Nguyen Trong Niet and Bui Xuan Phai’s Last Handwriting Before His Quietus in 1988

Bui Xuan Phai (Vietnamese, 1920-1988)

Born in Hanoi, where he lived most of his life, Phai is one of Vietnam’s most prominent artists. He graduated from the École des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine in 1945 and taught at the Hanoi College of Fine Arts. His works are in private and public collections around the world, and he was the recipient of several local and international awards.

Boi Tran Garden is proud to present the last handwriting and sketchbook of Bui Xuan Phai (Vietnamese, 1920-1988) before his quietus on 24 June 1988. Before entrusting to Boi Tran, the sketchbook’s former owner was Vietnamese painter Nguyen Trong Niet, one of Phai’s closest companions.

Boi Tran (Vietnamese, B. 1957) and Nguyen Trong Niet at his home in Hanoi attending to the stories of Bui Xuan Phai’s sketchbook and some other separate sketches Niet shared

Amongst all Vietnamese artists, Bui Xuan Phai perhaps best epitomized the romantic notion of the artist as a lonely suffering soul, struggling only for his art. For a long time between the late 1950s and 1984, he was barred from exhibiting his works as he had been a supporter of the Nhan Van cultural-political movement demanding freedom of speech, creativity and human rights. However, after his death, he was awarded the Ho Chi Minh Prize in 1996, the highest national prize for visual artists in Vietnam. He was lauded for his steadfastness to art and for his moral character. 

Bui Xuan Phai and his close friend painter Nguyen Trong Niet

According to Phai, throughout life’s vicissitudes and the toughest miserable conditions, Artist Nguyen Trong Niet, Collector Nguyen Ba Dam, Photographer Tran Van Luu, and Writer Nguyen Tuan remained his closest companions.

Boi Tran attentively listening to the stories Collector Nguyen Ba Dam, dearest companion of Bui Xuan Phai shared regarding Bui Xuan Phai, his art and their companionship at Nguyen Ba Dam’s home in Hanoi.
Left to right: Boi Tran, Collector Nguyen Ba Dam, Lacquer Painter Dang Ngoc Bach, attentively listening to the stories and looking at the old photograph Collector Nguyen Ba Dam shared related to Bui Xuan Phai, his art and their companionship at Nguyen Ba Dam’s home in Hanoi.
Boi Tran visiting Bui Xuan Phai’s Wife, Nguyen Thi Sinh at their home in Hanoi
Bui Xuan Phai executed this draft above and gifted to Nguyen Trong Niet on the special occasion of Nguyen Trong Niet’s pottery exhibition
Bui Xuan Phai’s self-portrait, dated ’20/6/88′ and Nguyen Trong Niet’s handwriting

“Bức ghi cuối cùng của Anh Phái trước khi đi xa. Có tự dạng của anh ghi ở mặt sau.

“The last sketch of Phai before his quietus. His handwriting is on the reverse.

The last handwriting of Bui Xuan Phai (Vietnamese, 1920-1988) on 20 June 1988 before his quietus, along with the sketchbook owned by Vietnamese Artist Nguyen Trong Niet, one of Phai’s closest companions.

“Hôm nay mình nghe nói ông Trần Văn Cẩn đang ốm nặng. Có lẽ cũng phải đi bệnh viện.
Từ hôm mình ốm, tiêu tiền rất ít, hầu như không.
Năm ngoái vào dịp này, Lê Quốc Lộc, Nguyễn Dung ra đi.”

“Today, I heard that Tran Van Can was seriously sick. Perhaps, he had to go to the hospital.
Since the day being ill, I almost didn’t spend money
On this occasion last year, Le Quoc Loc, Nguyen Dung passed away.

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