Born into a family of distinguished mandarins (his father was viceroy of Tonkin), he was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux Arts de lIndochine founded by Victor Tadieu. He held his first exhibition in 1928 along with his friend and fellow student Vu Cai Dam and Mai Thu. In 1931, he became Tardieus assistant. Having attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, he began travelling 1932 to Belgium, Holland and Italy and discovered the Primatives which influenced his work. In 1933, he became a teacher at the Indo China Fine Arts School. After traveling to China (1934) where he perfected his knowledge of classical painting, he undertook the commission for the Imperial Palace of Hue. In 1937, he returned to Paris to take up the position of artistic director of the Indonesian section at the 1937 International exhibition, and has lived in Paris ever since.