Preferred Citation: Andrews, Julia F. Painters and Politics in the People's Republic of China, 1949-1979. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1994 1994.


Painters and Politics in the People's Republic of China, 1949-1979

Julia F. Andrews

Berkeley · Los Angeles · Oxford
© 1995 The Regents of the University of California

For Han Xin

Preferred Citation: Andrews, Julia F. Painters and Politics in the People's Republic of China, 1949-1979. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1994 1994.

For Han Xin



Even more than may be evident in my references, this book has been shaped by the Chinese artists who generously shared their thoughts, memories, and hospitality with me during the years I worked on this book. Many of them do not appear in the book at all, for the inevitable choices a writer must make in theme and approach eliminate much interesting material. I would like to acknowledge these individuals, nevertheless; their viewpoints have inevitably colored mine.

I have received crucial assistance for my research from foundations and institutions. In the early stages of this project I was assisted by the American-Chinese Adventure Capital Fund of the Durfee Foundation (Santa Monica), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Ohio State University College of the Arts, the Ohio State University Office of Research and Graduate Studies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities Travel to Collections and Summer Stipend programs. National Endowment for the Humanities funding allowed me to finish the project. I am particularly grateful to the Center for Chinese Studies of the University of Michigan and the American Council of Learned Societies for providing a quiet year in Ann Arbor during which I largely completed the manuscript. A Committee on Scholarly Communication with the People's Republic of China fellowship allowed me a much-needed opportunity to conduct follow-up interviews in 1990.

This book began as a collaborative research project undertaken with Han Xin. I would not have begun the project without his help. Over the years he acquired for me many of the Chinese publications cited in the bibliography and assisted in photographing works of art. Most important, he arranged and participated in the interviews we conducted with Chinese artists and administrators. Although Xin has served as a sounding board for my ideas, responsibility for them and for any errors remains my own.


The form that the book has taken is, in part, a response to the writings and research of other scholars. Michael Sullivan's ground-breaking Chinese Art in the Twentieth Century (1959) was for many years the only English-language study of modern Chinese art. Chu-tsing Li's 1979 catalogue Trends in Modern Chinese Painting contains extensive biographical studies of many older guohua painters and provides a useful analysis of the history of guohua in the first half of the twentieth century. Arnold Chang's small book Painting in the People's Republic of China: The Politics of Style (1980) may have been the first American study of art in the PRC; its explication of the influence of Mao's Yan'an Talks on the practice of Chinese painting and its periodization of guohua development between 1949 and 1980 remain useful today. Joan Lebold Cohen's book The New Chinese Painting, 1949-1986 (1987) documents particularly well the art of the years immediately following China's opening to the West. I was fortunate to hear a series of lectures given by Ellen Johnston Laing at Berkeley in 1983 that were later published as The Winking Owl: Art in the People's Republic of China (1988). Her successful efforts to periodize the art of the PRC's first three decades and to suggest theoretical reasons for shifts in painting styles are an invaluable foundation for further studies in the field. Cohen and Laing, particularly, have contributed to overcoming the prejudices of many historians of Chinese art against Chinese paintings in Western media.

I am indebted to many of these authors as supportive colleagues as well. Joan Lebold Cohen's enthusiasm for her own research on contemporary Chinese painting stimulated my interest in the subject a decade ago. By introducing me to Chinese artists in Beijing, most notably Han Xin, she lured me out of the Ming dynasty. Ellen johnston Laing, Jerome Silbergeld, and John Clark have all shared their ideas and manuscripts with me. Michel Oksenberg, Harriet Mills, and Martin Powers have provided helpful ideas for my project.

Valuable factual, bibliographic, and editorial suggestions have come from Wu Hung, Gao Minglu, Richard Kraus, Jerome Silbergeld, Zhou Yan, and James P. Andrews. Mao Junyan, Gerald Young, and Weng Rulan assisted in other essential ways. Myroslava Mudrak Ciszkewycz has identified Soviet artists mentioned in Chinese texts. Christine Verzar has provided encouragement throughout the writing process. Last but not least, my teacher, James Cahill, who has repeatedly proclaimed that he will write no more about modern Chinese painting, continues to publish lively opinions about contemporary guohua artists and to encourage the rest of us.

The University of California editorial staff, especially Deborah Kirshman, Anne Canright, Barbara Ras, Betsey Scheiner, Jenny Tomlin, and Kim Darwin, has been extremely helpful and encouraging. At Ohio State Shen Kuiyi has assisted indefatigably with the preparation and proofreading of the bibliography, notes, appendixes, and list of Chinese characters. Jan Glowski worked


with me patiently to prepare the index. Suni Lee Boswell, who worked as my undergraduate intern in the Ohio State Summer Research Opportunities Program in 1987, assisted in finding materials published in English-language periodicals.

I would especially like to thank friends in China who assisted Han Xin and me in making or obtaining research photographs. We are particularly grateful to Ai Zhongxin, Cheng Shifa, Han Ying, He Kongde, Jin Shangyi, Liao Jingwen, Lin Gang, Quan Shanshi, Shen Jiawei, Sun Jingbo, Tang Muli, Wang Guanqing, Wang Keping, Zhang Ding, Zhu Naizheng, and the staffs of the Chinese National Art Gallery, the Central Academy of Fine Arts, the Chinese Artists Association, the Shanghai People's Art Press, and the Shanghai Institute of Chinese Painting. The current and previous staff of the History of Art Slide Library at Ohio State University, including Shelly Grunder, Jean Ippolito, Gu Xiaomin, Lora Chen, and John Taormina have assisted in preparing research and publication photographs. I would also like to thank the faculty and staff of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, for their help over the years.

Acknowledgment must also be made of the involuntary participation of Teddy, Alexander, and Andrew Han in this project. I would especially like to thank their four grandparents, who have made our field trips possible.




All-China Art Workers Association


Chinese Artists Association


Central Academy of Arts and Crafts


Central Academy of Fine Arts


Chinese Communist party


China News Reported in the Press


Cultural Revolution Small Group


All-China Federation of Literary and Arts Circles


Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution


Jiang Feng meishu lunji (Jiang Feng's Writings on Art)


"Jiang Feng nianbiao" (A Chronology of Jiang Feng)


Liushinian wenyi dashiji, 1919-1979 (Sixty-year Record of Major Events in Literature and Art)


Meishu (Art)


Oil Painting and Sculpture Studio


People's Liberation Army


People's Republic of China


Renmin meishu (People's Art)


Renmin ribao (People's Daily)


United Action Committee


Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts



In 1979, the Chinese government formalized a new policy of openness to the West. For the first time in many years, Chinese artists could study the art of Europe and North America. Meanwhile, Western art historians began looking curiously into the art world of contemporary China. The lack of comprehension was mutual and almost total. Chinese art administrators, including Jiang Feng, an important figure in our study, traveled to France hoping to find the glorious source of China's revolutionary oil painting. They found it, of course, in the museums of Paris, but were appalled that its practice was largely defunct.

Western enthusiasts of Chinese landscape painting, the author among them, flocked to Beijing in search of the inheritors of China's great artistic tradition. Although we saw many artists and exhibitions, the painting we had come to find was hung in China's museums, not practiced in her studios. The art exhibited in Beijing in 1980 was very different from traditional Chinese painting; it also differed from contemporary Western art in many significant ways. To a Westerner, modern Chinese art was either bad or, more charitably, incomprehensible. The Chinese art world judged most contemporary Western art in the same terms.[1]

In the years between 1949 and 1979, the Chinese Communist party (CCP) succeeded in eradicating most of the artistic styles and techniques of which it disapproved. By the end of that period, most practitioners of unapproved styles had died or were very old and had no followers; only the most elderly of living artists had ever personally experienced the making of serious nonpolitical art, either in its traditional Chinese form or in Western form. Traditional landscape painting and modern international art had been replaced by styles that had never before existed in China. By 1979, the art of the People's Republic of


China was strikingly different in style and subject matter both from contemporary Western art and from the art practiced in other Chinese areas such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

The purpose of this book is to describe what happened in the world of Chinese pictorial art between 1949 and 1979 to leave such a large cultural gap. Among the most important changes was the elevation of realistic painting, which was practiced in all media but most commonly in oils and gouache, to a prestigious position. This change is remarkable, for although Western styles of art were employed by some earlier artists, they had largely failed to take root before 1949.[2] Moreover, the complete integration of selected Western media and styles into all levels of the Chinese art educational system served, I believe, to sever Chinese art from much of its past.

Although artists have continued to paint in ink and color on Chinese paper and to mount some of their pictures in the traditional hanging scroll format, officially mandated changes in brushwork, theme, and style have been so great as to alter irrevocably the practice of Chinese painting. In particular, the subtle and culturally charged brush conventions that were practiced by masters of China's past have been eradicated from contemporary practice. With them has passed from existence a crucial element in the visual and intellectual pleasure that traditional Chinese viewers experienced in their art.

The changes accomplished during the three decades of our study have continued to drive the Chinese art world since 1979 and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Laments for a lost past, however, may be both purposeless and premature. The proscription of many conventions of previous art has opened the door to innovation, to a potential cosmopolitanism, and to inevitable reevaluations and revivals of the very traditions that have been suppressed. While we cannot predict the future of Chinese art, it is clear that, in its various forms, it is emerging as a legacy of, as a development of, or as a rejection of the artistic programs in effect during the formative Maoist period.

We will explore, by means of a chronologically organized narrative, the nature of those programs and their practical effects. Our text will discuss the means by which cultural controls were asserted over art, the ways in which artists responded to the new system, and the works of art that they produced as a result. The first chapter is a brief introduction to key personalities and to salient organizational features of the pre-1949 Chinese art world. Chapter 2, on the reform of Chinese art between 1949 and 1952, describes the reorganization of the art education system; the fate of self-employed artists; the establishment of a new Communist art bureaucracy; the rather limited stylistic, thematic, and technical changes that bureaucracy promoted; and the ideological ramifications of certain styles and techniques. A prominent theme of the book as a whole—the problem of how artists coped with arbitrarily shifting political requirements—appears, already, in this early period.


The third chapter, which covers the period 1953-1957, explores the influence that the Soviet Union had on Chinese art and the consequent problems for the practice of traditional painting. An important result of the centralized cultural policies of the period was a new emphasis on technical facility and ideological uniformity, standards that have persisted in the art and criticism of subsequent decades. Chapter 4 continues to describe the manner in which the disagreements between pro-Soviet and traditionalist artists, aggravated by conflicting factional alignments, were brought to the surface by the Hundred Flowers liberalization of 1956. Strangely, the issue formed the basis for political condemnations during the Anti-Rightist campaign of 1957, with support for traditional painting coming to be viewed as a test of party loyalty.

Chapter 5 describes the complicated developments that took place between 1957 and 1965. Regional groups of printmakers and painters in the traditional media emerged in such places as Sichuan, Heilongjiang, Xi'an, and Nanjing. The artistic diversification that accompanied the administrative decentralization of the period yielded some of the most original developments in China's new art.

The effects on the Chinese art world of the Cultural Revolution, which lasted from 1966 to 1976, are described in chapter 6. Our narrative discusses the mobilization of student artists to create the pictorial iconography of the Cultural Revolution, the destruction of the art bureaucracy, and finally the reestablishment of a streamlined and quasi-military arts administration. The radical homogenization of stylistic and thematic approach that was a primary characteristic of official art in the early 1970s had a profound impact on many painters active in the period. Our study concludes with an outline of some preliminary attempts to overturn socialist realism in the post-Mao era.

A note about research methodology may be appropriate at this point. My primary sources have been publications of various kinds from China, works of art viewed in Chinese and Western collections, and interviews with artists and administrators conducted between 1986 and 1990. The personal contact with artists has been particularly valuable because it gave me a hint of how the Chinese art world looked from the inside.

Interviews, of course, present some hazards as documentation. Of greatest importance, the political climate in China at any given time will affect what people feel comfortable discussing. I was fortunate to conduct my research during a period when China enjoyed a comparatively great degree of openness. Nevertheless, some inhibitions remained. The agendas people bring to their interviews necessarily influence the way they present their experiences. In some cases, an individual may think certain aspects of his biography more important than the interviewer does and, at the same time, prefer not to discuss the events a Westerner might find of real interest. More rarely, artists presented their careers as they wished they had been rather than as they were. In matters


of simple fact, some very helpful people turned out to have inaccurate memories for dates and chronological sequences.

People will, of course, remember the same events very differently. More difficult than conflicting accounts, though, are those that conform in all details. There are a few events, such as the Anti-Rightist campaign of 1957 and 1958, that many people of the same age remember in exactly the same terms, using phrases that turn out to be word-for-word quotations from propaganda magazines. Political indoctrination, in other words, seems to have blended with personal experience in their memories. In spite of these limitations, however, the opinions of the artists about their own work and about the work of their colleagues has provided some of my most valuable insights.

Whenever possible, I have compared interview information with published material. In such cases, I cite the published source. Yet publications present their own difficulties. Most written statements were subject to party censorship at the time of publication; some articles are so strongly colored by the party line of the period that they reveal little about the ostensible subject. Even those that seem objective will still bear the imprint of contemporary politics. Reminiscences published in the 1980s have been most useful for me, but they are subject to some of the same variables as the interview. At this point, my subjectivity as a historian came into play; I have tried to select those strands of the story that seem to me most accurate, most compelling, and most fully imbued with the atmosphere of the time.

Rather than being organized around individual artists, the men and women who formed the Chinese art world, the book focuses primarily on the bureaucratic context from which art emerged. It explores, therefore, some of the administrative structures that were used by the Communist party to promote and control new painting. The first of these organizations is the art academy system, best exemplified by the art academies in Beijing and Hangzhou. The second is the Chinese Artists Association (CAA), the national professional organization that implemented party policy in the visual arts. The third is the art publishing system, which supported hundreds of artists in "creation studios."

The bureaucratic forces we describe interacted to affect the lives of artists in complex ways, ways that changed over time and that differed according to the circumstances of each individual. This study is not intended as a definitive analysis of bureaucratic structures; indeed, it remains quite preliminary in this regard. Documents necessary to chart the precise evolution of some important parts of the bureaucracy remain sealed in party archives. Even when one approaches such questions from the bottom up, through interviews with Chinese administrators, self-censorship limits discussion of the party's inner workings by those who know it best. Nevertheless, the information that may be gleaned from available sources brings into focus the outlines and many of the details of this extraordinary world.


It will be helpful, here, to provide a quick sketch of how the bureaucracy worked. The Chinese administration has two parallel and intersecting structures, that of the Chinese Communist party and that of the civil government.[3] The party structure descends from the Central Committee of the CCP, through the Propaganda Department, to the Chinese Artists Association, and through it to the art world. The civil structure descends from the State Council, through the Ministry of Culture, to specific art institutions. Chart 1 lists the most important parts of the bureaucracy during the period 1949-1979. Some intermediate levels of authority have been omitted; moreover, our diagram may not be accurate in all details for all periods. Nevertheless, it orients us to some key features of the division of responsibility at the national level.

One striking feature of the Chinese system is the arbitrariness with which power is held and exercised within the bureaucracy. A person's job title is no guarantee that he or she exerts a specific kind of authority in a given period, nor does lack of title necessarily mean that power cannot be exercised. This arbitrariness, despite a seemingly systematized bureaucracy, will remain a prominent theme in our narrative. The bureaucracy was not a machine that operated predictably; nor could the authority of a powerful individual always be relied upon. The uncertain and unsettled relation between bureaucratic authority and extrabureaucratic power was perhaps the most difficult problem confronted by any artist of the period.

The Communist party transmitted directives in both formal and informal ways. Policies were conveyed directly to officials in appropriate parts of the civil government, who in turn based their administrative decisions and specific orders on their understanding of party policy. Thus, while civil administrators gave public face to most policies, they voiced decisions made within the party bureaucracy. Key administrators held joint appointments in both bureaucracies, thus assuring conformity of the civil administration to party decisions. At the lowest level, periodic meetings were held in all work units at which recent party documents would be read and discussed, thereby informing citizens of the party's expectations of them.

Most of the artists and theorists we will discuss were employees of one of the national art academies or one of the major publishing houses, work units that answered ultimately to the civil administration. Usually, work units were responsible not only for assigning job duties and paying salaries, but also for issuing art supplies, assigning studio space and housing, issuing ration tickets for food, approving applications for marriage, and, in the 1980s, granting permission for the birth of a child. Employees often lived together in the same apartment building or, for older housing, in the same courtyard. The power of the work unit to affect both the daily private life and the creative life of the individual artist effectively prevented extreme forms of professional or social behavior, including open political dissent. In essence, the work unit policed the attitudes and daily behavior of its employees and punished those who com-



Chart 1
The Arts Bureaucracy
(Selected Organizations Only)


mitted infractions. As Perry Link has observed in his comments on Chinese writers, cultural control was maintained through a combination of fear and incentives, essentially a carrot-and-stick approach.[4]

For noncriminal offenses, the stick was wielded by the work unit, which could reassign an artist to an undesirable job, take away his or her studio, or otherwise make life unpleasant. In principle, punishment was meted out objectively; practically, though, factors such as personal ambition, enmity, friendship, and factional attachment added a strong dose of subjectivity to the process. To further complicate matters, each institution in the Chinese bureaucracy had a dual structure, similar to that operating on the national level, with party functionaries directing the behavior of the officials ostensibly in charge (chart 2). The party organization thus communicated to each work unit a description of desirable behavior and the correct ideological response to any given situation. By this means, it determined the circumstances under which punishment might be appropriate. It played an equally important role in rewarding artists for appropriate behavior, however, through the Chinese Artists Association.

