The sensitive, subtle, beautiful paintings by Vietnamese artist, Le Pho are a fascinating combination of Oriental artistry with influences of contemporary Western art. For the most part, he specialized in semi-Impressionist studies of flowers and figures and handled them with delicacy and unusually fluid transparency of color. In his early years, Le Pho preferred painting on silk instead of canvas, and to do so, developed a technique all his own. He later painted on canvas, and on this sturdier material, he achieved great richness and completely unique surface texture, which suggests the delicacy of the silk formerly used.
Le Pho’s work has a distinctive elegance, along with imagination and artistry, which immediately suggests a background of culture and taste. Consequently, one is not surprised to learn that Le Pho was the son of the Viceroy of Tonkin (Viet Nam) and that his first one-man show in Paris was considered sufficiently important to be sponsored by the Embassy of Indo-China.
Born in Viet Nam on August 2, 1907, Le Pho had a cosmopolitan background even as a young art student. He first studied at the École des Beaux-Arts of Hanoi for five years from 1925 to 1930, and then at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris during the following two years. In 1933 on his return to Hanoi he was appointed a professor in the Hanoi École des Beaux-Arts, a post that he held from 1933 to 1936. While studying in Paris he had the good fortune of being a student of Victor Tardieu who during his art student days had been a friend and companion of Matisse.
Le Pho’s professorship in Hanoi came to an end when he was sent back to Paris in 1937 as a delegate to the International Exposition in Paris and served also as a member of the jury of this Exposition. Since that time, Le Pho remained a resident of Paris. His first one-man show there in 1938 was the first step toward his subsequent active and important painting career in Europe. He had numerous one-man shows in Paris, Nice, Lyon, Strasbourg, Nantes, Rouen, Brest, Algiers, Casablanca, Brussels, Caracas, and Buenos Aires, as well as in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Palm Beach. Also, he served as artistic advisor to the Embassy of Viet Nam in Paris; had been a prizewinner in the International Exhibition of Beaux-Arts of Saigon, and had become an annual exhibitor at the Salon d’Automne and the Salon des Indépendants in Paris.