About Vietnamese lacquer painting

In 1925, the French set up a school of arts in Hanoi. The class for lacquer-painting opened in 1930, and only at this time the ancient lacquer-technique was developed into a painting-technique, that shortly after its birth served opposite modes of expression in its divided country, namely traditional European and Asian styles up to the first quarter of the 20th century as well as socialistic realism.

Zofia came to Vietnam in 1984 and, after several conversations with the minister for cultural affairs, became the first westerner to study the technique of lacquer-painting, which at that time was only known and taught in Hanoi. Permission had not been given to foreigners before, apart from the fact, that only the best students were allowed to the „kings course“, that of lacquer-painting.

Zofia worked with Professor Do Xuan Doan for two years and exhibited in May 1986 in the House of Artists in Hanoi. The Vietnam Courier wrote: „With the devoted help of her Vietnamese colleagues she has gradually grasped the painting techniques. She has completed a dozen large-sized lacquer paintings highly appropriated by Vietnamese and foreign artists and viewers.“ At the show, Zofia said to a reporter: „Through these paintings I wish to express my fine feelings toward your beautiful land and people. They have greatly inspired me in art creation.“

After her return to Germany and later during her stay in South America, Zofia has been developing the possibilities of this highly elaborate, time-consuming and expensive technique. The transparent and precious fluid is mixed with few natural pigments (yellow, red, orange, black) before application to the wooden panel. 24-carat gold- and silver-leaf is worked in, white is produced through use of eggshell-mosaic technique.
Layer by layer, the surface is polished with fine sandpaper, water, hair, even the palm of the hand finally. Note the depth of colours achieved with gold and silver. Some paintings have up to seven layers of gold.

For now more than 30 years, Zofia stayed true to lacquer-painting as her primary means of artistic expression. From a meticulous elaboration of traditional Asian sujets and by an impressive mastery of the technical elements, Zofia came to develop some of her painting into a very intense reflection of sensuality and commercialisation.


Asia Art Archive, a non-profit centre in Hong Kong dedicated to documenting and sharing the importance of the recent history of visual art from Asia within an international context.