The British Museum's collections, £16.99
Height: 270.000 mm
Width: 350.000 mm
Purchased with the Brooke Sewell Permanent Fund
Asia OA 1999.6-30.08
Nguyen Van Binh, a drawing
Vietnam, signed and dated, 1948
Vietnamese soldiers fighting unseen French troops
Before the Second World War (1939-45) Vietnam had been a French colony. From 1940, it was occupied by the Japanese, resulting in a strong nationalistic resistance movement (the Viet Minh) led by the Communist hero Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969). After the Second World War, the Viet Minh controlled the north and were poised to take control of the rest of the country but the French wished to resume their colonial position. The Franco-Viet War began in 1945 and was initially a fight against colonial rule, lasting until the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Vietnam was then split for governance into Communist north and non-Communist south along the 17th Parallel.
Van Binh (born 1917) trained at the Fine Arts College in Hanoi, graduating in 1943. From 1946 to 1954 he worked as a journalist, using his artistic skills to record many dramatic events during the resistance to French rule. This drawing shows two Vietnamese soldiers aiming a light machine gun in a forest setting. Such ephemeral images from the Franco-Viet conflict are comparatively rare.
J. Harrison-Hall, Vietnam Behind the Lines: Imag (London, British Museum Press, 2002)