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Painters in Paradise: Visions of French Indochina
Denise Heywood Thursday 25 October 2018

Old Saigon, elegant Hanoi, mystical Ha Long Bay ... these places captivated French artists of the 19th century colonial regime in Vietnam where they taught painting at the School of Fine Arts. Their sensual portraits and exotic landscapes evoked an idyllic world of gracious people with rich artistic traditions harking back to ancient civilisations. Imbuing their students with Western ideas, artists such as Alix Aymé, who revived lustrous lacquer work and silk painting, and Victor Tardieu, a pupil of Matisse, formed a generation of Vietnamese painters whose creative expression fused Eastern imagery with Paris Modernism. This lecture shows the historic background of Indochina, of ancient Hindu temples, Buddhist pagodas and Chinese style palaces, that was transformed by the addition of French architecture and culture. A new aesthetic emerged, depicted by French artists as paradisiacal and romantic, reflecting an era and a way of life that would vanish with war.

Denise Heywood is an art historian, author, lecturer, photographer and journalist. She worked in Cambodia in the 1990s and has been a scholar of Southeast Asian art ever since. Her books include one on the Buddhist temples of Laos, Ancient Luang Prabang and Laos, and Cambodian Dance Celebration of the Gods, with a foreword by the daughter of King Sihanouk. She lectures for the Art Fund, the School of Oriental and African Studies on their post graduate Asian Art Course and for Madingley Hall (University of Cambridge) as well as for organisations such as the British Museum, the Royal Society for Asian Affairs. She has lectured worldwide for universities, museums, colleges, art institutions. She has led cultural tours to Southeast Asia and France for the Royal Academy, the Art Fund, Asia House.  She is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Studies in the UK, Asia House and the Royal Geographical Society.