Vietnamese (1906 - 1980)

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.
A portrait of Mai Trung Thu


1906 Born in Kien-An, North Vietnam
1925 Studies at the École des Beaux-Arts de l'Indochine
1931 Teaches drawing at the Lycée Français d'Hanoï
1937 Participates in the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris, France
Moves to Paris, France
1941 Enlists for the military service in Mâcon, France
Commissioned to paint portraits for members of the Mâconnaise society
Decorates memorial chapel in Saint-Pierre church of Mâcon
1943 Returns to Paris
1947 Films report of the Fontainebleau Conference during President Ho Chi Minh’s visit to Paris
1948 Produces documentary on the technique of painting on silk
c.1953 Meets Jean François Apesteguy, who becomes Mai Thu’s artistic director
1960 Wins the Grand Prix du Disque (Grand Prize in Recording) for a record of traditional Vietnamese music with Professor Tran Van Khe
1973 Visits Vietnam
1975 Visits Vietnam for a second time
1980 Passes away in Paris, France

1963 Les Enfants de Mai-Thu (Children of Mai Thu), Galerie du Péristyle, Paris, France
1968 La Femme vue par Mai-Thu (Women in the eyes of Mai-Thu), Galerie Cardo Matignon, Paris, France
1971 L’Enfant et la famille (Child and Family), Galerie Doucet, Paris, France
1974 Le Monde de Mai-Thu (The World of Mai-Thu), Galerie Vendôme, Paris, France
1980 L’Univers poétique de Mai-Thu (The Poetic Universe of Mai-Thu), Galerie Vendôme, Paris, France

c.1938 Salon des Indépendants
Salon d'Automne
c.1941 Group Exhibition, Galerie Lorenceau, Vichy, France
Group Exhibition, Galerie Bellecour, Lyon, France
1942 Group Exhibition, on invitation from the Governor of Algeria, Galerie Romanet, Algiers, Algeria
1943 Group Exhibition, Galerie Hessel, Paris, France
Group Exhibition, Pavillon de Madagascar, Paris, France
1947 Group Exhibition, Galerie d’Art Français, Paris, France
1952 Group Exhibition, Gallery Conti, Paris, France
Group Exhibition, Galerie de l’Institut rue de Seine, Paris, France
Group Exhibition, Galerie Marforen Faubourg Saint Honoré, Paris, France
1960 Group Exhibition, Galerie du Péristyle, Paris, France
1975 Group Exhibition, Galerie Vendôme, Paris, France