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Tạ Tỵ was born in Hanoi on 24 September 1922, one of eight children. He studied painting at the École des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine and graduated in 1943. After the Việt Minh’s defeat of the Japanese in northern Vietnam in 1945, Tạ Tỵ, along with many other artists, joined the resistance against the French and moved to Thanh Hóa province. In the arts section of Resistance Zone III, he worked alongside other artists including Bùi Xuan Phái, Nguyễn Văn Tỵ and Nguyễn Sỹ Ngọc, as well as musician Văn Cao and writer Đào Duy Anh. He continued to paint and exhibit his works, including an exhibition in the resistance zone in 1948. Tạ Tỵ’s first solo exhibition of 20 cubist paintings was held in Hanoi in 1951; it generated great interest and was both praised and criticised alike.

In 1953, Tạ Tỵ was conscripted into the army of emperor Bảo Đại’s government and moved south to Saigon, where he trained to become an anti-tank artillery officer.  He fought with the 13th regiment stationed in Cần Thơ before joining the psychological unit of the General Staff. In the 1960s, Tạ Tỵ’s art progressed from cubism to abstraction, a movement that he would explore for the remainder of his days. He held solo exhibitions in Saigon in 1956, 1961, 1966 and 1971. In the mid 1960s, he prepared a series of 50 portraits of southern cultural figures for an exhibition intended for 1965. It was the first series of portraits made in Vietnam that adopted a unique and special style to reflect the personality and career of each character, though the exhibition was cancelled at the last moment.

Tạ Tỵ left the army of the South Vietnamese regime in 1972 but after the war ended in 1975, as a former military officer, he was imprisoned in a reeducation camp in the north of Vietnam for six years. On his release in 1981, he and his wife escaped Vietnam by sea to Malaysia and resettled in California in 1983. Tạ Tỵ returned to Vietnam only shortly before he died in 2004.


Tạ Tỵ

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