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Nguyễn Thanh Châu was born on 4 January 1939 in Tịnh Thới village within Cao Lãnh district in what is now Đồng Tháp province, part of the western Mekong Delta in the south of Vietnam. In 1953, Châu joined the resistance, following his father who was an official in the war against the French. After the defeat of the French in 1954, he moved north with his family to Hanoi, where he studied oil painting at Vietnam Fine Art College (Trường cao đẳng Mỹ thuật Việt Nam) under director Trần Văn Cẩn from 1956-59. He was then sent to the Soviet Union for further education, where he studied at the National School of Fine Arts in Kiev between 1960-64, specialising in watercolour. After a stint in Moscow, Châu returned to Vietnam and joined the People’s Army of Vietnam in 1966.

After a nine month journey down the Hồ Chí Minh trail, through Laos and Cambodia, Châu arrived back in the south, in Tây Ninh province. He spent most of the remaining years of the war in the area of the Mekong Delta’s Plain of Reeds (Đồng Tháp Mười) near his original home, alongside artists Thái Hà, Huỳnh Phương Đông and Lê Lam. He witnessed battles in places such as on the Tiền River, on Black Virgin Mountain (Núi Bà Đen) and near the tunnels of Củ Chi before his advance with the army on its final assault on Saigon in April 1975.

After the war, he held positions as Deputy Secretary General of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association and Secretary General of the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Association before retiring to a quiet riverside village suburb in Ho Chi Minh City.

 

Nguyễn Thanh Châu

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