen (Lacquer painting) by Nguyen Gia Tri

Past and present

Before 1975, the Northern contemporary art developed in the direction of social reality, with the establishment of the Resistance School of Fine Arts in the early days of the 1940s revolution. It was depicted in the paintings of resistance painters. These works in the eyes of art collectors reflected the nostalgia for Vietnam’s heroic era.

During the 1960s and 1970s, members of the Young Painter Association including Nguyen Trung, Lam Triet, Nghi Cao Uyen, Ho Huu Thu, Nguyen Lam, Nguyen Phuoc, Do Quang Em, Trinh Cung, etc., brought a fresh cool breeze of creativity, creating a reputation in Vietnam and the world.

Besides, young artists of surrealism, semi-abstract and abstract art under the guidance of Nguyen Trung and Ca Le Thang blew a new imaginative atmosphere, helping to accelerate the process of integration of Vietnamese contemporary art into the world.

Vietnam Fine Arts in the domestic and international market

The period of 1988 – 1990 can be considered as a milestone when in Vietnam, especially in Ho Chi Minh City, the art market was born.

Also in the 1990s, many Vietnamese artists were asked by various collectors, galleries and the World Cultural Association to display their works at international exhibitions in the US, France, Denmark, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, and Thailand. Their artistic skills are highly appreciated by the international art community. From then on the translation market emerged, with an increasing number of international collectors coming to Vietnam to buy Vietnamese paintings on the spot and inviting individual artists or groups of artists to take part in exhibitions abroad.

Importance of Fine Arts in Vietnamese culture and life

It is said that life pushes people down but the art raises people up. This sentence is true and has been proved since the Stone Age, as far as people started creating art under the simplest shapes to entertain and tell stories such as leaf trumpet, parietal art (stone painting, cave painting), fire dancing, etc. Art has been playing an indispensable part in Vietnamese people’s life.

Fine Arts connects past, present and future; it also expresses and describes in sharp every side and corner of life’s biography and reality. Without art, we might not have a chance to witness the incredible evolution of humans and the universe over centuries and eras.

Types of Vietnamese Paintings

Sketch Painting (Tranh Ky Hoa)

Sketching is drawing and taking notes in the artist’s way and prism in front of different depicting objects. Sketch has many different purposes. There are sketches to document page layout, sketches to decorate documents, direct drawings into sketch paintings, sketches to remember.

How to make a sketch painting?

There are many different ways or methods of sketching. For example: Sketch with a pencil on paper, ink sketch, liquid, pastels, pastels, colored pencils, iron pens, markers, etc.

There are two ways of sketching:

1. Quick sketch: to draw moving objects such as people, animals, birds. Or when the artist has very little time, he must take advantage of a few minutes to catch up like some landscape drawings to remember, a fleeting living landscape, and the appearance of the animals.

2. Deep sketch: to draw relatively static objects, architectural landscapes, decorative motifs, architecture, tools, clothes, etc. These paintings often reflect the good aesthetic emotions of the artists.

On the other hand, the sketch is a method to train the ability to transform the objective image of nature into a mark of artistic evidence, from which to transform into a composition, easel or decoration. That is why the photograph cannot replace the sketch.

Uncle Ho in Viet Bac by Phan Ke An

Uncle Ho in Viet Bac by Phan Ke An

Lacquer Painting (Tranh Son Mai)

Lacquer is one of the painting materials in Vietnam. It is the exploration and technical development of the traditional Vietnamese paint industry (lacquer craft) into the lacquer. However, the word used to call lacquer is often understood to use Japanese and Chinese art paint products. Grinding technique is a big difference between foreign handicrafts and Vietnamese lacquer paintings.

Lacquer painting uses traditional paint materials such as lacquer paint, cockroach paint as a binder, and lacquer, silver, gold and pearl shells, etc. drawing on black stature background. The painting can be painted and sharpened many times until the effect the artist wants. The last is polishing pictures.

Lacquer has “paradoxical” points: if the paint layer is dry, the painting must be kept in an air-tight and high humidity cabinet; If you want to see the picture again, you have to abrade to see the picture.

How to make lacquer painting?

Lacquer can be divided into several main stages: bundles cuttings, decoration, grinding and polishing.

1. Stem pack: Using alluvial soil – workers can now use paint and stone powder – pound it with paper and cuttings and fill in the cracks in the wood. Each layer of paint is lined with paper or curtain. After that, fish gills must be chiseled to install and attach the paint to the horizontal wooden splint behind the boards (wooden planks) to prevent cracks along with the fabric. Then let the wood dry completely cuttings are painted front and back. This stage is to protect the panels from being waterproof, termite-free, and not dependent on the environment for shrinkage. Handling the board more thoroughly, extending the life of the objects to be painted, each lacquer work has a life of 400-500 years.

