Modern & Samtida konst + Design
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To be sold at our Important Sale: Modern & Contemporary Art + Design 10 – 12 May 2023
Lot 434 Vũ Cao Đàm (France/Vietnam 1908‑2000). Sitting couple. Signed and dated Vu Cao Dam 1957 lower right and signed and dated Vu Cao Dam Vence 1957 on the reverse. Oil on panel, 73 x 60 cm.
300.000 – 400.000 SEK
€ 27.000 – 35.000
A Swedish private collection, in the same family since at least the early 1960s.
Famous for his scenes of traditional Vietnamese life painted in a highly modernist manner, Vũ Cao Đàm is one of the most notable artists of the 20th century. Throughout his life, he drew inspiration from the poetic saga Kim Van Kieu written by Nguyên Du 1765-1820, which according to many captured the very emblem of the Vietnamese soul. Included in the sale is a work depicting a sitting couple, executed by Vũ Cao Đàm in 1957. It has remained within the same Swedish private collection since at least the early 1960s.
Vũ Cao Đàm was born into an educated family as the fifth of fourteen children of whom only nine reached adulthood. He came from a line of learned men and displayed an early interest in the arts. In 1926, he began his formal education at the painter Victor Tardieu’s École des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine (now the Vietnam University of Fine Arts). The young Vũ Cao Đàm showed great talent in sculpturing and eventually joined the new sculpture program at the École des Beaux-Arts, where he created several bronze sculptures. In the 1930s, Vũ Cao Đàm continued his education in Paris with the help of a scholarship. Due to his extensive education as a young child in Vietnam, Vũ Cao Đàm already mastered the French language perfectly and felt a deep admiration for the French culture. During his first year in Paris he received the honour of an invitation to display his works in the Exposition Coloniale Internationale and was able to proceed his studies at the École du Louvre. While living in France, Vũ Cao Đàm had the opportunity to study painting and sculptures by some of the most important impressionists and post-impressionists. The sculptures by French masters such as Auguste Rodin and Alberto Giacometti interested him in particular, as well as the colourful compositions by Marc Chagall, who like Vũ Cao Đàm had moved to Paris from his hometown abroad.
The trip to France changed Vũ Cao Đàm’s life forever. In fact, he never returned to Vietnam and decided to settle down in France. At the time, Paris was a metropolis for art lovers and showed the art of the modern era. People met at restaurants and bars around the city to discuss art, music, politics and life and Vũ Cao Đàm found himself right at the center of it. He stayed in Paris during World War II but decided to leave Paris in 1949 and settled down in the countryside of southern France. Famous for its beautiful scenery and light, the surroundings provided him with inspiration and harmony. Most importantly, he was living down the road from Henri Matisse’s chapel in Vence and only a short distance away from the home of Marc Chagall. From his new home in southern France, Vũ Cao Đàm illustrated the dramatic epic story about Kim Van Kieu and chose to illustrate only the moments of happiness, love and serenity. This enabled him to connect his upbringing in Vietnam with his new life in France, which was the source behind his modern artistic style. His most recurrent themes are couples, maternity love, landscapes from Vence, figures with horses and young women standing together in a lush garden. In 1954, he presented some paintings to the art dealer Paul Hervieu. It was the beginning of a friendship and Hervieu began to exhibit his paintings regularly at his gallery in Nice as well as overseas, particularly in Sweden where he showed Vũ Cao Đàm’s works several times. It was probably at one of the exhibitions in Sweden that the present work was acquired by the current owner’s family.
Vũ Cao Đàm excelled in both painting and sculpture, earning him the position as one of the foremost Vietnamese artists of the 20th century. His works show extreme refinement and are recognised for their profound beauty and presence. ■