Friday, July 2, 2010

(Social) Realism: Laos

Marc Leguay (1910-2001)

Western-style oil and water-colour painting arrived in Laos during the French colonial period, however in contrast to the situation in neighbouring Việt Nam and Cambodia, the first western art school was opened not by the government but by a private individual, French painter Marc Leguay (1910-2001). Having arrived in Indochina in 1936, Leguay subsequently travelled extensively throughout the country before deciding to settle down and open an applied art school at Sala on Khong Island in Champassak Province. Here he taught traditional drawing, metalwork and graphic art from 1940 to 1945, when he was briefly imprisoned by the Japanese. Two years later he decided to move his school to Vientiane, but in 1949 the school was closed due to lack of funds and Leguay found employment as an art teacher at the Lycée de Vientiane, a job which he held until he left Laos for Thailand in 1975.

Often called 'the Gauguin of Laos', Marc Leguay portrayed scenes of Lao life in vibrant colours and is chiefly remembered for the postage stamp designs he produced on commission to the Royal Lao Government during the 1950s. One of his greatest pieces was a large untitled work of 1967 depicting a local religious festival; commissioned for an international stamp exhibition in Sri Lanka and painted on 15 square metres of plywood panels, the painting was recently restored in France and is now on permanent display in one of the Lao Fine Artists’ Association's Exhibition Halls at Ban Anou in Vientiane.

Leguay was also involved in the founding of the National School of Fine Arts (now the National Faculty of Fine Arts) under the Ministry of Education, Sport and Religious Affairs, which opened in 1962 together with the National School of Music and Dance at Ban Anou in central Vientiane, offering secondary and intermediate or higher secondary programmes of study. After 1975 two provincial secondary schools of arts were established in Luang Prabang and Savannakhet respectively. A National Arts Teacher Training School was also opened in 1982 under the Department of Teacher Training of the Ministry of Education to train primary and secondary school teachers of art and music.

World (Social) Realist Art (Index of Countries)
This blog page is part of an ongoing project by artist and part-time lecturer Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin ( to explore Realist / Social Realist art from around the world. The term Realism is used in its broadest sense to include 19th century Realism and Naturalism as well as 20th century Impressionism (which after all was following in the path of Courbet and Millet). Social Realism covers art that seeks to examine the living and working conditions of ordinary people (examples include German Expressionism, American Ashcan School and the Mexican Muralists).

Click here for (Social) Realist Art Definitions, World (Social) Realism and Global Solidarity, Art and Politics, Social Realism in history and Country Index.

Suggestions for appropriate artists from around the world welcome to

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