2. Decoration: When obtaining the aforementioned piece or the carvings of vases, or other clothes, the makers of the items must apply the stages of attaching and sticking the coloring materials to the work first such as shell eggs, nacre, gold, silver … then paint and then grinding flat, then use color.

3. Grinding and polishing: Because the varnish has mixed colors to paint, the gloss submerged in the color core creates the depth of the painting, so after each drawing must be sharpened. The ancients used dried banana leaves as scratch paper.

Uncle Ho in Viet Bac resistance base (Lacquer painting) by Duong Bich Lien

Uncle Ho in Viet Bac resistance base (Lacquer painting) by Duong Bich Lien

Ceremony admitting a new member to the Communist Party at Dien Bien Phu (Lacquer painting) by Nguyen Sang

Ceremony admitting a new member to the Communist Party at Dien Bien Phu (Lacquer painting) by Nguyen Sang

Oil Painting (Tranh Son Dau)

Since ancient times, when people began to draw, they have deliberately sought good materials to paint and hope to invent fresh beautiful and sustainable colors. During that time, people had known how to use colors mixed with oil to paint; but the material is still very primitive, still has many drawbacks and limitations. Over time, many generations of painters have worked hard to explore the materials, tinkering with their paints.

Oil painting came to Vietnam in 1925 when the French opened the Indochina Fine Arts School.

Oil painting came to Vietnam in 1925 when the French opened the Indochina Fine Arts School. So far, oil paint is still the dominant material of Vietnamese painting. You can easily find an oil painting at any gallery near you on your trip to Vietnam.

How to make oil painting?

1. Choosing paint: The most basic set of oil paints should include the following colors: cadmium yellow, ochre gold, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, titanium white, and mars black. You can combine these colors to create any color in the color circle (for example, yellow and red create orange).

2. Preparing other materials:

  • Choose a few basic paintbrushes made of good material.
  • Oil paint mixing knife, paint palette, canvas stretched and some towels and jars for cleaning brushes.
  • White spirits or turpentine to fill the first layer; flaxseed or poppy seed oil to dilute the color for the following layers.

3. Arranging painting area: Use a wide and cool area, open the doors or windows. Place the easel or table away from the noise and direct sunlight if possible. Spread a cloth lining to prevent paint from flowing down and damaging the floor.

4. Some oil painting tips:

  • Brush heads from synthetic fibers are usually soft and natural ones are harder.
  • Apply the ‘Thick on thin’ rule (color layer on a liquid layer) so that the color layers do not crack or split.
  • White color is used up very quickly, so you should buy a large white tube and small or medium tube for the remaining colors.
  • Tint with a large amount and retain after each painting so you use the same paint color.
Little Thuy (Oil on canvas) by Tran Van Can

Little Thuy (Oil on canvas) by Tran Van Can; one of national treasures

Two Girls and A Boy (Oil on canvas) by To Ngoc Van; one of national treasures

Two Girls and A Boy (Oil on canvas) by To Ngoc Van; one of national treasures

Sandpainting (Tranh Cat)

Sandpainting is known as the art of using colored sand, crystals, minerals or other pigments of natural origin and also from synthetic materials, pouring or spreading on the surface of matter to create pictures. paintings live according to the wishes of their makers. In Vietnamese paintings, art sand painting is divided into two basic types: static sand paintings (traditional) and dynamic sand paintings (modern).

In Vietnam, although no specific records are showing who was the first to experience this art, perhaps Mrs. Y Lan was the one who brought this art to the development and popularity.

Like other arts, sand painting has changed over time, constantly developing. One of the most successful variations is the modern sand painting, which combines painting with light and music, known as dynamic sand paintings.

There are 4 main topics of sand painting:

1. Sandpaintings of landscapes: This type often depicts natural beauty in all parts of the world.

2. Human tableau in work: This genre mainly depicts the appearance of a person who is hard at work and devoted to life.

3. Sand picture portrait: This is about love. Paintings of fatherly love, paintings of motherly love, as gifts of gratitude to the man who was born, etc.

4. Calligraphy: This is an intersection between the two art subjects. It requires artisans to pay attention to each pen stroke because in calligraphy strokes pen is also the soul of the writer.

How to make sandpainting?

1. Preparing

  • Natural colored sand (can be obtained at Phan Thiet or the central coast of Southern Vietnam).
  • Some colors of sand not found in nature can be mixed or dyed with a special color.
  • A small surface rail to screen the sand evenly, fine, clean, without impurities.
  • A small teaspoon.
  • A sharp-pointed stick.
  • Glass or glass frame is transparent, with no pattern.