The CAA is officially no more than a voluntary professional organization for artists. Yet as our charts make clear, and as every Chinese artist knows, it is really an organ of the Propaganda Department of the CCP. While its public role is well documented in its journals Renmin meishu (People's Art) and Meishu (Art),[5] information on its inner workings remains rather sketchy.

One obvious function of the CAA and its forerunner, the Art Workers Association, was ideological, a role evidenced in its publications. As the national professional organization, however, the Chinese Artists Association could offer artists the means to professional success. Membership in the CAA was exclusive and thus highly prestigious. Moreover, the combination of its elite exhibitions and its publications gave it effective control over the only means by which an artist might reach a public audience. At this level, compliance with party doctrine was voluntary, for the CAA was the arm of the party that offered the carrot.

While the art bureaucracy is the focus of our attention, we will return, from time to time, to the individual. How did artists respond to political pressure on their behavior, their speech, and their art? Art was in China an occupation of high social and economic status. China took its own art extremely seriously, as is evidenced by the great amount of critical writing on the subject, the government sponsorship of national exhibitions, the training of art students, and, perhaps most important, the canonizing of particular artists and styles of art as superior to those of earlier times. The Chinese government invested generously in the production of art. Even though housing was in short supply, artists were given studio space, supplies, and money to travel. Chinese artists painted pictures that those in charge deemed to be of high quality, even



Chart 2
Parallel Party and Government Structures
In Two Organizations


as the nation's critical standards grew more distant from those of the outside world.

How different are artists in China from those in other places? We are so accustomed to the twentieth-century idea of "art for art's sake" that it is extremely difficult to contemplate artists working in a society that has rejected this concept. On what basis did an artist become famous in China? How were high-level theoretical pronouncements implemented at the level of the individual artist or work of art? Why would one want to paint if one's forms of expression were dictated by the bureaucracy? Can artists function without filling their work with some sense of self? Did Chinese artists have basic aspirations that might be shared by artists in other places? These questions may have no real answer, but we hope to partially illuminate them by describing the bureaucratic environment in which Chinese artists and art administrators sought to create the new art.


Revolutionaries and Academics
Art of the Republican Period

Shortly before the turn of the century, in the final years of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), it became apparent to Chinese intellectuals that the international community was dominated by Western nations and by Japan, countries at the forefront of modern technology. The military defeats of China by the British in 1842 and 1860, by the French in 1885, by the Japanese in 1895, and by allied powers in 1900 were the most evident signs of China's failure to maintain her rightful place in the world.[1] Debate over the correct Chinese response to this crisis monopolized intellectual activity during the first decades of the twentieth century. Some writers found Chinese culture to be so unalterably backward that China could have no hope to function in the modern world. Others aspired to modify Chinese culture and so make the nation into a viable modern force. Still others believed that China's culture had unique values that must at all costs be preserved.

This range of opinion extended to the art world, which during these years produced a dizzying array of theoretical and aesthetic innovations. Liu Haisu, who founded the first art academy in China in the first year of the new Chinese republic, 1912,[2] later commented that the school was established at a time when China's culture was in decline. The times demanded, he believed, a synthesis of Chinese culture and foreign art.[3]

Many of the theoretical issues that have guided or divided the Chinese art world since 1949, in short, were well established in the decades leading up to liberation.[4] Many artists continued to practice traditional forms of Chinese art, working in opposition to, in indifference to, or in ignorance of Western art. Artists who studied in Europe between the two world wars, like Liu Haisu, were inspired by the European artistic ferment. Some returned to China committed to practicing and teaching Western art and debated among themselves


which schools of European art were most suitable for China. Others turned back to their native tradition because of their European experiences, though they rarely completely shed the European basis of their technique. Still others journeyed to Japan to observe its unique combination of European and Asian culture.

The primary tensions that most intellectuals felt were between modernism and Chinese tradition. Artists struggled with such questions as: Should Chinese art be modernized? How might it be modernized? How could art be both modern and Chinese? Was the artist sacrificing his or her own heritage in seeking an international language?[5] Answers were extremely varied.[6] For some writers, including Cai Yuanpei, the most important art theorist of the time, emulation of the West was absolutely necessary. He wrote in 1931: "the good point of Europeanization is that everything takes science as its foundation: the improvement of life; the reform of society; even the creation of art. They all progress along with the progress of science."[7] For others, artistic styles that synthesized native and foreign elements seemed more appropriate. Gao Qifeng and Gao Jianfu had by the 1930s developed a form of art they called "new national painting," which they claimed might preserve the best in China's own tradition while adapting to the new times. They particularly admired modern Japanese painting for synthesizing and absorbing the techniques of both Chinese and Western painting.[8]

The opinions and artistic practices of two of these many contending groups of painters, the revolutionaries and the academics, have dominated debate in the second half of the twentieth century. The reason for their doctrinal victory was simple: they assumed control of the all-powerful art bureaucracy under the Communists. A brief introduction to key figures in these two groups of artists is necessary for understanding the dynamics of art after 1949.

Jiang Feng, Revolutionary Printmaker

The printmaker Jiang Feng is a particularly interesting example of the revolutionary artist who became an influential bureaucrat under the new regime. After making contributions to leftist art as a woodcut artist and activist in the pre-1949 period, under the new regime Jiang Feng assumed the dialectical roles both of party spokesman for art and of revolutionary idealist. He dominated the art world between 1949 and 1957, the period in which the basic system of ideological control, the bureaucratic structure, and the stylistic and thematic outlines of the new art were put in place.

A brief exploration of his background is useful for understanding the policies promoted by the Communists. Jiang Feng (originally named Zhou Xi) was


born in Shanghai in 1910. Communist admirers describe him as a true proletarian: a third-generation urban worker.[9] His father was a carpenter; his mother and two younger sisters worked in a silk factory. He became involved in leftist strike activities at the age of seventeen, at eighteen went to work as a bookkeeper for the railroad, and at nineteen began evening art study at the White Swan Western Painting Club (Bai'e xihua hui ) in Shanghai.[10]

In the spring of 1931, when he was twenty-one, he became involved, through the White Swan Club, with students who had been expelled from the National Hangzhou Arts Academy (Guoli Hangzhou yizhuan ) for left-wing activities.[11] Several of these students had been active at school in a club called the West Lake Eighteen Art Society (Xihu yiba yishe ), which was founded, with the encouragement of the academy's director, in the eighteenth year of the republic, 1929.[12] The Hangzhou society soon split into two groups because of political differences.[13] A Communist Youth League organization, established at the academy in 1930, attracted leftist members of the original group.[14] The following spring Jiang joined the students and former students in launching a third group, Shanghai Eighteen Art Society Research Center (Shanghai yiba yishe yanjiu suo ),[15] which was left-wing in orientation and had more than forty members.[16]

Shortly thereafter, the new group was contacted by the writer and critic Feng Xuefeng on behalf of the General Alliance for Left-Wing Culture,[17] a Chinese Communist party front organization. From this point on the Shanghai Eighteen Art Society became a focus for activities of the League of Left-Wing Artists. Jiang Feng helped publish a leftist journal, one of many editorial projects in which he would be engaged, and undertook to spread anti-imperialist propaganda among Shanghai's workers.[18] The Eighteen Art Society also received a number of donations from the influential novelist and educator Lu Xun via his close associate Feng Xuefeng, including both cash and art books.[19]

The feminist writer Ding Ling met Jiang Feng briefly in 1931, when he was living in an old book warehouse that served as the publication center for an underground literary journal.[20] This habitation may have been arranged for him by Feng Xuefeng, who settled another writer, Lou Shiyi, into the same abode in April.[21] In mid-August, Feng arrived with the news that Lu Xun had engaged a Japanese woodcut instructor,[22] a teacher who happened to be in Shanghai on vacation. Selection of participants in the class was left to the Eighteen Art Society, who allocated six places for their own members, two for the Shanghai Arts College (Shanghai yizhuan ), two for the Shanghai Art Academy (Shanghai meizhuan ), and three for the White Swan Western Painting Club. The tutorial, held between August 17 and August 22, covered practical woodblock carving and printing techniques and the study of original prints ranging from ukiyo-e to the works of the German leftist Käthe Kollwitz. Lu Xun himself served as translator for the sessions. Although there is no in-


No image available

Figure 1
Jiang Feng, Kill the Resisters, 1931,
woodblock print, 14 cm × 17.7 cm.

dication that Jiang Feng was personally close to the older man, Jiang's subsequent writings indicate that he considered Lu Xun to be a role model. Among the thirteen students were several who subsequently became influential revolutionary artists, including Jiang Feng and Chen Tiegeng. Jiang's surviving student prints, like those of other participants, emulate European expressionist styles, and there is every reason to believe that the young artists saw themselves as part of an international leftist art community.[23]

The leftists soon had an opportunity to apply their skills to the national good. Among Jiang Feng's antigovernment broadsheets is Kill the Resisters (fig. 1) of late 1931, which depicts demonstrators fleeing as they are gunned down by Nationalist troops. This print at once supported resistance against Japanese territorial claims in China and attacked the Nationalist government's inappropriate response to public opinion. Late in the next year, Hu Yichuan, a Communist former student at the National Hangzhou Arts Academy, carved his more technically refined call to arms, To the Front (fig. 2).


Image not available

Figure 2
Hu Yichuan, To the Front, 1932, woodblock
print, 20 cm × 27 cm.

Hu Yichuan, one of the leftist students expelled from the academy earlier in 1932,[24] was clearly better trained than the autodidact Jiang Feng.

Jiang Feng joined the Chinese Communist party in March 1932 and the next month began what was to be a fifty-year career in arts administration. He was elected an executive of the League of Left-Wing Artists and a member of its CCP and Youth League branch committees.[25] That May, the Eighteen Art Society, which had been openly affiliated with the Communist-sponsored League of Left-Wing Artists, reorganized under a less notorious name, Spring Earth Painting Club (Chundi huahui ). The new name was chosen by Ai Qing,[26] a member who had recently returned from Europe.[27] Qing is known today as a poet rather than as a painter,[28] but as we shall see in chapter 3, he remained active as an administrator and art critic.

Spring Earth held an exhibition at the YMCA in late June in conjunction with a display of Lu Xun's personal print collection. Lu Xun reportedly purchased ten Spring Earth prints, including one by Jiang.[29] On July 13, as the Spring Earth Club conducted its Esperanto class, Nationalist and foreign police burst in and arrested eleven members, including Jiang Feng, Ai Qing, and the


instructor.[30] Jiang Feng and the others served two years in prison, during which time they continued their studies of art and literature. A letter sent by Jiang Feng and Ai Qing to Lu Xun late in 1932 reported that they had transformed the prison into a school, every day following a set schedule for reading, painting, writing poetry, and discussion.[31] They also practiced their organizational skills by mounting three hunger strikes over food, bathing, and medical care.[32]

Jiang Feng was rearrested in 1933, only two months after his July release from jail, and served two more years. Lu Xun continued to give his protégé psychological support, sending him a copy of his privately published album of prints by Käthe Kollwitz. By the end of this second prison term the artist had lost his association with the CCP.[33] His biographers do not give a reason, but communication with the organization was undoubtedly difficult, if not impossible, for party members who were incarcerated.

Moreover, Jiang emerged from prison into an atmosphere of growing antagonism between Lu Xun's two confidants, Feng Xuefeng and Hu Feng, and Zhou Yang, a leading party theorist in the League of Left-Wing Writers. Differences in literary approach were the chief issues openly debated, but a struggle for leadership of leftist literary circles was an important foundation for the dispute.[34] In the summer of 1935, shortly before Jiang Feng's release from prison, Zhou Yang, unable to defeat the Lu Xun faction in reasoned debate, accused Hu Feng of collaboration with the Guomindang. This apparently unfounded charge led to a bitter split between Zhou Yang and Lu Xun that was publicly played out in left-wing literary journals. Jiang Feng's chief contact in the CCP, Feng Xuefeng, withdrew from the party in 1936, and Hu Feng left Shanghai the following year. Lu Xun died in late 1936.[35]

Regardless of events in the CCP and literary world, Jiang Feng remained very active in leftist art between his October 1935 release from jail and his September 1937 departure from Japanese-occupied Shanghai.[36] Among other things, Jiang was involved with a pictorial called Iron Horse Prints (Tiema banhua ), in which he, as an artist, ventured for the first time into a slightly avant-garde, if grim, style (fig. 3).[37] Soviet constructivist prints reproduced in Lu Xun's 1930 publication Xin'e huaxuan (Selected Pictures from New Russia) are a likely source for Jiang's experiments.[38]

During the period of Jiang Feng's radical activities in the city of Shanghai, eight soviets had been established by the Red Army in rural China. Under pressure of extermination campaigns by Nationalist troops, the Communist army in the south began a retreat to northwestern China in the fall of 1934, a journey now known as the Long March. Slightly more than a year later, after an arduous trek over six thousand miles of dangerous territory, the surviving members of the Red Army regrouped in northern Shaanxi. After the Japanese attacked Beijing, Nanjing, and Shanghai in the summer of 1937, many leftists


Image not available

Figure 3
Jiang Feng, cover design for Iron Horse
Prints, 1936, no. 1, woodblock print.


fled Japanese-occupied coastal territory for the new Communist base at Yan'an, Shaanxi.[39]

Jiang Feng, traveling via Hankou and Xi'an, reached Yan'an by February 1938. His party membership was restored in the spring and he was assigned to publish a propaganda pictorial for the Eighth Route Army. In February 1939, he was transferred to the newly founded Lu Xun Academy of Literature and Arts as an instructor in the art department, thus beginning his formal career as an art educator.[40]

He published one of his earliest surviving art historical/theoretical articles in Hu Feng's journal July (Qiyue ) in the same year, a piece in which he described Lu Xun's support of the revolutionary woodcut movement and argued that Lu Xun advocated selective use of old artistic forms to create new forms.[41] Whatever Jiang's intentions, the piece bridges, for art, a gap that existed in literary theory between the position held by Mao Zedong and Zhou Yang, who thought that Chinese writers should use indigenous forms, and that of Lu Xun's disciples Feng Xuefeng and Hu Feng, who believed that much of China's old literature was feudal and completely lacking in democratic or revolutionary elements.[42]

One goal of the Lu Xun Academy was to train recruits in the techniques and ideological principles of cultural propaganda so that they could gain the cooperation of local people in the Communist military campaigns against the Japanese. A crucial problem was how to produce images that would be understood and accepted by the largely illiterate rural population.[43] The European-style woodcuts of the early thirties were aimed at a cosmopolitan audience and were not necessarily appropriate to the new situation. Because many of the artists who passed through the Lu Xun Academy were urban art students, they were urged, as part of the ideological and technical training they underwent before being sent to do anti-Japanese propaganda work, to develop more effective ways of communicating with the peasants.

Uncertainty as to how to transform the sophisticated black-and-white woodcuts into something rural people might appreciate was resolved during the winter of 1939 and 1940. In December 1939, the Communist artists learned that the Japanese had made very effective use of Chinese folk print conventions in their own propaganda.[44] One print, based on Chinese images of the kings of hell and called Divine Retribution , made them particularly indignant. The Chinese artists therefore decided to design their own propaganda pictures in the style of rustic new year's prints (nianhua ). Because none of the Communist artists were trained in the multiple-block printing technique required for the brightly colored folk prints, two skilled peasants were enlisted to teach them how to carve and produce their new pictures. Among those who made folk pictures in this first group were Jiang Feng, his colleagues from the Shanghai leftist movement Wo Zha, Hu Yichuan, and Chen Tiegeng, and two


students from the National Hangzhou Arts Academy, Luo Gongliu and Yan Han.[45] By June 1940, Jiang Feng had been promoted to directorship of the art section of the Lu Xun Academy, which administered both the art department and the art factory.[46] As director of the art factory, Jiang Feng was charged with assembling and supervising more artists to make the new, revolutionary nianhua (fig. 4).[47]

While Jiang's group worked in Yan'an, the academy's woodcut team, headed by Hu Yichuan, worked in the field.[48] Most of Hu's team, which included Yan Han, Luo Gongliu, and Hua Shan, were academically trained artists like himself. As an administrator, Jiang Feng institutionalized the successful innovations of his better-trained colleagues. One of his own few surviving contributions to the new nianhua movement was the 1942 print Studying Is Good (fig. 5), in which plump children clutch writing brush and abacus. Traditional new year's prints often depict auspicious subjects such as fat baby boys, and the positive aspects of the theme are usually reinforced by decorative objects or attributes laden with symbolic value. In this case, Jiang Feng substituted the tools of education for fruits or fish, the customary symbols of fertility, abundance, or good luck, and added a little girl to the traditional male child. The iconographic changes are explained by slogans: "Studying is good. After you study, you can do accounts and write letters."[49]

A series of ideological meetings held for writers and artists in the spring of 1942 culminated on May 2 and May 23 with important speeches by Mao Zedong.[50] His remarks, often referred to as the Yan'an Talks, became the core of Communist cultural policy. Mao opened by saying that the purpose of the meeting was to ensure that literature and art became a component of the whole revolutionary machinery. To achieve this goal, artists and writers needed to be more aware of their roles in the revolution. They needed to identify with the masses and with the CCP; they needed to be clear that their audience was the workers, peasants, and soldiers; they needed to be familiar with and sympathetic to the workers, peasants, and soldiers; and they must understand Marxist-Leninist writings. Although literature might also serve the petty bourgeoisie, who were allies in the revolution, it was essential that writers and artists give the workers, peasants, and soldiers priority. Hence, efforts should be made to reach a wider audience and to raise artistic standards.

