Bùi Xuân Phái’s 99th Birthday – Today’s Doodle celebrates the Vietnamese artist Bui Xuan Phai, renowned for his evocative paintings of Hanoi’s historic old quarter, as referenced in the Doodle art. Born on this day in 1920 in the village of Kim Hoang, Phai went on to help shape the evolution of modern art in Vietnam, becoming widely considered one of the most celebrated South East Asian painters of the twentieth century.
Raised during Vietnam’s French colonial era, Phai took an early interest in art, drawing illustrations for Hanoi newspapers to pay for classes at the Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine. Although his father preferred that he pursue a career in medicine, the young man persisted, selling his first picture by the age of 20.
Phai’s interest in modern European painters like Matisse did not sit well with his teachers at the traditional academy, which closed after North Vietnam’s political upheaval in August 1945. Ho Chi Min’s new government insisted that artists focus their talents on supporting the new regime, but over time, Phai grew restless.
During the 1950s, he and his wife moved into his parents’ home at 87 Thuoc Bac Street in Hanoi, converting it into a small studio. Living simply, he devoted himself to the practice of art for its own sake. He enjoyed teaching at the Hanoi Fine Arts College but was asked to resign because he insisted on creative freedom. Phai went on to paint the streets and alleys of Hanoi’s old quarter, capturing the mood of a bygone era in his loose brushwork, and sometimes trading his art for supplies needed to support his family.
In years to come, his work earned numerous local and international honors. He won a prize for his book cover design at the International Graphic Exhibition in Leipzig, Germany. In recognition of his contributions to Vietnamese culture, he was awarded the Ho Chi Minh Medal. His humble home studio has since become a museum, honoring one man’s commitment to his art.
Early concepts by artist Shanti Rittgers
You can find more about Bùi Xuân Phái’s 99th Birthday on the official Google Doodle Page