2. Drawing

  • Choose samples of sand on-demand or ready to fit the frame according to size (quite important).
  • Sketch a pattern on a glass or glass frame to create basic proportions and lines (a small, erasable tip brush should be used).
  • A handle holding the glass slightly inclined about 30 degrees, or in the glass frame should be on a rotating surface, a spoon holding a small spoon of sand to bring the glass close to the mouth of the glass and gently pour the sand slowly into the glass in layers.
  • Use the stick to gently push the sand back and forth to create the desired line and color. Just pouring, just mixing the sand to harmonize.
  • So the sand layer is tightly packed together and kept fixed in the glass/frame without using adhesive.
  • Once the sand has formed, use a spoon to compress slightly in the center of the glass/frame so that the layers of sand stick together.
  • Add 1 layer of sand to the center of the glass/frame to keep the sand tight, preventing the outer layer from moving.
  • Keep pouring the remaining sand layers in the same manner until full of glass/frame.
A sand painting

Countryside (Sandpainting)

Silk Painting (Tranh Lua)

When it comes to silk, perhaps the first thing people think of is the slender Ao Dai of Vietnamese women. In the development history of visual arts, silk paintings are often mentioned in some countries in the East with mulberry cultivation, such as China, Japan, and Vietnam. With airy properties, many empty cells, tough but soft and smooth fibers, silk has good absorbency, hard to fade and acceptable to apply on it but still feels soft, clear and deep.

The beauty of the material in silk is different from the materials in lacquer, oil paint, so in the field of painting, only silk painting is named by the characteristics of the material used as the background of the painting, not by drawing materials. up on that background. It can be said that silk is one of the unique and unique painting materials.

Vietnamese artists often use silk because it has a smooth, small, rough type of fibers. Each type of silk will bring a different effect when drawing due to the thin thickness of the silk. Together, they create magical and beautiful Vietnamese paintings.

How to make silk painting?

1. Stretching the silk over the frame so evenly that the silk can be dry or moist.

2. Immersing silk into rice flour water mixed with a bit of alum so that when painted, the color does not stick.

3. Drawing: the objects can be shaped with a fine pencil through the tracing paper or put a pen straight on silk

4. Being patient: the artist needs to draw each layer after layer so that the color can be absorbed thoroughly into each silk fiber.

5. Pinning the picture on non-machined paper.

Sun at Summer (Silk painting) by Le Van De

Sun at Summer (Silk painting) by Le Van De

Dong Ho Painting (Tranh Dong Ho)

Dong Ho painting was born in Bac Ninh, home of Vietnam Traditional Folk Music. This is a unique line of the folklore paintings that requires the finesse of Vietnamese hands. This is one of the most well-known type of Vietnamese paintings.

Dong Ho paintings belong to the line of woodblock prints created, produced and developed by Dong Ho villagers. This is a line of paintings that closely and vividly displays the traditional Vietnamese agricultural society, the working life of ordinary farmers, the simplicity, customs, customs, and activities of Vietnamese people.

How to make Dong Ho painting?

1. Creating art form sample: This is the work of a craftsman. The artisans of these people are usually educated gurus, knowledgeable in culture, history, society, talented in observation, with aesthetic taste, etc. Therefore, Dong Ho paintings have very rich content.

2. Cutting planks: Make a flat wooden board. Rosewood, squid wood are usually made of sharp boards (sharp, durable), yellow heartwood makes planks (bigger array, not need to be “sharp”, but yellow heartwood is softer, easier to engrave). Then sweep the paste-up, paste the sheet face-down, sweep it once again with a “thet” (a kind of pine brush) without glue, the entire picture pattern has appeared on the back of the picture. After cutting, when printing a picture, it will look like a sample sheet.

3. Engraving shapes: The engraving on this board is usually large, deep and vertical.

4. Coloring: Print out a stroke, use a brush to color each piece – usually each sheet has three to four colors and the contour is black, then take the thin sheet of paper on top of it, and paint over each of those colors one copy, and then do the same with the pattern board – get the color boards. For these boards to print together, they have two dots on each left, close to the edge of the woods – called “cu” (frame).

Collecting Coconuts - Dong Ho Folk Painting

Collecting Coconuts – Dong Ho Folk Painting

Sow and piglets - Dong Ho Folk Painting

Sow and piglets – Dong Ho Folk Painting

Calligraphy Painting (Tranh Thu Phap)

Calligraphy painting is the art of expressing people’s minds through written language. The Greek word Calli is Kalli, derived from Kallos meaning beauty; while Graphy from Greek root is Graphein means writing.