Mao acknowledged that the experience of foreign countries could guide China in achieving this goal, but he rejected crude imitation of foreign material as useless. While literature and art of a higher level was necessary for better-educated cadres, he said, satisfying this need was not central to the Communist mission. Professional writers and artists should devote their attention to speaking for the masses.

Beyond merely articulating his revolutionary cultural theory, Mao successfully described a new creative discipline to be enforced among Communist


Image not available

Figure 4
Anonymous, Protect the Border District,
ca. 1940, polychromatic woodblock
print, Bo Songnian collection.


Image not available

Figure 5
Jiang Feng, Studying Is Good, 1942,
woodblock print.


writers and artists. He denied that art for art's sake could exist, for in his view all culture belonged to a definite class and party. He further rejected various nonpolitical foundations for art and literature, including humanism, love of mankind, idealism, liberalism, and individualism.

Following the Yan'an Talks, in 1942 and 1943, the CCP conducted a rectification campaign and cadre investigation. The thought remolding process, intended to tighten party discipline, normally took several months. For reasons that have not been revealed, Jiang Feng was vehemently attacked, relieved of his duties, and kept in isolation for almost a year.[51] Among the factors behind his prolonged investigation may have been the following: his lapse in party membership before 1938; his association with Feng Xuefeng, who had challenged Mao's views on literature and remained in the Nationalist capital of Chongqing; his friendship with Ai Qing, who was reluctant to accept party discipline in his literary activities; jealousies among contenders for key administrative posts; and a stubbornness for which Jiang Feng became notorious. Most damaging would have been suspicion of collaboration with Nationalist authorities, a charge that clouded the reputation of any Communist who survived his or her jail term.[52]

Over the next five years, Jiang seems to have recovered from any damage to his position caused by the 1942-1943 campaigns. In 1944 he resumed his work promoting new nianhua ,[53] and in 1945 organized a symposium on the subject.[54] After the Japanese surrender in September 1945, propaganda activity concentrated on the War of Liberation, as the civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists was later known. Artists began leaving Yan'an and the Lu Xun Academy to consolidate Communist control in other areas. One group, which included a number of future administrators, including Jiang's Shanghai friend Wo Zha, his student Gu Yuan, and the Manchurian natives Zhang Ding, Yang Jiao, and Zhang Xiaofei, was sent in October to China's northeast, about eight hundred miles away—a dangerous journey across Nationalist territory that took thirty-six days by foot and boat.[55] The Northeast Lu Xun Academy of Literature and Arts (Dongbei Lu Xun wenyi xueyuan ) was established in Shenyang three years later, in October 1948.[56]

Another large group of Communist cultural workers was organized as the North China Literature and Arts Work Team (Huabei wenyi gongzuotuan ), with the poet Ai Qing and Jiang Feng as leaders. Between mid-September and November 1945 the group walked from Yan'an to Zhangjiakou, in northern Hebei, a distance of some 420 miles. In their new location, about one hundred miles northwest of Beijing, they founded a Literature and Arts College at the Jin-Cha-Ji (Shanxi, Chahar, Hebei) North China United Revolutionary University (Huabei lianda ). Jiang Feng became art department head and vice-secretary of the party committee in the new college, which opened in January 1946. He served under the supervision of his old friend Ai Qing, who was vice-


director of the college. Artists from the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border District Literature and Arts Union joined the Yan'an group. Some who worked with Jiang Feng in the new college, including Wang Zhaowen, Hu Yichuan, Mo Pu, and Yan Han, became important figures in the post-1949 art bureaucracy.

In February 1946, Jiang Feng published an article entitled "The Problem of Using Old Forms in Painting" that outlined his fundamental views on pictorial art.[57] Although the civil war delayed widespread implementation of his ideas, and he was later forced to modify parts of his program, his subsequent administrative record provides evidence of an uncompromising idealism in his approach to art. His basic assumption was that Western realism was scientific and, therefore, the only appropriate means of reflecting the life and ideals of modern people. His essay contrasts "new forms," which appear to be the conventions of late-nineteenth-century Western oil painting, with "old forms," which are those of traditional Chinese painting and new year's pictures.

Jiang cites two frequently argued justifications for a progressive Chinese artist to paint in old ways: the first was that traditional forms were easier for the common folk to accept, thus rendering propaganda more effective; the second was that patriotic artists sought by their very convictions to create "national forms" of painting. After analyzing both arguments, Jiang concluded that neither was adequate to justify the continuation of traditional art practices.

The utilitarian approach, he charged, did not hold up to scrutiny because the common people would accept Western conventions of chiaroscuro and perspective if the subject matter of the painting related to their own lives. Moreover, often the traditional mode was simply inappropriate for the task at hand. People might enjoy depictions of guerrilla warfare rendered against traditional landscape backgrounds, or images of soldiers outlined in the strokes previously used for painting delicate female beauties, but such representations failed to convey the proper atmosphere and thus were unsuitable as propaganda.

The issue of "national forms," the second commonly cited justification for promoting indigenous art, requires some explanation. The concept, developed by literary theorists in the 1930s, was strongly supported by Mao Zedong and appealed to many patriots because of its anti-imperialist flavor. Zhou Yang, who served for much of his career as Mao Zedong's spokesman on culture, was the foremost proponent of national forms in literature—"indigenous, semiliterary folk styles ... enjoyed by ordinary Chinese for hundreds of years," in the words of Merle Goldman.[58] In art, as Jiang defined the problem, national forms were associated with traditional ink painting and folk new year's prints.

Significantly for later cultural developments, Zhou Yang's theories met, in the 1930s and 1940s, with heated opposition from Lu Xun's literary disciples,


Feng Xuefeng and Hu Feng. They urged as an alternative the adoption of Western-oriented realist forms of writing and the internationalization of Chinese culture.[59] Jiang Feng's article revealed his strong personal sympathy for the internationalist view, while nevertheless adhering to the party-approved language of Zhou Yang's policies.

Because the manner in which Jiang Feng articulated the debate remained important in subsequent decades, it is worth looking at his arguments in some detail. Jiang defined the question of national forms in art in terms of the tension between old and new. While he acknowledged the immediate efficacy of adopting old forms for propaganda in wartime, Jiang rejected the idea as a long-term program for the new art. People, he maintained, accept art that they are accustomed to seeing, and, he argued, such customs can be changed. As evidence he cited the popularity in Jiangsu and Zhejiang, the areas closest to Shanghai, of yuefenpai images of beautiful girls. The heavily shaded, Western-influenced yuefenpai mode of drawing was introduced by tobacco companies to decorate calendars.[60] Jiang pointed out that it soon became common in the region to commission ancestor portraits in a similar rubbed-charcoal style, thus making the traditional painted figure, which relied primarily on outline, obsolete. If tobacco company advertisements could change folk taste in such a conservative domain of representation, he implied, Communist artists should be able to do the same.

While Jiang conceded that the ink tones and brushwork of literati painting and the outlines and colors of folk painting each had their own merit, neither form alone, he argued, was entirely suitable for rendering the complexities of modern life. Rather than bringing realistic elements into traditional painting, therefore, Jiang advocated basing all art on Western techniques. Absorption of traditional elements should be a secondary concern. He particularly attacked "reformed Chinese painting," Which synthesized Chinese and Western methods, as serving no function but to extend the life of old forms.

In a small leap of logic, Jiang concluded that because realistic techniques were most appropriate for reflecting the lives and ideals of the nation, realistic forms were best for creating a national form in art. The incongruity of adopting Western conventions of painting as the basis for Chinese "national forms" of art is successfully obfuscated by Jiang's impassioned defense of realism.

Jiang's promotion of national forms was not, as the term might seem to imply, a rejection of Western art forms. On the contrary, in his view the promotion of national forms required further development of new—that is to say, Western—styles and genres. Not all new forms were suitable to this end, however. Presumably influenced by Stalinist doctrines, Jiang wrote that it was necessary to cleanse new forms of the poisons of European modernism. Jiang's opposition to most schools of modern Western art (which presumably de-


Image not available

Figure 6
Wang Shikuo, Reform the Hooligans,
1947, polychromatic woodblock print,
16.5 cm × 25.4 cm, Chinese National Art

veloped only after his own youthful experiments in modernist graphic design were concluded), indeed, was to have profound influence on the development of Chinese art in the 1950s. Nevertheless, at this early stage, his equation of new forms with Western techniques set China's art world on an internationalist course.

As Jiang Feng defined them, national forms of painting would be realistic and would employ Western academic principles of perspective, anatomy, composition, and color. They would not be based on traditional literati painting or on traditional folk styles, though they might be enriched by extracting apt elements from old art. This new realism would eradicate the gap between the people and "high-class art."

Jiang's intense opposition to both traditional painting and modernist Western styles set him at odds with many painters in the Nationalist-controlled territories. Self-employed professional artists often worked in traditional styles, and the ranks of China's art professors included both traditionalists and those who worked in modernist European styles. His criticism did not even spare


Image not available

Figure 7
Hong Bo, Joining the Army, 1947,
polychromatic woodblock print,
2.1 cm × 17.5 cm.


progressive professors of painting who promoted new styles that would bring Western concepts into traditional Chinese painting, for he required that Western forms provide the very foundations of art.

Although Jiang Feng's internationalist ideas differed from the vision of Mao Zedong and Zhou Yang, he was nevertheless charged with reforming the Chinese art world under the new Communist government. In this role, he would have a profound effect on the development of art in China.

In 1948, the propaganda school moved south to Zhengding in central Hebei, where it merged with and took the name of North China University, previously based in Xingtai. The artists Luo Gongliu, Wang Shikuo, and Jin Lang joined Jiang Feng's team;[61] thereafter the art department was referred to as the third section of the North China University.[62] Academic activity during the years in Hebei included research on local nianhua conventions[63] and training of art propaganda workers.[64] Propaganda pictures made at North China University, including Wang Shikuo's woodcut Reform the Hooligans (fig. 6) and Hong Bo's nianhua Joining the Army (fig. 7),[65] set the artistic standard for the early years of the new People's Republic of China. Jiang Feng and his fellow veterans of the civil war became key figures in the Chinese art world after the Communist victory.

National Art Academies Before 1949: Lin Fengmian and Xu Beihong

Professors at China's pre-1949 art academies were a second important force in the postliberation period. Two private schools, the Suzhou Art Academy (Suzhou meizhuan ) and the Shanghai Art Academy (Shanghai meizhuan ), trained many important artists, but they left a meager institutional legacy after they were disbanded in 1952.[66] Instead two public academies, transformed by an infusion of Maoist and Stalinist art policies, provided the foundation for the Communist art academy system.

The most prestigious art institute in China from 1928, when the school was founded, until the Communist victory in 1949 was the National Hangzhou Arts Academy, established with the sponsorship of Cai Yuanpei. Cai, a central figure in early-twentieth-century efforts to modernize the Chinese educational system, was a strong advocate of the arts as a necessary component of a sound education. During his brief tenure as minister of education in 1912, only a year after the overthrow of the Qing dynasty, he had prepared a proposal for a five-part modern curriculum. The new humanistic program consisted of universal military education, utilitarian education, moral education, world-outlook education, and aesthetic education (meiyu ). The first two were oriented, respectively, to physical and intellectual development. The last two


aimed at expanding Chinese education to incorporate a concern for the transcendental as well as the material, and thus raised art to an extremely high position. Although Cai resigned from the government when internationalist and egalitarian parts of his program were rejected, his proposals had a profound effect on the development of Chinese education.[67]

Five years later, while serving as chancellor of Peking University, he delivered an important speech entitled "On Replacing Religion with Aesthetic Education," in which he explicated his belief that aesthetic education was more suitable for purposes of cultivating the human spirit than any form of organized religion might be.[68] Possibly in response to Cai's ideas, an art academy was established in Beiping (as Beijing was then known) in 1918, but political circumstances of the period prevented immediate realization of his idealistic art education program.

In 1927, Cai was appointed chancellor of the national university system, and once again he brought up the idea of establishing a national art college. His goal was to make aesthetic education the spiritual backbone of modern education: the institutional cultivation of the creation, appreciation, and knowledge of beauty would, he hoped, popularize aesthetic ideals throughout society and thereby eliminate greed and selfishness. The next year, at last, he witnessed the founding in Hangzhou of the new state-sponsored art college, the National Hangzhou Arts Academy, sometimes called the West Lake Academy of Arts (Xihu yizhuan ). The director was Lin Fengmian, a young modernist oil painter who had studied in France and who wished to help young artists work together to realize the ideal of making society artistic.[69] The goals of the school program were to: introduce Western art, reorganize Chinese art, synthesize Chinese and Western art, and create an art for the present epoch.[70]

Lin Fengmian had become extremely interested in the modernist painting of the Fauves during his study in Europe. (He is said by former students to have believed that modernism began with Cézanne and to have encouraged students to begin their studies by analyzing his work.) Throughout his tenure as director, which ended soon after the 1937 Japanese invasion,[71] he steered the academy to be both modern and Chinese, exposing students to up-to-date Western concepts and traditional Chinese painting alike, a task that was taken up again by him and his colleagues after the war. Many of the best Communist artists, including Yan Han, Hu Yichuan, and Luo Gongliu, received their training at the prewar academy in Hangzhou, though political circumstances prevented most from graduating. Following the 1949 liberation, Lin Fengmian, whose views of art do not appear to have changed, was largely excluded from participation in the Chinese art world.[72]

After 1949, when the capital was moved from Nanjing to Beijing, the academy in Hangzhou, like its former director, lost much of its national im-


portance. The institution that replaced it under the Communists was the National Beiping Arts College (Guoli Beiping yishu zhuanke xuexiao ), directed from 1946 to 1953 by the European-trained painter Xu Beihong. Xu's legacy in Chinese art education was indeed great:[73] as Chu-tsing Li has observed, Chinese socialist realism may be seen largely as a continuation of Xu Beihong's ideas and theories.[74]

Xu studied in Europe between 1919 and 1927 with the support of a government scholarship. During his stay in France and Germany, Xu rejected the modernism that then flourished all over Europe. Instead he concentrated on mastering the ideals and techniques of nineteenth-century romanticism and academicism. Upon his return to China, Xu assumed teaching and administrative posts in the newly founded art department at National Central University in the capital of Nanjing. Xu's unwavering support for his own students yielded a mutual loyalty that progressively increased his effectiveness as an arts administrator. He worked hard to obtain fellowships for his favorite students to study in Europe and helped them obtain employment after their arrival back home.[75]

Xu spent the years from 1938 to 1941 in India, then returned to China, where he lived mainly in Chongqing. At the conclusion of the war, he was appointed director of the National Beiping Arts College. Although the assignment kept him away from Shanghai and Nanjing, the cultural and political centers of postwar China, he attacked the job with great vigor, assembling a teaching staff that could train students according to his artistic view. For in his staffing decisions, while political and personal loyalties clearly played a part, artistic criteria were primary. In 1929, Xu Beihong had published an article in which he attacked Renoir, Céanne, and Matisse, instead advocating realism as true art.[76] At the college, therefore, he promoted a classical, academic form of art education that involved rigorous training in charcoal drawing. His strong preference for realistic Western art over more modern styles became an important educational principle and distinguished his teaching program from that of Lin Fengmian at Hangzhou.

Xu's own painting emphasized a synthesis between Chinese tradition and classical Western art. Drawings he made during his stay in Europe reveal great technical facility and a penchant for highly detailed realistic rendering (fig. 8). And his oil portraits from that time, characterized by mysterious wooded backgrounds, softly illuminated faces, and homely details such as rustic flutes, are heavily imbued with nineteenth-century romanticism (fig. 9).

When Xu arrived back in China from Europe, he was inspired—apparently by those European academic artists of the late 1800s who rendered themes from Greek and Roman mythology and ancient history—to paint allegorical themes from Chinese history in a monumental, Western format. One such work that survives from this period is Tian Heng and His Five Hundred


Image not available

Figure 8
Xu Beihong, Drawing of a Woman,
1924, charcoal and white chalk on paper,
50 cm × 39 cm, Xu Beihong Memorial

Retainers (fig. 10), painted between 1928 and 1930, of an uncompromising local leader of the Western Han period.[77] A further step in his synthesis of Eastern and Western art was to render monumental history paintings in the Chinese style, as in The Old Man Who Moved the Mountain of 1940 (fig. 11). Although Xu himself was better suited to romantic portraits of people he could see than to ambitious compositions drawn from his imagination, the conceptual importance of such works, which attempt to combine Chinese and Western moralistic ideas, was great, far outweighing their aesthetic value.[78]

During the war Xu, like many intellectuals, became critical of right-wing Nationalist administrative policies and of the social problems he saw around


Image not available

Figure 9
Xu Beihong, The Sound of the Flute,
1926, oil on canvas, 80 cm × 39 cm,
Xu Beihong Memorial Museum.

him. Although he was not a Communist, he was close to Tian Han, an important Communist art administrator,[79] and knew Zhou Enlai. In letters probably written in 1946, he stated that he intended to operate the newly reopened National Beiping Arts College as a leftist school.[80] Faculty member Jiang Zhaohe, who had made his name with a monumental ink-and-color painting called Refugees (fig. 12), was indeed an outspoken critic of contemporary society.[81] Other new faculty, including academic dean Wu Zuoren, were trusted former students.[82] Xu's final split with the Nationalists probably came in 1947, when he was attacked by the Nationalist authorities for the academy's alleged inadequacies in teaching Chinese painting.[83]


Image not available

Figure 10 (top)
Xu Beihong, Tian Heng and His Five
Hundred Retainers, 1928-1930, oil on
canvas, 198 cm × 355 cm, Xu Beihong
Memorial Museum.

Image not available

Figure 11 (bottom)
Xu Beihong, The Old Man Who Moved
the Mountain, 1940, ink and color on
paper, Xu Beihong Memorial Museum.


