Among the first graduates of the École des Beaux-Arts de 'Indochine (VietnamUniversity of Fine Arts) in Hanoi, Mai Trung Thu (1906-1980) was a painter whose oeuvre celebrated the innocence of rural Vietnam. His participation in the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris in 1937 led him to settle down inFrance. Despite staying there for most of his life, Mai Thu continued a deep sense of love for his homeland, painting tender images of Vietnamese women, children and idealised landscapes.
His silk paintings depict ethnically Vietnamese figures – mainly women – engaged in a variety of leisurely activities. Their serene facial expressions, evocative poses and lively interactions create a romantic and poetic vision of Vietnamese everyday life. In contrast to other silk painters, Mai Thu often used bold colours to illustrate traditional garments and paraphernalia, culminating in vibrant scenes of peaceful nostalgia.
After moving to France in 1937, Mai Thu quickly gained recognition by participating in the annual exhibitions, Salon des Indépendants and Salon d'Automne from 1938 to 1940. While in France, he proceeded to have many solo exhibitions surrounding the themes of women, children and family. The retrospective exhibition, The Poetic Universe of Mai Thu, opened at the Galerie Vendôme before his passing in 1980.