vguernIn Hanoi, three of us went to the National Museum of Fine Arts. My academic training kicked in, so I moved quickly – to get an overview of the history of art in Vietnam, to see how the styles changed. At the point the French began teaching Vietnamese artists a studio style my art historical brain began ticking off the stylistic succession  – Impressionism, Cubism, even a Vietnamese take on Picasso’s Guernica. In spite of my uncharacteristic tunnel vision, though, I noticed that the styles might have been derivative (my first, analytical, word) but the subjects were Vietnamese and the styles served the nation. There were expressionistic fighters (including women) crawling forward, holding weapons. What in Western traditions would have been bucolic landscapes depicting a pastoral life were almost manifestos – images of the land, the villages, the rice paddies, that the fighters were defending.