Image not available

Figure 12
Jiang Zhaohe, Refugees, 1943, ink and
color on paper, Central Academy of Fine
Arts Exhibition Hall.

By 1948, as the Nationalist government prepared its retreat to Taiwan, Tian Han transmitted a message to Xu Beihong from Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong urging him to remain in Beiping.[84] Meanwhile, underground party members Hou Yimin and Li Tianxiang organized their classmates to mount strikes protesting the civil war.[85] When the government order came to evacuate the campus, Xu ignored it and assured others that they would be safe under Communist rule. Although all the members of the music department fled, most artists remained behind. On October 1, 1949, when the new people's government was formally founded, Xu stood on the rostrum with Mao Zedong and other leaders, and on December 16 he was reappointed director of the academy by the Government Administrative Council (Zhengwu yuan ), which ran the new government.[86] His widow believes that Zhou Enlai personally mandated the appointment.[87] Whatever the truth, it is clear that Xu Beihong's views were highly valued by the Communists as they began to reform art in a united China.


The Reform of Chinese Art 1949-1952

Liberation: Communists and Academics Unite

After Communist troops captured Tianjin in January 1949, the Nationalist general of Beiping surrendered.[1] The People's Liberation Army (PLA) peacefully entered the city on January 31, 1949,[2] and the task of bringing non-Communist artists under the control of the new regime began. The decisions made during this critical transition period irreversibly altered the lives and careers of many artists, Communist and non-Communist alike.

On March 8, 1949, by order of the military official in charge of administering Beiping, Ye Jianying, National Beiping Arts College was taken over by the military. Sha Kefu, who had served as vice-director of the Yan'an Lu Xun Academy of Literature and Arts and later as director of the College of Arts and Literature of the Jin-Cha-Ji North China United Revolutionary University, was sent as military representative to the school. A "Cultural Takeover Small Group," composed of former administrators from the same college, was assigned by the military to direct the transfer. The group consisted of vice-director Ai Qing, the art department head Jiang Feng, the art theorist and sculptor Wang Zhaowen, and the composer Li Huanzhi. They were assisted by younger Communist artists Ding Jingwen, Hong Bo, and Li Qi, who served as office administrators. The small group decided—probably on orders from Zhou Enlai—to keep Xu Beihong as director and to retain faculty at their original salary levels.[3] The college would be funded by the Beiping Municipal Military Affairs Committee.

Communist artists from North China United University, which had absorbed the Yan'an print movement, had spent the three previous years producing pro-Communist propaganda in the Hebei countryside. They followed


the People's Liberation Army into the city and established themselves in an old church occupied by the New China News Agency. Art cadres from the liberated zone began conducting classes on principles of the new art at the National Beiping Arts College. The printmakers Zhang Ding and Gu Yuan came to Beijing from Manchuria to work in editorial positions. Their colleagues Yang Jiao and Zhang Xiaofei remained in the northeast, where they had, in 1946, helped establish the Northeast Lu Xun Academy of Arts. In September, the military affairs committee decided to formally combine the North China United University art department with the National Beiping Arts College.

Mao Zedong declared the establishment of the new People's Government from atop the imperial palace's Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen) on October 1, 1949. On November 2, the preliberation positions of the Hangzhou and Beijing academies were reversed: the Beijing school was renamed the National Art Academy and became the country's primary art college. At Xu Beihong's request, Mao Zedong personally inscribed the new name, Guoli meishu xueyuan , as a logo for the school.[4] It may have been at this time that it attained the high administrative status it now enjoys, answering directly to the national Ministry of Culture rather than to a local cultural affairs bureau. As part of the reorganization, the music department and its director, Li Huanzhi, were removed to the National Conservatory in Tianjin. The Hangzhou academy was demoted to a subsidiary campus of the Beijing school, a status it retained until 1958.

On January 1, 1950, the new Government Administration Council changed the name of the National Art Academy in Beijing once again. For most of the succeeding period, it has been known as the Central Academy of Fine Arts (Zhongyang meishu xueyuan , hereafter CAFA).[5] CAFA was formally dedicated on April 1, with high officials of the Government Administration Council, the Central Propaganda Bureau of the CCP, and the Ministry of Culture in attendance.[6] As marchers from CAFA filed past Tiananmen on October 1, 1950, Chairman Mao read their banner, waved, and shouted, "Long Live the Central Academy of Fine Arts."[7]

Establishment of the Art Workers Association, 1949

The All-China Congress of Literary and Arts Workers (Zhongguo quanguo wenxue yishu gongzuozhe daibiao dahui ) opened on July 2, 1949. It was attended by 753 cultural leaders from all parts of the country. At its conclusion on July 19, the All-China Federation of Literary and Arts Circles (Zhonghua quanguo wenxue yishu jie lianhehui ; FLAC) was founded, with revolutionary printmakers Jiang Feng, Yan Han, and Hu Yichuan elected members of the national committee.[8] The All-China Art Workers Association (AWA, forerun-


ner of the Chinese Artists Association) was established at the same time. The chairman of the AWA was Xu Beihong, director of the National Beiping Arts College; the two vice-chairmen were Jiang Feng and the cartoonist Ye Qianyu (see appendix I).[9] Jiang Feng concurrently held the post of secretary of the party group,[10] thus controlling the young association.

Vice-Premier Zhou Enlai, who promoted harmonious relations between Communists and non-Communist intellectuals throughout his career, delivered an important speech at the congress on July 6. He gave theoretical guidance in five areas. First, he said, unification of all China's literary and art workers was essential. Zhou identified several different types of art workers, including those in the PLA, those in PLA-controlled areas, and those in areas controlled by the Nationalists. He urged delegates to promote a united spirit among all cultural workers in their home regions. Second, artists were to serve the people, especially the workers, peasants, and soldiers. Third, popularization was to take precedence over raising of standards. Fourth, old literature and art were to be remolded. Old contents were to be remolded first, but attention should also be paid to old forms so that contents and forms might be unified. Fifth, artists and art leaders must avoid particularism but instead consider the needs of the whole country in their art. To carry out these cultural policies, he announced plans to form popular associations such as the Art Workers Association to train artists, expand artistic activity, and undertake the remolding of art. The government planned to set up its own structures to organize arts and literature, but intended to rely on the cooperation of popular associations to implement its activities.[11] Although Zhou claimed that the AWA and other such organizations were "masses' groups," they were in fact, as we saw in the introduction, the cultural arms of the Chinese Communist party. The art bureaucracy was thus envisioned as a two-part cooperative structure administered by the party and the government.

Next Jiang Feng presented a report on art work in the liberated zones that praised the accomplishments of Communist artists and presented concrete goals for remolding the non-Communist art world.[12] The uninspiring prose remains stilted even in summary, and it is clear that Jiang speaks for the Communist party, not for himself. Some policies, such as the party's promotion of the outline and flat-color painting style, contradict the views Jiang Feng expressed three years earlier.

Jiang dated the most important artistic activities of the liberated zones to the post—Yan'an Talks period. Forms of art that contributed to the War of Liberation included pictorial magazines, new nianhua , serial picture stories, wall paintings, and propaganda flyers. Woodcut artists, most notably Gu Yuan, Yan Han, and Wang Shikuo, abandoned strong black-and-white contrasts that the people could not appreciate and developed lively single-outline techniques.


Hua Junwu's political cartoons were particularly successful examples of their genre. Oil painting and sculpture began developing in regions where the war had ended, as part of national reconstruction. Mo Pu and Wang Zhaowen had contributed to this effort. Notable work producing pictorial magazines was performed by other artists, including Zhang Ding.[13] Shijiazhuang Masses Art Press (Hebei) and Northeast Pictorial were the largest-scale publishers of new nianhua . Serial picture stories (lianhuanhua ) by future administrators Shao Yu and Cai Ruohong were also well received.

Jiang then described current policies and plans. As he had mentioned, many artists had begun, presumably under the party's direction, to use the single-outline and flat-color techniques of folk painting because effects of light and shade were difficult for the workers, peasants, and soldiers to understand. He urged the continued practice of this style. Art work should take its contents from life and should be educational. At the same time, it was crucial that artists study party policies. For example, pictures representing land reform should not depict people dividing up a rich man's silver and silks; instead they should emphasize redistribution of farming tools and domestic animals, because land reform policy was aimed primarily at developing agricultural production. Similarly, in depicting assaults by the People's Liberation Army on cities, artists who emphasized smoke and flames would contradict the PLA policy of nondestructive attacks.

Jiang pointed out that the new art was still much less widespread than the old nianhua and lianhuanhua , which promoted feudal superstitions and colonial ideology. Tianjin, for example, annually printed one hundred million nianhua and yuefenpai calendar pictures. Shanghai had eighty serial picture publishers and a thousand serial picture artists. Jiang estimated that about fifteen million copies of 4,800 lianhuanhua titles were printed annually in Shanghai.

Communist art workers had two tasks, according to Jiang Feng's speech. The first was educational: to quickly train many art cadres and to remold folk artists and guohua artists to serve the workers, peasants, and soldiers. The second was productive: to use modern printing technology to issue art in large quantities for the masses. The goal was to win over the large market for older types of art.

The newly founded Chinese government's policy toward literature and the arts was published in October 1949, three months after the Congress of Literary and Art Workers met. Literature and the arts should serve the people, should inspire the political enlightenment of the people, and should encourage the people's enthusiasm for labor. Excellent works of literature and art should be rewarded.[14] The first document issued by the newly established Government Administration Council is believed to have been an order drafted by Cai


Ruohong at the request of Mao Zedong and Zhou Yang to promote the production of modern new year's pictures (xin nianhua ). Soon after, a similar order was issued about serial picture books.[15]

First National Art Exhibition

The first National Art Exhibition was held at the National Beiping Arts College in conjunction with the July 1949 Congress of Literary and Arts Workers. The works of 301 artists exemplified the artistic concerns of the day. A catalogue published in October divided the works into five categories: painting, woodblock prints, new year's pictures, cartoons, and sculpture.[16] The editors strictly avoided separating Western-style painting from works executed in the traditional Chinese medium of ink on paper or silk, but more recent accounts assert that only twenty-seven of the artists—less than 10 percent—exhibited traditional Chinese paintings.[17]

In publishing the catalogue, the stated interest of the authorities was to reveal the gloomy outlook of Old China and the brilliant future of New China.[18] Most compositions were figural, representing such themes as land reform, anti-Japanese parades, military heroes, and industrial workers. Although many artists who had previously worked in the Nationalist-controlled areas were not particularly skilled at depicting workers, peasants, or soldiers, their willingness to participate in this patriotic activity was more important to all concerned than the awkward results of their efforts. A further goal of the exhibition was to present successful models of the new art for artists and art administrators from all over the nation.

One exception to the generally poor artistic performance of non-Communist artists was Dong Xiwen's Liberation of Beijing , a brightly colored painting in the nianhua manner (fig. 13). Dong was a professor at the National Beiping Arts College who had been hired by Xu Beihong. This work was not his first effort at pro-Communist propaganda, for he had earlier complied with the request of underground Communist students to design a woodcut handbill, "The Liberation Army Is the People's Savior," in preparation for the PLA entry into Beijing.[19] Most such nianhua were painted by Communist artists from the liberated zones, however. Hong Bo's Joining the Army of 1947, for example, aimed at recruiting peasants for the Communist army, was a bright, cheerful composition strongly influenced by folk art (see fig. 7). And Yan Han, a veteran of the Yan'an nianhua movement, exhibited a handsome polychromatic woodcut on the theme of land reform, Down with Feudalism (fig. 14). Trained at the National Hangzhou Arts Academy in the 1930s, Yan was more fluent in Western idioms, as illustrated here, than in the folk print styles he adopted after the Yan'an Talks.


Image not available

Figure 13
Dong Xiwen, Liberation of Beijing,
1949, ink and color on paper.

Building a Party Structure in the Academies

Jiang Feng had been administrator of an artistic movement in the liberated zones that had considerable attainments. His collaborators, the printmakers Gu Yuan, Yan Han, and Hu Yichuan, among others, may have been responsible for innovations in the new art, particularly the effective way in which the aesthetic principles of folk prints were combined with revolutionary themes, but Jiang Feng certainly used his status to encourage such successful efforts.[20] The novelist Ding Ling recalled that when Jiang Feng visited her in Yan'an his conversation was mainly about his students and issues in art.[21] The role of educator and promoter of new art was one he would continue to play after 1949, as he abandoned his own artistic endeavors for a career in administration, teaching, and writing.

In September 1949, Jiang Feng was transferred to the National Arts


Image not available

Figure 14
Yan Han, Down with Feudalism, 1948,
woodblock print, 28 cm × 37 cm.

Academy in Hangzhou as vice-director and secretary of the party committee,[22] a combination of administrative and CCP posts that gave him executive control of China's most prestigious art college. Jiang's southern assignment has been attributed to Xu Beihong's unwillingness to work with him,[23] a situation probably influenced by both theoretical and personal factors. Jiang Feng disliked Xu's friend Tian Han,[24] and his 1946 article in which he castigated the idea of bringing Western elements into Chinese painting might be viewed as an attack on Xu's Westernizing guohua .[25]

The problems the Communist administrators faced in Hangzhou and nearby Shanghai were far more serious than those in Beijing, where the art academy staff was largely sympathetic to the Communists. Between 1949 and 1952, therefore, the task of reorganizing the key Nationalist art school, that in Hangzhou, was more challenging and probably more important than a leadership post in Beijing. In any event, Jiang retained an important party position at the Beijing academy throughout his two years in Hangzhou.


At the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, a new Communist party structure was created to replace the military administration. Although Xu Beihong remained director, the core of the party administration was a "five-man small group" consisting of veterans of the Yan'an woodcut movement. The group was headed by Hu Yichuan, secretary of the newly established Communist party branch committee; its remaining members were vice-secretary Luo Gongliu, Wang Zhaowen, Zhang Ding, and Jiang Feng, who was in Hangzhou.[26]

Jiang Feng thus held high positions in the Art Workers Association, which oversaw the making and publicizing of art, and in the academic world, which trained new artists. The two structures were administratively distinct, though functionally related during the period 1949-1952. The Central Academy of Fine Arts was administered by the Ministry of Culture, a part of the civil government. The Art Workers Association fell under the FLAC, which was directed by the Propaganda Department of the CCP. A major distinction between the two organizations was that the AWA had very few paying jobs to offer; it was, in theory, a voluntary organization in which most members, and even its officers, received their salaries, housing, and other benefits from another work unit. Nevertheless, the AWA was crucial as a coordinating structure for national artistic activity and as an arm of the CCP. Jiang, as a key policy interpreter in both organizations, was in a position to mold the shape of China's new art, and to this task he was firmly committed. He immediately set about implementing the new arts policy outlined in his speech: training art cadres, remolding the thought of non-Communist artists, and eradicating the market for popular art of a feudal nature.

In practice, arts policy during the first decade of the PRC can be broken into two general periods. During the formative years of the new government, from 1949 to 1952, artists were required to popularize their art and to serve the people in practical ways, such as in land reform activities. In the 1949- 1950 school year, for instance, about 95 percent of faculty and students at the East China campus of CAFA (as the Hangzhou Arts Academy was then called) labored among the peasants.[27] This period was dominated by the revolutionary ideals and aesthetics of Communist artists such as Jiang Feng. As for academic artists, they remained without much influence during this early period, even despite the new government's efforts to avoid alienating them.

From 1953 to 1957, a period that corresponds to China's first Five-Year Plan, specialization and the raising of artistic standards came to be emphasized.[28] With the adoption of many aspects of the Soviet administrative system, Soviet painting and sculpture were now viewed as models for the new socialist art. Because Soviet socialist realism is founded on academic traditions of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century European painting, there was no immediate conflict between the goals of the new art establishment and the


inclinations, training, and talent of non-Communist artists at Xu Beihong's academy.

"He Brought with Him the Yan'an Style": Jiang Feng and the Academies

The story of Chinese art in the first eight years of the People's Republic centers to a large degree on Jiang Feng and his mission of creating a new socialist art. His primary vehicle for this project became the national art academy system, and through it he largely fulfilled his goal. Because the Chinese art world remains polarized in its opinions about him, a few comments are necessary concerning the contradictions in his career. Jiang Feng was an idealistic, courageous, and hard-working revolutionary. He was a man of great selfless-ness and personal integrity, committed to improving China and the world. He was largely consistent, even uncompromising, in his beliefs and actions and inevitably found himself in conflict with inconsistent party policies.

In the Marxist view of the world that he adopted when young, the suffering of the poor, with which he was intimately familiar, was blamed on the wealthy. Land reform, the first major economic project of the Communist administration, sought to redistribute the property of the rich to the poor. As Jiang Feng applied his social, political, and aesthetic principles to the practical business of administering the Chinese art world, it was perhaps unavoidable that the new art would be built On the destruction of the old. The greater good of society was more important than the situation of any individual. Functional art was to be encouraged; all other art, and its artists, would be suppressed.

The humanitarian roots of his communism, however, were never eradicated by the system for which he worked. He could be a man of great compassion when confronted with the aspirations or misfortunes of an individual, and might help such an individual even if in so doing he diverged from party policy. One such example concerns a tragedy of the 1942 Yan'an rectification movement. Jiang Feng's younger colleague Mo Pu, who had previously worked as an educator for the New Fourth Army,[29] was reassigned to the Lu Xun Academy in Yan'an in 1943. Upon his arrival in Yan'an he hoped to find his old friend, the artist Sha Jitong, who had gone to the Communist base in 1938. When Mo Pu arrived, the "Salvation Movement," aimed at rooting out Nationalist spies from the ranks of the Communist party, was being conducted under Kang Sheng's direction, and Mo Pu felt that it was dangerous to pursue inquiries about other people. Only at the conclusion of the campaign did he learn that his friend, who had joined the party in 1939, had been accused of being a Nationalist spy. Circumstances are not clearly described, but it is im-


plied that the pressure of the interrogation led to a mental breakdown and Sha Jitong's death in 1943.