Calligraphy has become an art used to express the emotional feelings of people, containing the values ​​of national traditions that educate people about ethics and human life in life, etc.

Therefore, calligraphy painting has become an indispensable part of Vietnamese people’s life and one of the most popular Vietnamese paintings. The most special are Tet holiday or other traditional cultural festivals. Nowadays, wherever we go in Vietnam, we can easily come across calligraphic works. There are signs, titles on the packaging of some types of products, on the covers of books, in temples, in cafes, …

Vietnamese calligraphy painting forms

1. Calligraphy on paper: The tureen is a couplet written on Fine Art paper, with a 2-sided plastic splint used for decoration in offices, living rooms, etc. These paintings bring the messages to teach children to live in life, to praise, to congratulate friends, etc.

2. Calligraphy on leaves: This is a new kind of art. It brings the traditional handwriting closer to nature and makes the leaves more alive.

3. Calligraphy painting the word “Phuc” (Blessing): “Phuc” means advantageous and consensus. The concept of the word “Phuc” of the nation, of each family, of each of Vietnamese people, is forever a good symbol of Vietnamese cultural life.

4. Nature painting: This is the most suitable for decoration and aesthetics.

5. Wealth painting: This is for bringing luck to the career and business.

Calligraphy Painting

Calligraphy Painting

Rice Painting (Tranh Gao)

Rice painting is an art form. It has its unique and simple creation made from small natural grains of rice. Rice painting combines with the talented hands of artisans who create beautiful rice paintings as portraits, architecture, landscape, etc. They play a role of bearing the image of the country, the people of Vietnam with cultural Vietnamese paintings.

Among Vietnamese paintings, rice painting is simple but very soulful. Therefore, hanging rice paintings everywhere is beautiful. These paintings also enhance the coziness of the interior space. Therefore, many foreign tourists visiting Vietnam have chosen to buy rice paintings as gifts.

Read more: 17 Best Vietnam Souvenirs Ideas for Kids and Adults

How to make rice painting?

1. Roasting rice: Put on low heat, stir well. Each color will take about 30 minutes to 2 hours. The most basic colors that we can get: white, milk, yellow, brown, black.

2. Sketch drawing: Prepare a wooden plank with a thickness of about 3-5mm. A huge jar of milk glue and tweezers are to pick up the rice.

3. Arranging rice into a picture: Pour the milk glue following the main shape of the rice painting. Then, set up the rice into that available form.

4. Sticking everything by glue and handling termites: Use 502 the super glue. Paint a layer of varnish onto the painting and spray the termiticide.

5. Exposing paintings under the sun and framing when dry.

A mouse's wedding - Rice painting

A mouse’s wedding – Rice painting

Quilling Painting (Tranh Giay Cuon)

Quilling is the art of rolling paper or twisting paper. Under the talented hands of humans, colorful pieces of paper are cut into small pieces, rolled up skillfully. Then, they get mosaiced on the background of the paper surface, furniture or gift … to form complete Vietnamese paintings.

In Vietnam, the art of scroll painting has first appeared in many large cities. Especially, it appears the work of not only skilled artisans but also training for handicapped villages. The products are both delicate and soulful imbuing with Vietnamese national culture.

Quilling art

Quilling art

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Start planning your tailor-made Vietnam tour by contacting one of our specialists…

Bich Ngoc

As a true Vietnamese enthusiast of music, books and coffee, Bich Ngoc loves researching into those typical cultural characteristics of Vietnam as well as exploring further destinations in the country of thousand years of civilization.


  1. Bài viết quá tốt đến nỗi tôi cứ tưởng đây là 1 chuyên trang về mỹ thuật.
    Tôi sở hữu 1 Studio hoàn toàn là tranh sáng tác ở Quận 2, Thảo Điền, Trông ra sông sài gòn, tôi có thể gợi ý HEPE Studio vào danh sách được ghé thăm hay không?
    1 số tranh trong HEPE STUDIO đã đoạt giải của hội mỹ thuật và đã được trưng bày tại bảo tàng thành phố
    Xin cảm ơn
    Thao Dien Pearl, 12 Quoc Huong, Thao Dien ward, Distric 2, Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam

    1. Thank you for your comment. I would like to add your studio into the list of places to buy paintings in Vietnam. Wish you success!

    1. Dear Bobby,

      Thank you for your comment. If you are interested in taking a trip to Vietnam to explore further Vietnam fine arts, please do not hesitate to contact us!

      Bich Ngoc

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