History of Vietnamese Silk Paintings....

According to Vietnamese legend, in the second century BC a beautiful princess, named Hoang Phu Thieu Hoa, discovered small caterpillars (later known as silkworms) spinning cocoons of fine thread. She took this knowledge to the nearby villages of Co Do and Van Sa located in the Ba Vi District of Son Tay Province. The weavers in these villages refined the silk thread and spread their knowledge through the sixty neighboring villages. In the 11th century, Queen Nguyen Phi Y Lan founded the first silk weaving workshop in the capital city of Thang Long (Ha Noi). The production of high quality silk is a long and difficult process even today; as a result, it is considered a precious material. The best silk still comes from the Ha Dong regions where the princess discovered it twenty centuries ago.

Silk is an extremely difficult and unforgiving medium in which to work, requiring great patience and discipline from the artists and discouraging many. Before an artist can begin to paint on silk, it must be carefully stretched on a wooden frame. Painting on silk is done using thin layers of watercolor. If the colors are applied too thickly the unique property of silk painting can be lost. The colors must be applied with great care because a wrong stroke of the brush is irreversible. There are many types of silk that can be used ranging from very close woven long grained silk to more coarse and short grain silk.

 After many generations of development of techniques and styles, silk painting reached world acclaim during the years 1925-1945.   The Vietnamese style of silk painting emphasized softness, elegance and a flexibility of style.  These qualities of silk painting were different compared to, at the time, the dominant French and European oil painting.  In 1946, Vietnamese silk painting were “discovered” and introduced to the world when Vietnamese silk paintings won two prizes at the official Salon organized in France.  Vietnamese silk paintings are now popular throughout the world due to their unique character and transparency of colors that are different from those of Chinese and Japanese pieces.