Jiang Feng, who was very distressed by the young man's death, had learned from the autobiography in Mo Pu's file that Sha Jitong had been his friend. At the 1944 Qingming Festival, a day on which Chinese traditionally commemorate their dead, Jiang arranged for Mo Pu to collect Sha's few possessions from the hospital where he had died and urged him to locate and sweep his friend's grave.[30] Jiang undoubtedly knew that such activity might be viewed as a criticism of the party leaders who conducted the rectification campaign, but he acted anyway.

Even late in his life one finds examples of administrative behavior in which hard-line policies and his sympathy for the individual come into conflict. During his annual CAFA convocation speech in the fall of 1981, Jiang publicly criticized the artistic activity of the painter Yuan Yunsheng, who was something of a hero to many students for his work in modernist styles. Although he opposed modern art and thus found Yuan's recent work an unsuitable stylistic influence on CAFA students, Jiang respected Yuan for his talent and his uncompromising character. He supported Yuan for a promotion and intervened at the Ministry of Culture to permit him to travel abroad.[31]

Jiang remained throughout his life a steadfast supporter of youthful iconoclasm. One notorious example is that he arranged in 1979 for dissident artists of the Xingxing (Stars or Sparks) group[32] to obtain shelter for their street exhibition in the Chinese National Art Gallery, and he personally approved their subsequent shows, even though their radical art was antipathetic to the party arts policy Jiang himself had helped create.[33] He undoubtedly recognized that the young dissidents had more effectively overcome the legacy of the Cultural Revolution than had more obedient academic artists. While Jiang's hard-line policies were largely discredited in the art world of the 1980s, he is remembered with great personal respect by many of those who knew him.

Jiang Feng was admirably suited to lead the first phase of the reform of art, for he sincerely believed in the virtues of popular art. This enthusiasm was accompanied by a politically based contempt for many "high art" styles and genres that led to conflicts in the second phase, that of specialization. Jiang held a low opinion of many artists who had studied or taught at the academies during the time when he and his left-wing Shanghai colleagues were risking their lives in underground work. The college students were characterized by one member of Jiang's group as painting nothing but apples, bananas, and women's thighs.[34] Moreover, Jiang was contemptuous of modernists, including Matisse, Cézanne, and the Chinese artists who emulated them. Writing as late as 1978, Jiang contrasted the art made by his Shanghai friends and that of


"famous masters." Rather than painting portraits of beautiful ladies, still lifes, the scenery of West Lake, dusk in Rome, and so forth, the liftists depicted unemployed laborers, elderly beggars, the slums, and factory scenes. It appears that Jiang's condescension toward the art establishment of his youth never waned and was probably a factor in his later resistance to bringing old establishment artists back into the mainstream of postliberation art. Jiang quoted approvingly the preface that Lu Xun wrote for an Eighteen Art Society exhibition in 1931. Lu Xun differentiated Chinese art as being of two kinds: the art of the oppressors and that of the oppressed. The new art in the exhibition was designed to defeat meaningless, so-called high-class art, which was intended only to impress people. Lu Xun's implicit criticism of government art policies, especially as practiced at the National Hangzhou Arts Academy, led to the preface being torn out of the catalogue by Nationalist censors.[35]

Jiang Feng absorbed many of Cai Yuanpei's theories of art, as did most artists of his generation. Mayching Kao has described a collaboration between the idealistic Cai Yuanpei and Jiang Feng's hero Lu Xun that began in 1912. Cai believed that art had no national boundaries and that artists needed a sense of social responsibility.[36] Artistic internationalism was no less important to Lu Xun than to Cai Yuanpei, as his publications of European and Soviet prints make clear. By the time Jiang Feng reached a position of influence, the "international" community to which China belonged had been reduced to the Soviet bloc. Nevertheless, within. the cramped confines of Chinese foreign policy, Jiang Feng, the former Esperanto student, maintained a belief that China should strive for an international art.

Mo Pu recalls that in 1949 the most serious ideological problem of the Hangzhou academy (of which he later became party secretary) was its dominance by the ideals of Chinese literati painting and Western modernism, both of which were based on "art for art's sake" and were not suitable for the post-liberation period.[37] Although Jiang Feng strongly opposed the modern styles that dominated the art academies of Hangzhou and Shanghai, he supported other forms of Western academic art. Mo Pu remembers Jiang Feng's defense of oil painting: "I recall that in 1948 I painted an oil called Settling Accounts [about land reform].[38] I was instructed from above that this was bourgeois art, as though the proletarian class should not paint in oils. Jiang Feng helped me out of this difficulty."[39] Jiang's continuing enthusiasm for oil painting would be important to the development of the national academy system. An oil painter in the People's Liberation Army recalls that as the Communist forces camped outside Beijing the night before the city's liberation, Jiang exulted to the young artists, "Now we can paint oil paintings!"[40] Unlike some Communists, Jiang Feng believed that oil painting could serve the revolutionary cause as well as woodcuts.


A description of Jiang Feng's role in Hangzhou by the French-educated professor Pang Xunqin maintains that he brought the spirit of Yan'an with him to the urban academy. He required the faculty to live on campus, even if it meant sleeping in the administration building as he did. Because students were impoverished, he urged them to raise goats for milk and to produce busts of Chairman Mao for sale. Yet in spite of what may have seemed ridiculous behavior to some urbanites, his straightforwardness of behavior and his personal concern for the students made him very close to those he valued most, the younger generation.[41] Most important, Jiang Feng implemented Yan'an practicesin art education at Hangzhou. If the first year was typical, very little formal class work took place. The irregularity associated with Yan'an's wartime conditions was brought to the academies along with Yan'an revolutionary ideals.

According to Jiang's own report, he organized three mass art activities in the 1949-1950 school year.[42] During the first, conducted in November, the students painted eighty nianhua . The results were poor because the students simply copied images from the old liberated zones. For the second and thirdnianhua campaigns, conducted during December and April, the students went to the countryside or to factories to collect material. The students were expected to engage in manual labor along with the workers who might become the subjects of their pictures. Jiang's assessment was that by the third assignment they had learned, through contact with workers, peasants, and soldiers, to value popularization and the principle that life is the source of art. Interestingly, Jiang felt that the Chinese painting department students produced the best nianhua because they had fewer preconceptions. In particular, they were not poisoned by modernism, as were the fifth year students in Western painting, who had entered the academy under the Nationalists in 1945. This last observation seems to have been the basis for many personnel decisions.

The preliberation director of the National Arts Academy in Hangzhou, a French-trained artist named Wang Rizhang, had fled as the Communists approached. The academy was then put under military control, with the artists Ni Yide and Liu Wei in charge.[43] Soon after, the CCP established a party group at the academy. Jiang Feng was director, Yan Han and Mo Pu its two members. A party branch was also established, with Jin Lang as its secretary.[44] During the two years Jiang Feng served as party leader, the French-trained sculptor Liu Kaiqu, who had close ties to Zhou Enlai, held the largely honorary post of director. The two vice-directors were the oil painter Ni Yide, whose wartime experiences had tempered his modernist inclinations, and Jiang Feng.[45] In November 1950, by decision of the Ministry of Culture, the


Image not available

Figure 15
Lin Fengmian, Autumn Beauty, color and
ink on paper.

National Arts Academy in Hangzhou was placed under direct administration of CAFA and renamed the East China campus of CAFA.[46]

After the Japanese surrender in 1945, the National Arts Academy had been reestablished in Hangzhou with the Chinese painter Pan Tianshou as director. The Western painting department was divided into several studios, most of which practiced modern, semiabstract styles. A former student who now lives in the United States describes the atmosphere as being very similar to an American art college in its freedom of expression.[47] After the second year of their five-year program, students chose a studio in which to continue their studies. Lin Fengmian advocated a synthesis of Chinese and modern Western


Image not available

Figure 16
Guan Liang, Cutting Firewood at
West Mountain, 1927, oil on canvas,
46.7 cm × 53.2 cm, Chinese National
Art Gallery.

art. Although he taught oil painting, most of his work of this period was painted on Chinese paper, a practice he continued until his death (fig. 15).[48] In his method of instruction, students were urged to paint according to their initial feeling toward the subject.[49] Moreover, he insisted that students not emulate his work but develop their own styles. Among the other professors, Guan Liang taught a style derived from the Fauves (fig. 16); Wu Dayu taught late impressionist and cubist styles; and Fang Ganmin was influenced by cubism (fig. 17).[50] Although the students were strictly trained in academic drawing, they were encouraged to be free and creative.[51]

According to a current school official, Jiang Feng's new art education pol-


No image available

Figure 17
Fang Ganmin, Melody in Autumn, 1934,
oil on canvas.

icy, based on his Yan'an experience, combined theory and practice. His goal was to develop the middle- and high-level artistic talent needed to construct the new society—referred to, in the parlance of the time, as the "new democracy." Such artists would have revolutionary philosophies of life and art and would have mastered their specialties. To implement this policy, the school required students and faculty to study Marxism and Mao Zedong thought; to participate in the lives of workers, peasants, and soldiers; and to change their worldviews and artistic views. At the same time, Jiang Feng promoted creative work that reflected actual life, he reformed the academic curriculum, and he cultivated student capability in the realm of popular art.[52]

Thought reform of the modernist artists does not seem to have been particularly successful. It is hard to see how relations between victorious revolutionary artists and the explicit targets of their early enmity could have developed


completely harmoniously. The academic artists were, according to one critic of Jiang Feng, condemned and then made to study academic drawing in classes taught by Communist artists of inferior technical skill.[53]

It appears that many of the senior faculty, particularly practitioners of modern Western art, failed to understand or refused to accept the ideological principles of the indoctrination classes. Former administrators, most notably Lin Fengmian and Pan Tianshou, as well as senior professors were unlikely to abandon the artistic principles on which their life's work was based. Many, including Lin Fengmian, Guan Liang, Fang Ganmin, and Wu Dayu, gradually drifted back to Shanghai.[54] Others, including the traditionalist Pan Tianshou, were reassigned to minor administrative positions but not permitted to teach. Lin Fengmian applied for permission to leave China but was refused. The State Council later paid his salary, presumably because his artistic ideas made him unemployable.[55] Other artists continued to collect their salaries,[56] but some lived on family funds. The vacant teaching positions were soon filled with recent graduates who had successfully mastered revolutionary styles and principles. Some students were as discouraged by thought reform as the older faculty and dropped out of school.[57]

The "popular" art that Jiang worked so hard to promote consisted ofnianhua, lianhuanhua (comic books and illustrated story books), and propaganda paintings. The first two of these categories had been encouraged by Lu Xun as fertile areas for revolutionary development and were, as we have seen, specifically promoted by the Chinese government in 1949.[58] In these popular forms, Jiang, as the party spokesman, advocated use of an outline and unmodulated color technique derived from traditional Chinese painting. It was claimed that the masses appreciated works painted in this style.

Hu Feng reported a slightly different, private, Jiang Feng who disagreed with the idea that the Chinese outline and flat-color technique was the only correct way of painting. This view corresponds with Jiang Feng's 1946 article in which he advocated new art based on techniques of Western realism. According to Hu, Jiang organized the translation of essays about classical European art for the students to read because he believed that foreign oil painting was valuable. Moreover, he invited Hu, a strident Westernizer, to speak at the academies in Hangzhou and Beijing in order to broaden the worldview of the students.[59]

Jiang's most controversial stance was his position on traditional painting. Zhou Enlai, as we have seen, advocated in 1949 "uniting with all the traditional artists ... who are willing to remold themselves."[60] The problem for traditional artists, of course, would be how the art world might define "remold." Jiang Feng strongly disapproved of the traditional ink painting associated with the Chinese upper classes but found value in other sorts of traditional pictures, such as religious murals and folk prints. Jiang's opinion in 1949 was


that traditional Chinese painting (zhongguohua ), especially ink painting, had no further potential. The only exception he made, perhaps unenthusiastically, was in the case of the party-approved single-outline and flat-color mode of figure painting. Although he acknowledged that the works of the venerable traditionalist Qi Baishi, who had admirers in high party circles, were good, he believed that Qi had come to a dead end. Jiang maintained that Chinese painting lacked any cosmopolitan quality and would become extinct in the future." Oil painting has a future; Chinese painting has no developmental future."[61]

National Painting (Guohua) and Color-and-Ink Painting (Caimohua)

A note on terminology is required at this point. The Chinese term xihua orxiyanghua , Western painting, has been used to refer both to paintings by Westerner sand to paintings in Western media by Chinese artists. The difference between the two usages is usually clear from context, but, following Mayching Kao, we will use the term "Western art" to refer to work made by Western artists and "Western-style art" to refer to that made by Chinese.[62]

The most commonly used Chinese term to describe paintings using the traditional Chinese media is guohua . The dictionary definition of guohua is "traditional Chinese painting,"[63] though translated literally it means "national painting." In some contexts guohua may be an abbreviation for zhongguohua ,Chinese painting, or, less often, for guocuihua , painting of national essence.[64]Guocuihua has had negative connotations since 1949 because of its origins in the National Essence Movement, a nativist cultural trend of the early republican period that became extremely conservative, both politically and socially.[65] In the People's Republic of China, guohua and zhongguohua commonly refer to works painted with traditional Chinese pigments on a ground of traditional paper or silk. The terms thus describe the medium and ground of the painting rather than the style.[66]

In practice, of course, a range of possible meanings for the term exists, which makes it difficult to translate accurately. Some painters use traditional materials to paint untraditional subjects or employ their materials in untraditional ways, combining Chinese paper with European pigments, for example, or, in recent years, making ink rubbings of paving stones or manhole covers.[67] Socialist realist guohua painting, which we will discuss in later sections, is the best example of painting that is nontraditional in style but traditional in materials (figs. 49-53). Following common Chinese practice we will call most works executed on Chinese paper or silk with predominantly Chinese pigmentsguohua . Some Chinese paintings depict traditional subjects with traditional materials and in traditional styles (fig. 18). To the extent possible, we will reserve the more narrow English rendering "traditional Chinese painting" for such genuinely traditional work.


Image not available

Figure 18
Huang Binhong, Landscape of Shu,
dedicated to Wang Bomin, 1948, ink
and light colors on paper.

One of the notable changes in the structure of the Hangzhou academy made by the Communist administration was that the national painting(guohua ) department was combined with the Western painting department; this made its structure consistent with that of the academy in Beijing and with Soviet art schools, which, of course, had no need to teach Chinese painting. The new painting department, directed by Mo Pu, did not teach bird-and-flower painting or landscape painting, the standard genres of traditional paint-


ing. Rather, a new emphasis was placed on figure painting, with fundamental technical training devoted to drawing plaster casts of famous sculptures and human models, watercolor painting, and oil painting.[68] The only traditional techniques taught were outline-and-color painting. Old bird-and-flower and landscape masters such as Pan Tianshou and Huang Binhong did not teach. As part of their thought reform, some of them struggled to paint the new revolutionarynianhua , using styles and subjects to which they were completely unaccustomed. Those influential enough to continue in a public role, such as the elderly landscape painter and art historian Huang Binhong (fig. 18), were pressured to modify their work to suit the new art. Huang was reportedly asked to concentrate on figure painting in his art historical research, which, if true, drastically limited the usual scope of his scholarly activity.[69] A 1953 article reporting Huang's findings on the outline techniques used in ancient figure paintings would support this allegation.[70]

The omission of traditional painting from the curriculum continued even after a shift in party policy began to stress more specialized training. In 1955, after Jiang Feng's departure, the art academy in Hangzhou was once again divided in terms of painting media, but rather than reinstituting the national painting department, a new color-and-ink painting (caimohua ) department was founded.[71] The term caimohua was one favored by the Westernizer Xu Beihong to signify the new and reformed Chinese painting; it was interpreted by traditionalists as excluding purely Chinese styles.

The new department was administered by the watercolorist Zhu Jinlou and other artists with a strong Western leaning.[72] The curriculum centered on figure painting, fine outline technique, and realistic depiction. All of these qualities were relatively unimportant in mainstream Chinese painting of the late imperial period and thus marked a new, reformist view of Chinese art. Classes were taught in drawing, watercolor, sketching, outline drawing, Western art history, perspective, anatomy, and color. Copying old masterpieces, the traditional didactic method of Chinese painting, was abolished, as was study of traditional techniques of modeling landscape forms with ink texture strokes (cun ).

The new educational policies had two immediate effects. One was that students who painted caimohua had no basis in traditional techniques. As a result, they had to reinvent methods of working with ink, brush, color, and absorbent Chinese paper, a time-consuming and not always successful endeavor. Yet by the mid-1950s, new types of figure painting had appeared. Within the academies, old forms vanished as their practitioners departed.

