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Li Qun (1912-2012)
An Image of the Well-clothed and Well-fed
Woodblock print
17 x 24 cm

In total contrast to his dark images of the 1930s (no. 45), this print by Li Qun epitomizes the folk-art style approved for Communist propaganda at the 1942 Yan’an Conference on Literature and Art. The format is called nianhua (literally, New Year’s print), a popular art made for centuries with auspicious or protective imagery.  The designs are characterized by thick black outlines and flat, bright colours.  This print shows happy, secure life in the Communist-controlled ‘liberated areas’, even in wartime.

Muban Educational Trust registration number livqv032


Li Qun (1912-2012)
After the Communal Work Meeting
Woodblock print
42 x 31 cm

During the course of the 1950s, villages were amalgamated, first into cooperatives, then during the Great Leap Forward (GLF 1959-62) into all-inclusive communes with thousands of people, schools, hospitals, dining halls and cultural clubs. During the GLF, political meetings, social and cultural activities were mandatory. This print shows a relaxed scene of happy, like-minded villagers after a meeting.  Life has clearly improved under the revolution, since they all have bicycles, a sure mark of status and progress at that time. 

Muban Educational Trust registration number livqv021



Li Qun (1912-2012)
Late Return in Early Spring
Woodblock print
41 x 32 cm

Li Qun was still a leading printmaker in the 1950s and early 60s.  His colourful imagery celebrated progress in New China.  He worked in the two approved styles: folk art (no. 45) and socialist realism, inspired by Soviet propaganda art. Works from the mid-60s until after the Cultural Revolution are hard to find. In 1980, Li Qun re-appeared, making apolitical prints with lively designs of animals, birds and flowers, as well as gentle rural landscapes such as this.  


Muban Educational Trust registration number livqv014


Wang Qi (1918-2016)
Sell Grain to the Country
Woodblock print
26 x 37 cm

In the 1930s and 40s Wang Qi’s themes were wartime patriotism and people’s harsh living conditions, often in the folk-art style of simple outlines and little shading.  After 1949, Wang Qi combined the roles of printmaker, teacher and editor of major art journals.  His images celebrated New China in communal scenes of agricultural and industrial progress.  This 1950s print is highly detailed, with shading and perspective.  The newly approved style was inspired by Soviet socialist realist prints. 

Muban Educational Trust registration number wanqv028



Wang Qi (1918-2016)
Reflections of the Morning Glow in the Shipyard
Woodblock print
55 x 41 cm

Wang Qi was condemned during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) and forbidden to work. In the 1970s, he and many other veteran artists were rehabilitated and re-installed in positions of authority in art academies and associations. This is a fine example of the heroic style of Wang Qi’s work in those years, with finely detailed motifs, powerful composition and dramatic perspective.

Muban Educational Trust registration number wanqv033


Wang Qi (1918-2016)
The Fire Phoenix, Martyr of the Red Crag Lives Forever
Woodblock print
61 x 42 cm

Jiang Zhuyun (1920-49) was a communist resistance fighter and revolutionary martyr. She is the basis of the character of Jiang Xueqin, or "Sister Jiang" in Red Crag, a 1961 semi-fictional work set in the Civil War (1946-49), written by two former inmates in a Guomindang (Kuomintang, Nationalist) prison. The book played an important part in China’s heroism culture and was adapted as an opera and television series. Like the artist, Wang Qi, Jiang Zhuyun was a native of Sichuan province. 

Muban Educational Trust registration number wanqv036



Wang Qi (1918-2016)
Rhythm of the Street
Woodblock print
42 x 28 cm

In the 1980s, Wang Qi and other printmakers turned to modernism, rather than the propaganda of previous decades. Construction—building New China—had long been a favourite theme (no. 50), but here Wang redirects this subject, illustrating urban life without an ideological message.  This is the second in a series of seven prints called Life in the Big City. The inspiration was clearly Frans Masareel’s 1925 series The City, but Wang’s cityscapes do not carry Masareel’s negative feel.  

