MAI TRUNG THỨ (1906-1980)
Enfants jouant dans la campagne, 1971
Ink and color on silk, signed and dated lower left. In its original frame made by the artist
66,5 x 94 cm - 26 1/8 x 37 in.
In the 16th century, Pieter Brueghel the Elder made his mark with his famous painting Les Jeux d’enfants (fig xx) now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Five centuries later, Mai Trung Thứ immortalized his vision of children at play. While the ancient master focused on depicting a realistic vision of the peasant world, the Vietnamese artist offers an idealized representation of the world of childhood.
Enfants jouant dans la campagne charms the viewer with its liveliness and multitude of characters. A large number of Mai Trung Thứ’s compositions feature only a very small number of characters, in an uncluttered setting. Here, with distinctive precision, he depicts a flock of children with spontaneous attitudes. At first glance, a certain uniformity emanates from this composition. The faces are similar, and only the hairstyles distinguish the boys from the girls. Most of the boys wear the same white outfit, almost like a uniform. However, this homogenization is only partial. The children are individualized by their expressions. Some are frightened, others contemplative or even laughing. Bathing, arranging a tulip bed, fighting or perched on a tree, their activities allow for a wide range of expressions. Some have a more passive attitude, suggesting that they are more inclined to daydream.
From the 1970s onwards, the artist gradually introduced bright colors into his palette. Here, aniseed green, candy pink and coral orange lend distinction to the characters. The rhythm of colors and shapes, the treatment of space and their movements give this scene a unique character. The painter’s confident strokes bring out the subtle nuances of this composition’s vivid, shimmering chromatic range.Although Mai Trung Thứ achieved success from the 1960s onwards with his depictions of children, this work represents the apogee of the artist’s talent for this type of subject.