The second effect was that ambitious students became interested primarily in oil painting, particularly once specialization became acceptable. This trend was well established even in the prewar period. Yan Han, a student at Hangzhou in the late 1930s, switched from oil painting to traditional painting studies only because he lacked money for the expensive foreign art supplies.[73] The


post-1949 disgrace of the traditional painting faculty and the growing knowledge of Soviet oil painting can only have strengthened the trend toward work in oils. Li Keran later blamed student disinterest in guohua on the leadership.[74] In an article written during the thought reform campaign of 1951 and 1952, Jiang Feng himself complained about student attitudes at CAFA. He did not lament the fate of traditional painting, but he rued the students' abandonment of the Yan'an spirit. He pointed out that recent graduates lacked enthusiasm for popular work (nianhua , comics and illustration, propaganda posters) and that the entire graduating class requested admission to the graduate program in oil painting. Jiang quotes one extreme student as saying, "I would rather pedal a pedicab than do popularization work."[75] In keeping with Jiang's view, however, at least one promising graduate of the East China campus, Ding Bingzeng(b. 1927), was assigned to illustrate comic books for a Shanghai publisher rather than engage in painting.[76]

Strife arose in the relations between Jiang Feng and non-Communist faculty during Jiang's tenure at Hangzhou. Such a situation was probably inevitable, because the academy's preliberation strengths were in precisely those areas that Jiang and many Communists considered decadent: modernist Western painting and traditional Chinese painting. The discord was probably aggravated by mutual contempt between Jiang, the self-educated worker, and the literati-artists that made "class struggle" a daily reality. Whatever the cost, Jiang Feng was largely successful in remolding the academy's artistic approach in line with socialist culture.

The Closing of the Shanghai Academies

One of the most potentially important administrative decisions in which Jiang Feng participated was the plan to move the East China campus of CAFA from Hangzhou to Shanghai within two or three years after liberation.[77] This was, apparently, to be achieved at the expense of the private academies that had flourished in the latter city during previous decades. In 1949, the most important art school in China's primary art center was the privately run Shanghai Art Academy. The school was directed by Liu Haisu, who had founded it in 1912, when he was only sixteen. Convinced that Chinese art was in an extreme state of decline, Liu's mission to rescue it led him to seek to "discover... the treasures of art history of our country ... [and] to assimilate ... new art from abroad."[78] After a visit to Japan in 1919, Liu became very interested in Cézanne and Matisse. The most notorious art world event of the 1920s was Liu Haisu's battle with the government over the acceptability of employing nude models for life drawing.[79] Liu journeyed to France in 1929, whereupon his brushwork came to resemble that of Van Gogh (fig. 19). Upon his return to China, he became the leader of the Shanghai art world, a position he enjoyed


Image not available

Figure 19
Liu Haisu, Qianmen in Beijing, 1922, oil
on canvas, 64 cm × 80 cm.

throughout the 1930s and 1940s.[80] He was enthusiastic about modernist experiments in Europe between the world wars and hoped to bring China into the international art scene.[81] Graduates of his influential academy taught art in schools all over China.

A second important private art school in preliberation Shanghai was the Suzhou Art Academy, founded in 1922 in nearby Suzhou by Yan Wenliang. Yan studied painting in Europe between 1929 and 1931, his travels coinciding with those of Liu Haisu. Beginning with his trip to Europe, Yan painted in the impressionist style (fig. 20). While in Europe, moreover, Yan assembled a collection of plaster casts of famous European sculptures, which he shipped home for use in his drawing classes at the academy. The branch campus of his school, established in Shanghai in 1938, continued to function on a somewhat irregular basis between 1941 and 1945. In 1946, at the conclusion of the Pacific war, both the Shanghai and Suzhou campuses were reopened.

Both private schools continued to operate in the years immediately following the liberation of Shanghai, but changes were soon to come. In 1951, for


Image not available

Figure 20
Yan Wenliang, Autumn in Changfeng
Park, 1972, oil on canvas, 37 cm ×
25 cm.

example, Yan Wenliang was sent to attend weekly thought reform and Marxist study sessions run by the Shanghai branch of the Art Workers Association. The next year, as part of a national reorganization of art schools, both academies were moved out of Shanghai.[82] Shanghai Art Academy, Suzhou Art Academy, and the art department of Shandong University thus became the East China Arts Academy in Wuxi. This move left Shanghai without an art College—though, as we have seen, Jiang Feng and Mo Pu viewed this situation as temporary.[83]

Liu Haisu was appointed director of the new institution, which removed him physically from the Shanghai art world. At the time, the authorities may have justified the move as constructive, but in practice it led to the destruction of the two influential private academies. Some faculty were unwilling to leave Shanghai, and those who did, like Liu Haisu himself, eventually ended up as teachers in the art department of the Nanjing Academy of Arts. Many professors found employment elsewhere. The ideological threat that Liu Haisu and his school might once have posed was thus eliminated.


Yan Wenliang, more sympathetic than Liu Haisu to realism, and by all accounts a more flexible personality altogether, was transferred to the post of vice-director of the East China campus of CAFA. Yan had found a job as a painter of theatrical backdrops in Shanghai, and he initially refused the position in Hangzhou. Peng Boshan, then a vice-director of the East China Cultural Department, persuaded him that his services as an educator were still needed. So he accepted the Hangzhou position, commuting from Shanghai to teach the ideologically unproblematic subjects of perspective and color theory.[84]

With the removal of the private Shanghai art schools, the way was cleared for the Hangzhou school, now functioning as a model of revolutionary education, to move into China's artistic hub. Selection of a suitable campus delayed the move beyond the two or three years originally planned by Hangzhou administrators. The operation may also have been slowed when the academy came under the political control of the Zhejiang provincial committee of the CCP in 1952, which appointed a party committee to run the East China campus[85] —an administrative change that opened the possibility for regional competition between Zhejiang and Shanghai on the matter. Nevertheless, the land acquisition was complete and construction in progress by 1957, when Jiang Feng and Mo Pu were purged from the art leadership. Their purge will be the subject of a later section, but one result was that the East China campus of CAFA did not move to Shanghai. The grounds are now occupied by the Shanghai Conservatory, and the city that had dominated Chinese art since the late nineteenth century remained, in the end, without an art academy.

Jiang Feng at the Central Academy of Fine Arts

After two years at Hangzhou, during which he set up an administration to continue his revolutionary work, Jiang Feng returned to Beijing in August 1951 to assume the position of vice-director of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. The artistic atmosphere in Beijing, with its emphasis on realistic painting, was much better suited to Jiang Feng's inclinations, as we shall see. Upon Jiang Feng's departure his protégé, Mo Pu, replaced him as party secretary and vicedirector of the branch campus. In 1953, Ni Yide was transferred to a teaching post at CAFA in Beijing and was replaced as vice-director by Yan Wenliang. Most party administrators who had gone with Jiang Feng to Hangzhou remained there, however.[86]

As we have seen, CAFA retained the preliberation staff of the National Beiping Arts College. Like the academy in Hangzhou, many new instructors had been added from the old liberated zones, including Ding Jingwen, Hong Bo, Li Qi, Luo Gongliu, Zhang Ding, Wu Lao, Cai Yi, Hu Yichuan, Yan Han, and Wang Shikuo.[87] Most important, as in all Chinese institutions a parallel


Communist party administration had been established beside the academic administration. Thus the old director, Xu Beihong, who was in declining health, gradually became less important. Probably because Xu had support in high places (most notably from Zhou Enlai) and because the differences inartistic outlook were small, the union of party and nonparty workers, at least superficially, was more successfully accomplished at CAFA than at Hangzhou. Nevertheless, real power in the academy was wielded by the "five-man small group" of party administrators, dominated by Hu Yichuan, party secretary between 1949 and 1951, and Luo Gongliu, his vice-secretary,[88] both of whom had studied at the national academy in Hangzhou. In 1951, Jiang Feng became party secretary and vice-director and assumed control.[89]

Jiang Feng retained a strong influence in Hangzhou, both through his personal authority and by right of his administrative position at the main campus of the combined colleges. In September 1953, upon the death of Xu Beihong, Jiang Feng became acting director of CAFA, thus formally ending the fiction of joint nonparty-party administration of the academy. Hu Yichuan, apparently on the losing side of a power struggle, became director of the newly established South-Central Art Academy in Wuhan and left Beijing in the same year.[90]

In the period 1949-1952, with popular work its primary emphasis, CAFA did not expand the three specialties of painting, sculpture, and applied arts it had offered before 1949. As in Hangzhou, it retained a shortened three-year wartime curriculum. In addition to regular students, the academy gave advanced instruction to Communist art cadres during the first two years after liberation. Some classes were as brief as six months. Others lasted a year and a half, training artists for propaganda work in parts of southern China that were newly or not completely liberated.[91] The young artists Hou Yimin, Lin Gang, Hong Bo, and Wu Biduan, whose works we will view in other contexts, volunteered to work as journalists on the Korean front after they completed their courses.[92]

The studio art classes consisted of two types: chuangzuo (creation) andxizuo (studies). Chuangzuo emphasized subject matter and composition, the question of how one produces a finished work of art to serve the workers, peasants, and soldiers. Ideology and art would come together in the finished work. Creation was taught by experienced revolutionary artists from the old liberated zones, particularly Wang Shikuo, Luo Gongliu, Yan Han, and Hu Yichuan. Younger faculty from the liberated zones included Wu Biduan, Li Qi, Lin Gang and Deng Shu.[93]

Xizuo , the second form of instruction, was considered less important. The classes emphasized technique and were taught by specialists from the preliberation academy. The instructors included Wu Zuoren and Ai Zhongxin, both oil painters; Li Keran, who taught drawing and nianhua ; Ye Qianyu, a cartoonist who taught Chinese painting; and Dong Xiwen, an oil painter who taught


drawing. The foundations of a unified academy style were laid by CAFA's postliberation staffing. Both groups, the revolutionaries and the academic realists, found it possible to accommodate themselves to the growing influence of Soviet socialist realism.

The emphasis of the art academy system between 1949 and 1952, as Jiang Feng's 1949 speech foreshadowed, was to train large numbers of art cadres as quickly as possible. Many artists who were students during the 1949-1952 period feel that their technical training was insufficiently rigorous because they spent so much time participating in political movements. The painting students who graduated in 1953, for example, executed only three oil paintings in their three years of study. Their graduation project was a nianhua painting.[94] Nevertheless, these early CAFA graduates became an important force in the Chinese art world, and remain So at the time of this writing. Many of those who were assigned to provincial posts upon graduation became highly influential in provincial branches of the artists association, in publishing houses, and in academies. Later complaints notwithstanding, technical training seems to have been adequate for those who continued to paint. Some graduates remained at the academy for more advanced training after party policy shifted from popularization to specialization in 1953. Most important, the lifelong connections forged among the students created a nationwide administrative network bound by personal ties. Graduates of CAFA under Jiang Feng's direction, in short, became the core of China's new art establishment.

Hong Bo, who worked closely with Jiang Feng in the party administration of CAFA, summarized Jiang's art policies in an essay written soon after Jiang's death in 1982. Jiang, he said, stressed the revolutionary function of art and thus advocated its popularization. He opposed elite art aimed at a limited audience of superior people. As the national art leader after 1953 (a role we will discuss further in chapter 3), he promoted values associated with Soviet socialist realism. Jiang Feng believed that art should be based on significant subjects that reflect the socialist revolution and the construction of the new state. He valued oil painting, on the grounds that it was good for depicting real life and revolutionary struggles. He also believed that Chinese painting should be reformed, that China should absorb the best of European arts and literature, and that realistic drawing should be integrated into Chinese painting so as to redevelop ink painting.[95]

New Nianhua

The most prominent genre in the academies during the early 1950s was, not unexpectedly, new nianhua . A special issue of Renmin meishu (People's Art),the AWA journal, published in April 1950, was devoted to reproductions of new works and reports from various parts of China on nianhua production.


Image not available

Figure 21
Hou Yimin and Deng Shu, Celebrating
the Thirtieth Anniversary of the CCP,
1951, ink and color on paper, new year's

In May, the Ministry of Culture issued its first list of prize-winning newnianhua .[96] The inaugural issue of Meishu zuotan (Art Seminar), the journal of the East China campus of CAFA, reported that 150 new nianhua by academy artists were presented for a special viewing at the East China Cultural Department in Shanghai in November 1950.[97] A feature on nianhua for foreign consumption appeared in the January 1952 issue of China Pictorial . The titles of well-publicized works were political: Celebrating the Thirtieth Anniversary of the CCP (fig. 21), Successful Harvest, Chairman Mao's Representatives Visit the People of an Old Revolutionary Base, A Victory Celebration on the Korean Front, Model Workers and Peasants at Beihai Park (fig. 22), and ANew-Style Marriage Celebration (also published as The Bride Speaks , fig. 23).

The term nianhua can be applied to almost any picture sold at the end of the Chinese lunar year, when the populace traditionally cleans house and replace sworn-out images of folk deities and decorations. Single- or multiple-sheet sets of woodcut pictures were the most common traditional nianhua , but cities such as Shanghai saw the rise of mechanically reproduced posters as


Image not available

Figure 22
Li Keran, Model Workers and Peasants
at Beihai Park, 1951, ink and color on
paper, new year's picture, 111 cm ×
169 cm.

replacements. Jiang Feng sought to expand the use of modern printing after 1949. Creators of most revolutionary nianhua of this period, beginning as early as the late 1940s, painted with crisp black outlines and relatively flat, bright color. Water-based pigments, either Western-style gouaches and poster paints or traditional Chinese colors, were applied to stiff Western-style paper; the designs were then mechanically reproduced. In support of this trend, authorities in the art academies mandated that student nianhua paintings must use the single-outline and flat-color technique, despite protests that such work was not art.[98]

Although some theorists sought to inspire national pride by tracing the roots of the technique to China's classical tradition of Tang and Song figure painting,[99] the influence of more recent folk pictures is stronger. Many such works were themselves influenced by Western pictorial conventions. Prominent


Image not available

Figure 23
Yan Han, The Bride Speaks, 1951, ink
and color on paper, new Year's picture.

among the sources for the new style was the craft of portrait painting, which had, from the seventeenth century through the early twentieth, combined carefully shaded facial features with much less descriptive treatment of clothing.[100] Another unmistakable source was the Yangliuqing nianhua tradition, an urban form of new year's picture that was based in part on figure painting of the Qing court. Yangliuqing nianhua , produced near Tianjin, often incorporated traces of Western perspective in their complex architectural elements (fig. 24).With the new nianhua , however, the traditional woodcut style was radically altered to include far stronger aspects of Western perspective, Western figural arrangements, and newly dramatic gestures.

A particularly well known nianhua by a CAFA artist is Lin Gang's ZhaoGuilan at the Heroes Reception (fig. 25), which depicts a model worker meeting Chairman Mao and Zhou Enlai at a well-publicized reception in 1950.[101]


Image not available

Figure 24
Anonymous, The Capital's Forbidden
City at the New Year, late Qing dynasty,
woodblock print, Yangliuqing new year's
picture, 58 cm × 105 cm.

Although the twenty-one-year-old artist did not attend the event, he was allowed to sketch in the reception room where it was held at Zhongnanhai, the governmental compound in central Beijing, so as to portray its architecture accurately. Lin painted the original 1951 version in gouache on stiff drawing paper, a technique he undoubtedly practiced during his time as a student at North China University. He made the version reproduced here in 1952, when he was asked to enlarge the picture on silk for an exhibition in India. He was assisted in transforming his propaganda poster into a Chinese painting byguohua teachers at the academy. The original version, which the artist considered superior to the copy, no longer survives. The palace setting and outline technique of the work evoke old Chinese figure paintings, but the vanishing-point perspective, complex figure groupings, and modern dress are significantly different from the organizational principles of most old Chinese nianhua or figure paintings.

Prints such as Celebrating the Thirtieth Anniversary of the CCP (see fig. 21), by Hou Yimin and Deng Shu, go far beyond any previous degree of Westernization in their complex display of postures and gestures. One is tempted


Image not available

Figure 25
Lin Gang, Zhao Guilan at the Heroes
Reception, 1951, ink and color on silk,
new year's picture, Central Academy of
Fine Arts Exhibition Hall.

to call the melodramatic arrangement of figures in this work un-Chinese, for it is stylistically rooted in Soviet realism. Conventions of gesture and pose come from Raphael or Michelangelo by way of Paris and Leningrad. Nevertheless, the work has conceptual, if not visual, parallels with traditional Chinese art. The depiction of opera plots had been popular for nianhua and woodcut illustrations throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties; this work replaces known dramas with a political performance.

Other celebrated nianhua artists were older faculty at CAFA, such as Li Keran and Yan Han, or Yan'an veterans who worked for publishing concerns or the FLAC. On September 5, 1952, the People's Daily published the prize list of the Ministry of Culture for new nianhua of 1951 and 1952.[102] The two first prizes were awarded to artists at CAFA, one to Lin Gang for Zhao Guilan and another to Deng Shu for a work entitled Preserve Peace . Two of the four second prizes went to older Yan'an veterans: Yan Han, who taught in the


Image not available

Figure 26
Ye Qianyu, May All the Nationalities
Unite, 1951, new year's picture.

academies at Hangzhou and Beijing during this period, won for his The Bride Speaks ; and Gu Yuan, who worked at the People's Art Press, won for hisChairman Mao Speaks to the Peasants . The other two winners were the military artist A Lao and the illustrator Zhang Biwu. Among the thirty-three third-prize pictures were Deng Shu and Hou Yimin's Thirtieth Anniversary ,Li Keran's Model Workers and Peasants at Beihai Park , and Ye Qianyu'sMay All the Nationalities Unite (fig. 26).

Oil Paintings in the Palace Museum

As we have seen, many of the modernist oil painters simply dropped out of public life and out of the Chinese art world. Articles in the AWA journal Renminmeishu , such as "Realism Is the Progressive Method of Artistic Creation," made clear the modern patriotic way of painting.[103] Many oil painters who supported the new government and new arts policies devoted themselves to "popular art" for publishing houses. Articles on Soviet posters and propaganda pictures began appearing in print as early as 1950.[104] In 1951, artists devoted


themselves to propagandizing for land reform.[105] With a few exceptions, the emphasis on popular art meant that most artists did not paint many oil paintings.

