BEKY and the ART of Sketching by DANG TIEN, University of Paris VII April 2002. Translated by Minh Ngoc Nguyen


Be Ky's pictorial world, as well as her mental world, without doubt, has expressed itself for half a century mainly by her instantaneous paintings in Chinese ink, which I would like to pun as the art of "Cro-Ky" - from the French word "croquis": sketching.

Her work, although well-known in Vietnam as well as abroad, is still largely underestimated. She occupies an outstanding position in the history of Vietnamese art, due to her rather strange destiny.

Since 1989 Be Ky has settled in California with her husband, the painter Ho Thanh Duc, and continued to paint and exhibit. A book of her works, Be Ky - My beloved Vietnam, is going to be published.

Born 1938 in the town of Hai Duong - and orphaned at a very young age - in a coastal province of North Vietnam, where people often suffered from famine and the ravage of war, the little girl Be Ky loved to paint. She could paint before she could write. She was adopted by Tran Dac, a portraitist in Hai Phong, and had to do domestic chores for the family in exchange for the apprenticeship to learn painting.


Villager fishing boats

After the Geneva Accords in 1954 divided Vietnam into two parts, the family moved to the South where Be Ky began to earn a living by selling her sketches in the streets of Saigon until the day her talent was discovered by the French journalist Rene de Berval, a reporter of the Journal d'Extreme Orient and the magazine France Asie. He then introduced her to his public: French diplomats, educators, businessmen and other Francophone readers who, in a limited circle, formed a small core of intellectual influence. Thanks to this support, Be Ky exhibited her works in Saigon, December 1957, in the rooms of the Alliance Francaise, one of the leading cultural niches those days. Thus, the sidewalk painting art suddenly broke into the world of the intelligentsia that had always chosen to ignore it.

Be Ky kept traveling on her highway, acquainted herself with nobler genres:

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Selling food


Playing one string instrument


The old man