Culture Culture

20/11/2020 - 07:55

Street venders of the early 20th century in photos and paintings

More than 60 sketches, water-colored paintings and black and white photographs are on display at the exhibition “Street Venders and their Ware Cries on Hanoi Streets” organized by the French Institute in Hue and the French School of the Far East at the institute from now until November 11th. The exhibition provides the viewer with a unique look at Hanoi in the early years of the 20th century.

Sketches printed on do paper. Photo: MINH HIEN

As introduced by Nguyen Bao Quoc, Director of the French Institute in Hue, the exhibition “Street Venders and their Ware Cries on Hanoi Streets” is an exquisite combination of photographs, sketches, and sound effects full of charm and nostalgia.

The most unique is the collection of sketches and water-colored paintings by the 15 students at the Indochine Art School, some of whom later became famous painters such as Le Pho, To Ngoc Van, and their teacher Ferdinand de Fénis.

It is as if street venders on Hanoi streets are living another life in sketches, which were drawn in 1925-1929 by master painters. This collection was first introduced in France in 2018 in a book by the French School of the Far East in Paris.

The 10 black and white sketches are printed on Do paper and put in boxes with a light inside. They feature the small world of street venders wandering all over Hanoi in early sun lights selling flowers, fruit, vegetables, and snacks.

A work featuring street venders (Photo retaken from the exhibition)

The lively daily life of people in Hanoi can also be seen through nearly 30 painting slides. These paintings depict tinkers and street venders selling food on pavements. Another interesting thing is the viewer can listen to the recordings of ware shouting coming from a cassette player attached to the bicycle of the street vender. “Who wants to sell chicken and duck feathers? Who wants to exchange hair for candies? Who has soap boxes for sale?” Those recordings were made by Dam Quang Minh and other artists of Dong Kinh Co Nhac Group. Those sounds evoke in people lots of memories about sights and flavors of the old days.

Sketches by To Ngoc Van (Photo retaken from the exhibition)

Profound humanity can be seen from the paintings vividly depicting street sights. They can be just some strokes featuring the movements of a street vender trying to keep balance with her bamboo and rattan frame, or the slanting image of a vender selling ice cream to the two children waiting with eager.

The exhibition also introduces to the public the 27 photos from the collection of the French School of the Far East. Through black and white photos filled with nostalgia, it is as if the viewer could live the atmosphere of the old days with street venders selling flowers and snacks and shops selling jams for Tet at Dong Xuan Market or in front of the Bat Trang communal house or the fish market, etc. 

“Besides artistic values, the exhibition provides the viewer with clear and lively documents. This is an opportunity for art lovers, photographers, and those who want to know more about life in the past. This also serves as good materials for painters who want to exploit similar themes,” said the painter Do Van Lan.