With the 1951 establishment of a new Central Museum of Revolutionary History in the western part of the old imperial palace,[106] Jiang Feng's view that oil paintings might have a patriotic function was accepted. Oil portraits of Chairman Mao had already been installed at Tiananmen and in other public buildings.[107] Articles appeared in most major art publications on how to improve the quality of official portraits.[108] By 1952, the Soviet art academy curriculum and art exhibition system had come under close scrutiny by Chinese art administrators, who intended to adapt them for use in China.[109]

As part of the new museum installation in 1951 and 1952, artists from all over the country were commissioned to paint large history paintings of the most prominent moments in the history of the Communist party. Cai Ruohong, who worked at the Ministry of Culture, and Luo Gongliu, a professor at CAFA, organized the artistic activity. Two governmental agencies, the Ministry of Culture and the Cultural Relics Bureau, which administered the palace grounds, served as sponsors. Among those who painted were faculty of the old National Beiping Arts College Xu Beihong, Wu Zuoren, and Dong Xiwen; their new colleagues from the Communist territories, Luo Gongliu (fig.27), Wang Shikuo, and Hu Yichuan; and painters from the Shanghai publishing houses, including Li Binghong. Dong Xiwen's The Founding of the Nation (see fig. 29) was a particularly highly regarded painting from this group, as we will discuss in a later section. In 1955, the Museum of Military History began assembling monumental oil paintings under similar circumstances. The new history paintings are usually quite large—230 by 400 centimeters for TheFounding of the Nation —and based on nineteenth-century European or more recent Soviet styles. Oil painting commissions for such public buildings became highly prestigious. According to an administrator of these projects, establishment of the new museums led to a revival of oil painting all over China.[110] It was, as well, a concrete and decisive step away from Western modernism.

Publishing Houses and Popularization

Functional distinctions between institutions such as the Art Workers Association, the academies, the publishing houses, and other arts units were unclear between 1949 and 1952, since all arts organizations produced nianhua and other art for the masses. The AWA was ostensibly a popular organization, and its members usually had regular jobs in another unit. The three highest officers of the AWA, Xu Beihong, Jiang Feng, and Ye Qianyu, were concurrently


Image not available

Figure 27
Luo Gongliu, Tunnel Warfare, 1951, oil
on canvas, 138 cm × 167.5 cm, Chinese
National Art Gallery.

administrators at the academies in Beijing and Hangzhou. Both the AWA and the publishing houses undertook educational activities, while the academies spent an inordinate amount of time in the organization and production of functional art, to say nothing of their involvement in unrelated political work such as land reform. The rewarding of excellence in art, a function one would expect the AWA, as a professional organization, to assume, was undertaken by the government, specifically the Ministry of Culture. The Ministry of Culture awarded prizes for superior nianhua in 1950 and 1952.[111]

A 1950 chart published in the Renmin meishu as part of a report on the national production of nianhua shows that practical sponsorship of art in the early period was assumed by a variety of work units, including local branches of the FLAC and AWA, pictorial magazines, and publishing houses, depending upon the locale (chart 3). In one particularly isolated area, western Gansu, the Dunhuang Research Institute, an archeological organization, took responsibil-


ity for local production. The Ministry of Culture itself directed nianhua production in Beijing.[112] The 1950 national nianhua exhibition was jointly organized by the party structure, through the Shanghai branch of the AWA, and the civil government, through the Shanghai Municipal Cultural Bureau.[113]

While nianhua production absorbed the energies of most artists, particularly those in the academies, another form of popular art, lianhuanhua , was being promoted outside the academies. Lianhuanhua , or linked picture stories, had flourished before liberation in China's urban centers. They had been particularly popular in Shanghai, where they reached a wide audience through the practice of renting them to borrowers from stalls or mats on the street.Lianhuanhua possessed a particularly Chinese form before 1949; printed very cheaply, most were small books, about three by five inches in size, horizontal in format, and with one picture per page. Although some artists used balloons for dialogue, in the Western manner, the majority relied on lengthy captions written above, beneath, or beside the pictures to tell the story (fig. 28).[114] After 1949 the literary possibilities of the genre were reduced by censorship, but the artistic quality improved. Lianhuanhua expanded to include work well beyond the genre of comics, including high-quality illustrations.

In 1950, the Ministry of Culture's Arts Bureau founded a new publishing house, Masses Pictorial Press (Dazhong tuhua chubanshe ), under the direction of Cai Ruohong. It was mandated to issue popular art publications, such as new year's pictures and serial picture stories. Soon after, Cai, writing under the pseudonym Zhang Zaixue, compiled the text for Jimao xin (Urgent Letter),a work illustrated by the Beijing artist Liu Jiyou and published by Masses Pictorial. The work became a model for writers and artists elsewhere.[115] In 1951, People's Art Press was founded in Beijing. It absorbed Masses Pictorial Press and began publishing a popular magazine, Serial Pictures (Lianhuanhuabao ), and serial picture books.[116]

Shanghai was China's publishing center in the preliberation period and the nation's principal producer of serial picture books. Like other parts of China, Shanghai was under military administration during the years immediately following liberation. Marshall Chen Yi was appointed mayor, and the cadres as       signed to reorganize the Shanghai art world were largely drawn from the New Fourth Army. In June 1949, Chen Yi and his assistants met with 152 non-Communist cultural figures, including the artists Liu Kaiqu, Pang Xunqin, Zhang Leping, and Chen Yinqiao, to reassure them. Chen further urged CCP cultural workers not to question the patriotism of non-Communist intellectuals, for they had taken a pro-Communist stand by remaining in China. That such exhortations were necessary might indicate that abuse of artists and intellectuals by Communist functionaries had occurred.[117]

Former New Fourth Army art cadres, as part of their reorganizing work, soon went to work as supervisors at the presses. Indeed, many artists who


Chart 3 
National New Year's Picture Production, 1950




Organizing Unit



Beijing and


2,000,000 jointly

Ministry of Culture and
Masses Art Publishing
(Dazhong meishu she)

Masses Art Publishing





Tianjin AWA

Private publishers

Most were reprints of old




Shanxi AWA

Taiyuan Printing Co. and New China Bookstore





Chahe'er FLAC

Old new year's print





Pingyuan AWA

Old new year's print

Statistic is for AWA model
prints. The old shops'
quantities were not




Luyi meishu bu (Lu Xun
Literature and Arts
Academy Art Division)
and others

Northeast New China

Statistic is a rough estimate




Harbin AWA

Private publishers


Inner Mongolia



Inner Mongolia Pictorial

Inner Mongolia Pictorial

Distribution was through
New China Bookstore
and Post and Telegraph

(Table continued on next page)


(Table continued from previous page)




Organizing Unit






Shanghai Literature and
Arts Department

Private art dealers





New China Bookstore





Sanye Political Bureau





Wuxi AWA

New China Bookstore





New China Bookstore






New China Bookstore






New China Bookstore





Dunhuang Art Research Institute





Central China Cultural
Work Team and others

New China Bookstore and others





Spring Festival Culture and
Entertainment Materials
Production Committee








Guilin AWA






* Not including areas with incomplete statistics.

Abbreviations: AWA = Art Workers Association; FLAC = Federation of Literary and Arts Circles.

Source: Jian An, "Yijiuwuling nian nianhua gongzuo de jixiang tongji," RMMS, vol. 1, no. 2 (April 1950): 52.


Image not available

Figure 28
The Serial Illustrated Romance of the
Three Kingdoms (Lianhuan tuhua san
guo zhi), Gu Bingxin collection.

became prominent got their start in the 1950s at one Shanghai publishing firm or another. An important goal of the Shanghai publishers during this decade was to produce new, revolutionary comics for an audience of housewives, workers, and children. These works contrasted sharply with preliberation comic books, which have been characterized as being filled with ghosts, superstitions, pornography, and violence, and as being low class and coarsely executed.[118]

A young revolutionary artist named Gu Bingxin (b. 1923) was assigned in 1949 to the Creation Research Center of the Shanghai AWA.[119] In August 1950, he went to work for a consortium of 190 private publishers called the Joint Bookstore (Lianlian Sudan ), under the direction of the AWA. Although the publishers were still private, the consortium controlled the distribution of their wares; this enabled the AWA and the Communist party to approve the contents of publications sold.[120] Gu was assigned to a section of the company called the Serial Pictures Design Committee, charged by the AWA with regulating the artistic and didactic quality of the new lianhuanhua . The committee's specific mission was to censor the contents of serial picture books, to reform the stock of preliberation books still being sold by merchants, and to direct


production of new lianhuanhua— in short, to replace undesirable preliberation books with better ones. One important change introduced by the Communists was that artists no longer wrote their own stories. Instead, text editors prepared captions, which were then presented to the artists for illustration. Gu Bingxin and a colleague, Luo Pan, directed the art section; two other cadres were responsible for censorship of contents.[121] Early liberation-era lianhuanhua contained edifying stories of land reform, the Korean War, items from the news, or themes taken from the plots of movies, plays, and novels.[122] The most prestigious were those based on Chinese or Soviet literary themes; American and Western European stories were largely avoided.

Preliberation serial picture artists were self-taught or had learned their craft by working for older artists in a master-apprentice relationship.[123] Communist administrators considered most of the older serial picture artists to be poorly trained. In 1951 and 1952, the Shanghai Municipal Cultural Bureau and the Shanghai branch of the AWA conducted special serial picture study classes with the aim of reforming, regularizing, and raising standards of lianhuanhua production. Gu Bingxin led the 1952 sessions. "Raising of standards," a phrase from Mao's Yan'an Talks, in this context meant raising both technical standards and ideological level. The two or three hundred artists who studied drawing techniques and the principles of Communist thought in these classes were of three types. The first were the old comic book artists, the second were young art enthusiasts, and the third were painters who had previously worked in other media, such as oils or Chinese painting, but who could not make a living as artists under the new regime.

In general, the old artists, who were accustomed to being paid only a few Chinese cents per page, worked at great speed but without finesse. For them, raising technical quality meant more careful execution. Intensive political indoctrination was also needed to teach them what new subjects to depict and how to switch from the beauties, demons, and bandits of ancient times to more edifying modern themes. Changes in subject matter from mythological and imaginary stories to modern ones mandated rethinking many conventions of narration, including gesture, costume, and setting. There were a few notable exceptions to this generalization about old artists. Zhao Hongben (b. 1915), for instance, was a top illustrator in preliberation Shanghai who had worked underground for the CCP since 1947. In addition to being a Communist, he had been strongly influenced by American comic books such as Prince Valiant and Tarzan ,[124] so was well equipped to work in the new styles, which required skill in Western drawing.

Artists who were young at the time, such as Wang Guanqing (b. 1931), Yao Youxin (b. 1935), and He Youzhi (b. 1922), recall their own easy and enthusiastic acceptance of ideological and stylistic indoctrination, in contrast to


the struggles many of their elders suffered.[125] For them, the challenges were mainly technical—how to improve their drawing skills.[126] A career in illustration was the only future the teenage artists in the class saw for themselves.[127]

For more traditional Chinese painters in their thirties or forties, whose numbers included Lu Yanshao (b. 1909), Ying Yeping (b. 1910), and Cheng Shifa (b. 1921), the only way to reenter the art world was to undergo retraining as book artists.[128] Artists who attended the class were given jobs in publishing firms in Shanghai or in other parts of China. Traditional-style artists beyond their mid-forties, of whom there were many in Shanghai, were not included in this study session, and their social and economic status remained a problem until well into the 1950s.

In the summer of 1952, the Shanghai publishers were reorganized into two new publishing houses, both under the directorship of Lý Meng, a veteran of the New Fourth Army. The state-owned publisher, East China People's Art Publishing (Huadong renmin meishu woodblock ), was formed in August. This enterprise became the Shanghai People's Art Press in 1954. It included an inhouse studio (chuangzuo shi ) with several sections. The lianhuanhua group, which expanded to include book illustrations as well as comics, was directed by Gu Bingxin and Cheng Shifa. The staff artists included Ding Bingzeng, who was chosen by the publisher from the graduates of the Hangzhou academy, and Yao Youxin, a young artist from the 1951 and 1952 Shanghai classes.[129] The second section, which included propaganda, oil, and new year's painting, redirected the energies of traditional and Western-style painters for the goal of popularization.[130]

During the same period, many private publishers were consolidated in a joint public-private enterprise whose function was to publish lianhuanhua exclusively. This reorganized firm opened on September 1, 1952, and was called New Art Press (Xin meishu chubanshe ). Its chief editor was Li Lu (b. 1921), who had made woodcuts and lianhuanhua for the New Fourth Army. It absorbed the Communist artist Zhao Hongben and many professional illustrators who had attended the Shanghai classes. Zhao Hongben had incorporated the small left-wing press he ran before 1949 into the editorial section of the official New China Bookstore in 1950. In 1951, the artists were moved to the art section of the East China People's Press (Huadong renmin chubanshe ), which employed about twenty artists and several lianhuanhua text editors. Zhao became director of the art creation section of the New Art Press.[131]

New Art Press, unlike the state press, had a board of trustees. Nevertheless, in addition to sharing its director with the state press, its manager was appointed by the East China News Publishing Bureau, its paper was supplied by the government, the prices of its books were fixed by the state, and its publications were distributed by the state via the New China Bookstore. The government decided how its earnings were to be allocated: one-fourth each to the


state, the private investors, employee benefits, and employee salaries. By verbal agreement, the state press had first choice in publishing illustrated versions of best-selling short stories.[132]

According to one artist from this group, the procedures of the lianhuanhua studios of the two publishing houses were different. Artists who worked for the private New Art Press continued a relatively rapid production rate of five to ten drawings per day, reduced from a top speed of twenty to thirty a day in the pre-1950 period.[133] Academically trained graduates from Hangzhou who were assigned to the government publishers in 1952 and 1953, by contrast, were extremely slow, producing, by one unsympathetic estimate, as few as thirty to forty drawings a year.[134] In the mid-1950s, artists in both organizations were given quotas of one finished drawing per day. The per page fee for illustrations was raised substantially from preliberation standards,[135] which enabled many comic book artists to attain such levels of affluence that their wives chose not to work.[136] In the first few years of the PRC, lianhuanhua artists received both monthly salaries and payments for completed projects. Such payments have been abolished and reintroduced several times over the succeeding decades in accordance with national economic trends.[137]

One of the private Shanghai publishers, Masses Art Press (Dazhong meishu chubanshe ), was founded immediately after liberation by an employee of the prestigious Commercial Press. Somewhat surprisingly, a stockholder was the East China campus of CAFA. The press hired Jiang Feng and several other revolutionaries to edit a lianhuanhua series that included both new Shanghai publications and reprints of lianhuanhua from the liberated zones. Among the latter were works by Yan Han, Cai Ruohong, and Shao Yu.[138] State presses in other regions, such as Shenyang's Northeast Pictorial Press (later Liaoning Art Press), Hebei's Masses Art Press (later Hebei People's Art Press), and Tianjin People's Art Press similarly concentrated on serial picture stories in the early 1950s.[139] Artists and writers throughout the nation threw themselves into production of lianhuanhua , an activity that flowered during the subsequent decade.

The Problem of Guohua

A problem that neither the Art Workers Association nor the Ministry of Culture addressed between 1949 and 1952 was the fate of Chinese painters who were too old or too traditional to be reformed. According to Jiang Feng, speaking in the fall of 1953, Shanghai and Beijing national guohua research associations were founded "after liberation ... [so that guobua would] be improved by proceeding from reality ... [and] by describing real people and


events."[140] There is no evidence that such associations enabled artists to make a living, and one traditional painter has characterized the New National Painting Research Association as "empty."[141]

Immediately before, and even during, the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, wealthy collectors sought primarily traditional-style Chinese paintings. Unfortunately for guohua artists, many of the most affluent citizens of Shanghai, who were also the most important patrons of art, fled the Communist takeover. Some artists continued to sell art locally and abroad,[142] but the traditional market was largely destroyed. The only alternative market, the art publishers, commissioned Western-style, realistic works. To make matters worse, the principal arts administrators were woodblock printmakers, some of whom disliked guohua .

Whatever the personal predilections of the arts leaders, be they Jiang Feng or local Shanghai leaders, administrative policies were completely in line with party policy.[143] The propaganda magazine China Reconstructs summarized the new art in the summer of 1951:

The decorative arts, for which China has long been famous, are now being used in the service of the people. Artists are not compelled to paint in any particular manner but there is a great demand for the types of pictures which can be made available to everyone and enjoyed by all. And so artists, whose sensitive emotional life has also been stirred by patriotism, have answered the call for paintings depicting the struggles of the people, their endurance and their triumph. These themes appear in three forms, the big coloured prints, the bold outlines of the woodcuts, and the continuous picture-story for which all ages have developed an insatiable appetite. Here is the "comic-strip" technique being used for raising the cultural level, not for debasing it as in the West.... Even a casual observer, like ourselves, can see that these popular types of art come from gifted artists who serve the people gladly.[144]

It is clear that an artist would be significantly more likely to attain recognition if his or her work depicted the prescribed themes in one of three media: nianhua , woodcuts, or lianhuanhua .

