Prints tell the story of China’s twentieth-century wars, revolution and rejuvenation. The Legacy of Lu Xun in Modern Chinese Printmakingcelebrates the extraordinary range and versatility of style, technique and aesthetic expression in modern Chinese prints—yet barely scratches the surface of the collection from which it is drawn, the Muban Educational Trust (MET).
This retrospective includes fifty-three prints, chosen from every decade since Lu Xun (1881-1936) founded the Modern Woodcut Movement in the 1930s, exploring artistic trends, political conflict and technical innovations. Its four sections aim to connect history with the contemporary and message with style and technique.
Arguably the most important cultural figure of twentieth-century China, Lu Xun (1881-1936) is still revered for his stories and essays condemning the nation’s backward social and political conditions. Outside China, Lu Xun is less well known, especially with respect to visual culture. He transformed the neglected art of woodblock printing, invented in China more than 1000 years earlier, making the woodblock print a weapon for social change and national resistance. At the same time, he encouraged the revitalization of China’s traditional arts.
The complex crosscurrents of Lu Xun’s activities embody quintessential issues of Chinese culture in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: westernisation and modernisation, continuity and change, tradition and innovation. These are not firm dichotomies, but shifting points along a spectrum in a history marked by frequent changes in direction or emphasis. Such tensions are apparent in printmaking during all the time periods in the exhibition.