Artisan & 16 generations of painters

15:07 | 03/02/2017 Culture & Art

(VEN) - Artisan Nguyen Huu Qua is the son of the late artisan Nguyen Huu Sam from the Dong Ho Painting Village, located in Song Ho Commune of Thuan Thanh District, Bac Ninh Province. During his lifetime, the honored artisan significantly contributed to the development of the traditional craft in the village.  

artisan 16 generations of painters

Artisan Nguyen Huu Qua introduces Dong Ho paintings in South Korea

His son Qua also lives with his family in the village. All five family members participate in creating paintings, with each responsible for a different stage of work, and they are especially busy these days ahead of the Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday. Qua said the 1940s were the golden age of Dong Ho Painting Village. At that time, 17 family lines in the village were engaged in painting. Each year, the whole village worked hard from July or August towards year’s end to prepare for Tet. During the last month of the lunar calendar, painting lovers and traders from different regions came to the village to buy paintings. Dong Ho paintings made their way to many localities, such as Nam Dinh, Thai Binh, Thanh Hoa and Nghe An provinces.

Qua said he began making paintings when he was 10 years old and has pursued this occupation for more than four decades. So far, he has produced thousands of paintings. Qua always keeps his father’s teachings in mind, wishing to contribute to the conservation of a valuable line of painting for the country.

A three-story house is where Qua lives with his family and creates paintings while at the same time teaching his children to paint. Currently, Qua and his wife are the key workers of this family enterprise. His two sons and daughter-in-law are engaged in different stages of making paintings and help him manage sales contracts. Qua and his family have diversified Dong Ho paintings to meet the demand of different types of customers so that their paintings can be sold not only on Tet but also on other occasions.

artisan 16 generations of painters

Artisan Nguyen Huu Qua in his family’s gallery

Qua said that he could hardly create large works at his age but considers his house as a painting collection, conservation and development center. Every day he tries to teach his children all aspects of the work. He hopes future generations will not only have good knowledge of the sophisticated process of making a painting, but will also have a deep understanding of the philosophical messages that the ancients wished to convey through each painting.

Qua brought his village’s paintings to exhibitions and fairs whenever there was an opportunity to do so, in an effort to provide people with better knowledge and understanding of this painting line. In June 2016, he was invited by a South Korean woodblock print museum to participate in a scientific workshop on Asian woodblock prints (paintings of this kind are created by printing letters and images engraved from woodblocks).

The workshop gathered participants from Japan, China, South Korea, and Vietnam. Qua brought Dong Ho paintings to display at the workshop and was happy to see them highly appreciated by foreigners. He said foreigners paid great attention to the materials (paper and colors) used to make Dong Ho paintings. They were surprised to know how the colors were created, for example the red color made from bricks, yellow from the flower of the Japanese pagoda-tree, green from indigo leaves, black from the ash of bamboo leaves, and white from oyster shell. These five colors are mixed to create other different colors.

Foreigners’ respect for Dong Ho paintings has made Qua more aware of his responsibility to conserve and develop this line of folk painting. The presence of a Dong Ho painting at the South Korean woodblock print museum made him proud.

Qua said that Dong Ho paintings are liked because of their simplicity and closeness to the lives of residents in the delta areas of northern Vietnam. Though simple, these paintings reflect the aspiration for a peaceful and comfortable life. In old times, northern people always bought Dong Ho paintings to hang in their homes on Tet, believing that the paintings augured success, prosperity and happiness.

Qua believes and hopes that younger generations will continue to conserve and develop the traditional occupation that his family, as well as other Dong Ho painters, is pursuing.

Artisan Nguyen Huu Qua:

My family has pursued the occupation of making Dong Ho paintings through 16 generations. Painting makers should love and

have good knowledge of their job, because on each painting there often are lines of verse or quotations in ancient

Vietnamese script or Chinese characters. Poor knowledge would lead to deviations that spoil the value of the paintings.

Thanh Tam & Quynh Nga