Artist Choe

by Tu Do Gallery

April 2013

Choe was an internationally acclaimed cartoonist; an artist who painted and sold multiple types of artworks: oil on canvas, silk paintings, watercolor on rice-paper, etc. He was also a writer, poet, and composer.

I first met Choe in late 1970 at Bao Den News office, Saigon. At that time, he was just drawing cartoons for a few newspapers in Saigon. Only a few years later, he became a world famous cartoonist.

Tu Do Gallery opened in June 24th, 1989. We purchased 20 artworks from Choe in July. That was the very first collection of our art gallery.

Choe’s silk paintings were very different from those by other Southern artists, most of whom attended Gia Dinh Art Institute. They followed closely the traditional Le Van De style: fair and dreamy. As a self-taught artist coming from a cartoon background, Choe’s style was, on the other hand, a combination of bold, gutsy strokes and lavish colors. Many pointed out that Choe’s silk paintings were not correct according to traditional Vietnamese style. Choe agreed with this assessment. He invented his own style. His silk paintings quickly became “best sellers” at Tu Do Gallery. He followed up with watercolor on rice-paper, again in his unrestrained style. They too became sought after by collectors.

One of Choe’s first oil on canvas paintings was “Highland Scenery,” finished in 1965. This was a gift to his lover, who would later become his lifelong wife. His very first painting after returning from a re-education camp in 1985 was a portrait of her.

In 1989, he brought “Saigon Night” to Tu Do Gallery. It was one of Choe’s signature works with his usual gusto. Since then, his works have been a regular favorite of visitors to the art gallery.

He continued with several national and international exhibitions. Several of his later works were themed collections, such as:

- US Presidents: 41 oil-on-canvas paintings, 1991. (Currently in the collection of Ms. Nancy Pham, USA).

- Women of my Country: 10 caricatures, watercolor on paper. He painted this collection for “Asian Cartoon,” a joint exhibition in Japan, 1995. Ten artists from ten different Asian countries were invited to attend the exhibition. (Currently in the collection of Choe’s family).

- Vietnam Personage: 57 oil-on-canvas paintings, 50cm x 65cm, exhibited in 1995, HCM City, Vietnam. (Currently in the collection of Mr. Han Duc Minh, HCM City, Vietnam).

- Ho Xuan Huong Poems: 27 oil-on-canvas paintings, 77cm x 77cm, exhibited in 1996, HCM City, Vietnam. (Currently in the collection of Ms. Phan Thi Thu Mai, HCM City, Vietnam).

- Nobel Laureate Women: 40 oil-on-canvas paintings, 70cm x 85cm, exhibited in 1996, HCM City, Vietnam. (Currently in the collection of Ms. Phan Thi Thu Mai, HCM City, Vietnam).

- Savigny Le Temple: 24 oil-on-canvas paintings finished in 1998, when Choe was in France for his illness. Exhibited in the City Hall of Savigny Le Temple, France. (Currently in the collection of Choe’s family).

- Portraits of Various Artists: 28 oil on canvas, painted in 2000 and 2001. These were his last works. The collection was exhibited in 2006 at Tu Do Gallery, HCM City, Vietnam. In this exhibition, there were two additional paintings from his earlier years, one oil on canvas painting "Tran Tien" (1993) and one silk painting "Bao Yen" (1990). The collection is currently held by the art gallery.

In this exhibition “CHOE ARTWORKS,” we are pleased to introduce the two collections “Women of my Country” and “Savigny Le Temple,” which have been held by the artist’s family. Though these collections have been exhibited outside the country, this is the first time they are presented to the Vietnamese public. In addition, we will also showcase several of Choe’s paintings in the collection of Tu Do Gallery.