Muban Educational Trust registration number wanqv040


Wang Qi (1918-2016)
Ancient Tree, Old Rattan Vine
Woodblock print
28 x 41 cm

Trees featured in Wang Qi’s prints as early as the 1940s, but usually not as the principal motif—rather fitted within scenes of village work, children outside school, or workers busy with construction.  Wang’s later trees filled the page, celebrations of life and nature.  According to the artist’s family, he called his favourite theme the “tree of life.” The gnarled branches and leaves of this ancient tree exemplify Wang Qi’s extraordinarily skilful cutting techniques.  

Muban Educational Trust registration number wanqv007



Shao Keping (1916-2010)
Street Corner
Woodblock print
22 x 16 cm

Shao Keping began his career making patriotic prints during the Second Sino-Japanese War. He and several others also operated a business making and distributing woodblock printing tools, materials and books.  He continued his revolutionary work during the Civil War which followed. His dramatic black and white works condemned the harsh social and economic conditions of life under the Guomindang government. Inflation was astronomical; millions were unemployed, homeless and starving.   Prints were a powerful weapon that the regime tried to suppress.

Muban Educational Trust registration number shakp025


Shao Keping (1916-2010)
Woodblock print
35 x 29 cm

It was an important point of honour that People’s Liberation Army soldiers took nothing from the villages they passed through: they paid for everything, even a piece of thread.  This print is a clear reference to those self-sufficient practices.  The lighter-coloured part of the image shows the soldier’s thoughts-- possibly memories.  The spinning wheel was a propaganda icon of the Communist liberated areas in northwest China. Two-toned thought images such as this are a trademark of Shao Keping’s work.  

Muban Educational Trust registration number shakp007



Shao Keping (1916-2010)
River Yong in Spring
Woodblock print
35 x 46 cm

This richly coloured scene of Ningbo, Zhejiang province (southeast China), combines landscape and mountainside temples with urban skyline and industrial development; on the water, traditional sailboats and modern transport ships.  Although Shao Keping made propaganda works for most of his career, his patriotism is expressed here without political content (except in distant construction cranes). He was much honoured during his long career, with retrospectives and major publications of his work.  At age 90, he still worked eight hours every day.

Muban Educational Trust registration number shakp002


Yang Keyang (1914-2010)
Woodblock print
22 x 17 cm

This is one of the best-known prints of the 1940s.  Yang originally trained in cartoons, but here he uses the dramatic contrasts of the black and white woodblock print to condemn the harsh conditions of life at all levels of society.  China suffered disastrous hyperinflation during the Civil War (1946-49), which did not stabilize until the early 1950s. Intellectuals had always held a position of status in China, but this professor had to sell his books to feed his family.

Muban Educational Trust registration number yanky029



Yang Keyang (1914-2010)
Moving into a New Home
Woodblock print
50 x 36 cm

The year 1959 marked the tenth anniversary of the PRC’s establishment. Prints, posters, pictorial magazines and other propaganda acclaimed the social and economic achievements of “Ten Great Years.”  Construction of housing, factories, schools and hospitals was especially celebrated.  The print is in the colourful, optimistic style that characterizes much art of the late 1950s. Here Yang Keyang foregrounds the socialist workers, but adds a personal, informal flavour by including a happy family on the way to their new home.

Muban Educational Trust registration number yanky002


Yang Keyang (1914-2010)
Militia Woman
Woodblock print
57 x 45 cm

China strongly supported the North during the Vietnam War (1955-75), providing weapons, equipment and training personnel. Chinese anti-War posters from the late 1960s are known worldwide, but prints are less common. Here Yang Keyang salutes the bravery and determination of the Vietcong women.  Nearly a million women actively served in the North in local guerrilla and militia units. “One need have no beard to be a hero,” noted To Huu, national poet of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. 

Muban Educational Trust registration number yanky033



Yang Keyang (1914-2010)
Morning in Shanghai
Woodblock print
77 x 63 cm

Compare this print with Wang Qi’s on the same theme (no.52) -- China’s rapid urbanization and development. Both were designed late in the artists’ careers. Where Wang Qi’s monochrome is in the style of European social realist graphics, Yang’s poster-like print shows influences of Chinese and Western Impressionist painting, with bold, curving lines and strong colour contrasts. Artists of the next generation, too, explore aspects of urban bustle and speeded-up, crowded living in new, innovative styles (nos. 99, 102, 103,104). 

Muban Educational Trust registration number yanky011

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