It may have seemed as though government policy was to eradicate all other forms of art. By 1952, however, there was tacit acceptance within the party that both guohua and oil painting might be useful to the regime. Guohua survived initially because important political figures remained convinced of its value and because its destruction might adversely affect the United Front, Mao's policy of enlisting educated non-Communists to help the new regime. Even so, explicit ideological justification for the promotion of guohua was not developed until several years later. Chen Yi, the mayor of Shanghai, is credited


by guohua artists with trying to mitigate their financial plight. A classical poet who had studied art in France, he is said to have been particularly supportive of guohua exhibitions, and purchased many paintings himself.[145]

The welfare of guohua artists in Shanghai was a particularly acute problem because of their large numbers. In spite of annual exhibitions, many of the artists still had no reliable means of support. In 1952, two sections of a mandatory six-month political indoctrination class were held for old artists. Most of the graduates of the first class were assigned jobs, some as patterned cloth decorators at textile factories, but those in the second class were not given job assignments and remained impoverished.[146] The situation in Beijing, a smaller guohua center, was no better, as the bird-and-flower painter Yu Feian complained several years later.[147]

Guohua artists who held teaching posts before liberation were usually more fortunate. Fu Baoshi, who had returned to Nanjing from Chongqing after the war, retained his post as an instructor in the arts department of Nanjing University. He moved, with the other painting professors, to the newly founded Nanjing Normal College in 1952, which the previous year had accepted a class of seven painting students. Unlike teachers at the art academies, Fu Baoshi and his colleague Chen Zhifo insisted that all students study guohua , and that it be taught according to traditional methods. During the first two years, the students copied old paintings, instruction manuals, and their teachers' works. Only in the third year, possibly in response to external pressure, did they begin to work intensively in drawing. Even though the students were required to render plaster casts of European sculptures, Fu insisted that their drawings be executed with a Chinese brush in the outline style. Moreover, he did not require the exercises in shading and modeling form that were still standard in the national art academies.[148] Opposition to the academic practices of guohua painters would become a major issue in the art world of the late 1950s.

The Making and Remaking of a Cultural Icon: Dong Xiwen's the Founding of the Nation

One very effective method used by Chinese art authorities to encourage particular styles of art after 1949 was to give public recognition to paintings that they deemed successful. The publicity might take one or more of several forms. The work might be mentioned or praised by an important party leader in a published speech or in an official journal. It might be selected for display in a local or national exhibition, and, even better, it might be given an award at such an exhibition. Of particular prestige, it might be designated for reproduction


Chart 4
Building and Artistic Canon: Selections From Jiang Feng's Speech to the CAA, September 25, 1953




I. Excellent Original Works



Dong Xiwen

The Founding of the Nation


Luo Gongliu

Tunnel Warfare


Wang Shikuo

Sending Him Off to the Army



Wang Zhaowen

Liu Hulan


Xiao Chuangjiu

Protecting the Factory


Zhang Songhe




Yan Han

The Bride Speaks


Li Keran

Model Workers at Beihai Park


Zhang Leping

Mama, Don't Worry, Go
to Work


Shi Lu

Happy Marriage



Gu Yuan

Crossing the River


Propaganda paintings

Li Zongjin

Study the Advanced Production Experience of the U.S.S.R .


Guobua (national painting)

Ye Qianyu

Great Unification of the Nationalities


Jiang Zhaohe

By the Yalu River


Yu Feian

Long Live Peace


Hu Ruosi

Contributing a Horse


Li Xiongcai



Political cartoons

Fang Cheng and Zhong Ling

(Not specified)


Comic books and illustrations

Gu Bingxin

(Not specified)



Shao Yu

Sketches of the Capital


Gu Yuan

Korean Sketches


Lacquer painting

Shen Fuwen

(Not specified)

II. Excellent Works by Young Artists



Lin Gang

Zhao Guilan at the Heroes


Deng Shu

Protect Peace


Can Jiya

Flourishing Goats and Cattle

(Table continued on next page)


(Table continued from previous page)





Comic books and illustrations

Liu Jiyou

Jimao Xin


Gu Shengyue, Lou Shitang, and Xu Yongxiang

Zhao Baiwan


Zhou Li, Tao Zhian, Lu
Tan, Ben Qingyu,
and Wang Xuyang

Child Laborer



Qin Zheng and Chen Yin

Exploring Baoshan


Guohua (national painting)

Jiang Yan

Examining Mama

in one of the nation's propaganda journals, in a special art album, in an official art journal, in the newspaper, or as a poster. In truly exemplary cases, a single work might receive all these forms of recognition; as a result, it would become better known in China than any single art object might be in the West, except possibly one of such artistic and religious interest as Leonardo's Last Supper .

One of the most important documents for the definition of the new art was the text of a speech Jiang Feng delivered to the newly reorganized Chinese Artists Association (previously called the AWA) on September 25, 1953. We will discuss it further in the next chapter, for the structure of his discussion marks a significant transition to new policies. Subsequently reprinted in the official journal of the FLAC, Wenyibao (Literature and Arts), and in the inaugural issue of the CAA journal Meishu (Art) in 1954, Jiang's speech lauded specific works that had been made since liberation, thus codifying the history of Chinese art between 1949 and 1952 (chart 4).

All three of the oil paintings Jiang Feng praised in 1953 were produced as special commissions for the newly established Museum of Revolutionary History, and all were by faculty at CAFA. Luo Gongliu's Tunnel Warfare (fig. 27) and Wang Shikuo's Off to the Army were completed in 1951. Jiang Feng is said to have been personally responsible for helping Dong Xiwen obtain time and studio space to create his Founding of the Nation (fig. 29), which was completed the following year.[149]

Dong's painting, which depicts Chairman Mao atop Tiananmen as he proclaims the establishment of the PRC, was useful as a piece of propaganda, but its greatest importance to the art world was its elevation as a model of


Image not available

Figure 29
Dong Xiwen, The Founding of the
Nation, 1952-1953, oil on canvas,
230 cm × 400 cm.


party-approved oil painting. Most Western viewers do not find it admirable; art history students have been known to roar with laughter when slides of it appear on the screen. Michael Sullivan, a writer sympathetic to modern Chinese art, dismisses it as a mere piece of propaganda. Nevertheless, the image became so ubiquitous that even the most iconoclastic Chinese art historians of the 1980s, Zhang Shaoxia and Li Xiaoshan, praise its composition and color and conclude that it was successful in the context of its time.[150] Why are Chinese views and ours so different?

The reasons for the painting's strong official support and its strange subsequent history typify the difficulties encountered by even the most dedicated of Communist artists in satisfying the shifting demands of the Chinese Communist party. In 1953, Jiang Feng asked Ding Jingwen, a CAFA administrator, to arrange a personal inspection of new CAFA paintings by Chairman Mao.[151] Ding had served as one of Mao's bodyguards during the last stages of the War of Liberation and knew Wang Dongxing, who headed Mao's security apparatus.[152] According to Ding Jingwen's recollection, Wang helped Ding and a companion, the artist Dong Xiwen, arrange a special exhibition of twenty or thirty paintings by various CAFA artists at Zhongnanhai. The show was planned so that Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, and other government leaders could see it during breaks in meetings then under way. Included were works by Xu Beihong, Qi Baishi, and Jiang Zhaohe; Lin Gang's new version of Zhao Guilan ; and Dong Xiwen's The Founding of the Nation . The viewing was photographed by Hou Bo, the New China News Agency photographer who documented Mao's activities, and published in propaganda magazines. The official photograph of the event shows Mao, Liu, Zhou Enlai, and Dong Xiwen gazing at Dong's canvas. A traditional plum blossom painting by an unidentified artist is visible in the background.[153]

This was the only art exhibition Mao is known to have viewed after 1949.[154] According to Ding, Mao returned from his meetings three times during the course of the day to study the artworks. He liked Dong Xiwen's painting very much, and commented that the portrait of Dong Biwu was rendered with particular accuracy. This, presumably, was a joke, since Dong Biwu is depicted in the second row, behind the large figure of Zhu De, and only his notable mustache and jaw are visible. Such a good-humored response by China's supreme leader must have satisfied the hopes that led Jiang Feng to dispatch the creator of The Founding of the Nation to personally represent CAFA at the showing.

The Founding of the Nation was widely reproduced in September, including on the front page of People's Daily ,[155] and became an icon of the new Chinese art. A monumental history painting in the grand European tradition, it hung in the Museum of Revolutionary History. Published in poster form, it functioned as a new nianhua , becoming party-approved interior decoration for


the home. A photograph in an English-language propaganda magazine shows a model family listening to their radio in a tidy sitting room. On the wall hangs a large poster of The Founding of the Nation .[156]

In Dong Xiwen's original execution, and as Mao Zedong saw it, the work focuses on Mao, who reads his proclamation into two microphones atop Tiananmen. Five doves soar into the sky to his right. Directly to his right, beneath him on the square itself, are ranged honor guards and representatives of patriotic organizations holding banners and red flags. Their orderly ranks recede into the upper right, beyond the prominent new flag of the PRC, toward a vanishing point that is roughly aligned with Qianmen (Front Gate), at the southern end of the square. Immediately behind Mao, at the eastern end of the square, is a yellow gate that was subsequently torn down. Enclosed by the eastern and southern gates, the people over whom Mao ruled were as well ordered pictorially as they were by the architectural space of the imperial city and, by implication, by the new government. A second axis of recession proceeds to the left, past the assembled dignitaries, along the edge of a silk rug, and down the row of red columns. Thus Mao Zedong stands alone in the triangular space created by the intersection of two lines of perspective.

Behind Mao are ranged, in a line directed toward Qianmen, the six vice-chairmen of the Central People's Government, in order of rank. The row proceeds from General Zhu De at left to General Gao Gang at far right. Other notables in the front row are the imposing figure of Liu Shaoqi; Madame Song Qingling, widow of Sun Zhongshan (Sun Yat-sen); Li Jishen; and the bearded Zhang Lan. Zhou Enlai, who served in a number of key government posts, including premier and foreign minister, is prominent in the second row. Beside him are Dong Biwu, who headed the Political and Legal Committee of the new government; a man whose face is obscured by Liu Shaoqi; an unidentified bearded man; and Guo Moruo, head of the government's Culture and Education Committee.[157] Behind Zhou Enlai stands Lin Boqu.

Dong Xiwen attended the ceremonies but was probably standing down on the square. His painting of the figures, in any case, would have been based on photographs of the event. Although those that have been published are constricted close-ups of small groups of men rather than the wide-angle view Dong Xiwen has constructed, it is probable that Dong had access to unpublished file photos of the event. Dong may also have made sketches at the site, as Lin Gang did for his nianhua of Zhongnanhai. Even with the aid of photographs, the organization of so many figures in a painting was a complex undertaking. The two axes of recession, eastward and southward, cross at Mao's position in good classical European style, while the repeating curves of lanterns, carpet arabesques, chrysanthemum flowers, and even cumulus clouds soften the otherwise geometrical effect. The striking red lantern above Mao's head further emphasizes his centrality.


Many elements of the composition may be attributable to the photographs on which it was based or to conventions of European history painting. Nevertheless, the work has been praised as exemplifying the "nationalization" (minzuhua ) of oil painting. One convention, that of the cut-off lantern above Mao's head, is clearly Asian in origin, and was presumably borrowed from a well-known print by Hiroshige.[158] A Chinese artist sees the influence of cloud forms from Dunhuang paradise scenes in the glorious sky above Mao's head.[159] The striking, even bilious, color contrasts seem to have more to do with nianbua than with oil painting. The bright reds, pinks, blues, and yellows of the 1952 oil evoke crudely printed rural woodcuts. The reference is made explicit by black outlines around many of the forms, including the pillars at left and the stone railing at right. Black outlines are fundamental to Chinese woodblock printing, including nianhua , and to much of traditional Chinese figure painting. The bright, flat sky and black outlines come as close as a realistic oil painting might to the single-outline and flat-color mode required by the CCP of nianhua artists. Dong's innovation was to combine such coloristic and formal experiments with a Soviet-style composition.

The recognition garnered by the artist for this work was extraordinary. Beyond the political benediction bestowed upon it by Mao, it brought stylistic qualities that had been associated by the party with popular art to the previously elitist medium of oil painting; it could then serve as a theoretical wedge for Jiang Feng's promotion of the idea that realistic oil painting was politically desirable. Yet despite successful efforts by the artist and the arts administrators to satisfy the largely unspoken aesthetic inclinations of Mao Zedong, political circumstances endangered The Founding of the Nation less than a year after Mao saw it.

In 1953, Gao Gang, the bespectacled figure to Mao's immediate left in the painting, was appointed chairman of the State Planning Council. By February 1954, only five months after The Founding of the Nation received widespread publication, Gao Gang was purged from government. By the spring of 1955 he had died by suicide.[160]

The Second National Art Exhibition of 1955, intended to display the accomplishments of Chinese artists in the first six years of the new regime, was to be a landmark event for leaders of the Chinese Artists Association. For bureaucrats who had earlier supported The Founding of the Nation , and especially for those who had solicited its canonization by Chairman Mao himself, the absence of Dong's work from the exhibition would have been unthinkable. But could the portrait of a traitor be displayed? The only possible solution, from a bureaucratic and political point of view, was to expunge Gao Gang's image from the painting. An installation photograph of the Second National Exhibition published in May 1955 focuses on The Founding of the Nation , which had been duly revised.[161]


Image not available

Figure 30
Dong Xiwen, The Founding of the
Nation, revised ca. 1955.

Dong's politically based alteration of the painting presented compositional difficulties. In the original painting Mao had been encapsulated in a space bordered on the left by Gao Gang and on the right by two microphone stands. The artist replaced Gao Gang by enlarging a pink chrysanthemum and completing the partially visible palace gate behind him (fig. 30). Unfortunately, this change opens up the space to the sky, unbalances the composition, and destroys the centrality of Chairman Mao. Dong found a solution to the compositional imbalance by adding two more microphones to the right. Thus, the broad expanse of space to Mao's left is countered by an impressive array of technological equipment to his right. The result is not completely satisfactory, for the microphones dominate the center of the picture in an awkward, empty way, and the expanded space around Mao reduces his stature. This version of the painting was the one exhibited in Moscow in 1958 on the occasion of the first joint exhibition of art from twelve socialist countries.[162] It is the version most commonly reproduced today, though the painting no longer exists in this form.


We will jump ahead in our narrative to follow the painting's buffeting by subsequent political winds. During the early years of the Cultural Revolution Dong Xiwen was, like most professors, harassed by the Red Guard and representatives of the Cultural Revolution administration. He was first ordered to replace Mao's disgraced heir Liu Shaoqi, the tall figure to the left of Madame Song, with his new protégé, Lin Biao. While Dong had earlier complied with the political need to remove a person from his composition, he was unwilling to add a person in a historically inaccurate position. Of course, during the Cultural Revolution he would not have been able to refuse such a request directly; but the final assignment he accepted was to remove Liu Shaoqi without adding another figure.

This was no easy task, however, since Liu Shaoqi was one of the most prominent figures in the painting. In a tricky reformulation of the center of the composition, Liu Shaoqi's head was reduced in size and transformed into that of Dong Biwu, who originally stood beside Zhou Enlai. The torso was modified slightly so that the figure now stood behind Song Qingling, rather than in front. The legs were shortened, as necessary to push the figure into the second row. Finally, the gap left by Liu's missing feet was repainted to match the carpet pattern. Though this solution was ingenious, the result is odd. The new Dong Biwu does not recede into the second row as intended. Instead, he appears as a leering, glowing figure, a strangely malevolent character in the midst of an otherwise stately group (plate 1).

Dong's last revision was a failure. It is difficult to know whether the outcome was unintentional, to be attributed to the excessive psychological stress of the Cultural Revolution, or whether Dong Xiwen was passively resisting the political pressure by rendering the painting unexhibitable. For both aesthetic and political reasons, it cannot be rehung in the museum in its present state.[163]

The saga did not end with the artist's terminal illness. In 1972, as order was restored to the art world following the chaotic first phase of the Cultural Revolution, it was decided to refurbish the Museum of Revolutionary History. The authorities mandated that Lin Boqu, the white-haired gentleman at the far left, must be removed from the composition before The Founding of the Nation could be hung. Dong, too ill to paint, refused to allow anyone else to touch his work. As a result, two artists from CAFA, Zhao Yu and Jin Shangyi, were enlisted to make an exact copy of Dong's painting that incorporated the iconographic changes.[164]

By the end of the Cultural Revolution, in 1976, Dong Xiwen had died of cancer. With the accession of Deng Xiaoping in 1979, the museum display was again reorganized to restore historical accuracy and to recognize the political rehabilitation of Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping, and other targets of the Maoists. Dong's painting, now lacking Liu Shaoqi, was once again politically inappropriate. The government respected the wishes of the artist's family, who


Image not available

Figure 31
Copy by Zhao Yu and Jin Shangyi after
Dong Xiwen, The Founding of the
Nation, 1972, with revisions ca. 1980,
oil on canvas, Museum of Chinese
Revolutionary History.

insisted that Dong's own work must not be repainted by another artist. Artists were therefore hired to revise the Zhao Yu-Jin Shangyi copy.

The Founding of the Nation that now hangs in the Museum of Revolutionary History is the transmuted replacement, largely painted by Zhao and Jin (fig. 31). It no longer resembles any of Dong's original versions: Liu Shaoqi and Lin Boqu have reappeared; a previously unidentifiable figure in the back row now looks vaguely like the young Deng Xiaoping; a dark-haired man with glasses occupies Gao Gang's spot; and four microphones flank Mao Zedong. Even so, the painting remains the most famous example of Dong Xiwen's art and is still widely reproduced.

The Founding of the Nation was technically and stylistically an appropriate monument of its time. Its most prominent stylistic qualities, including garish color and crisply outlined figures, were those of the new popular art. Jiang Feng praised it in 1954 for being rich with the distinguishing features and breadth of spirit of national painting.[165] At the same time, it made effective use


of Western conventions of perspective and figural organization, which linked it to the art of the Soviet Union. It sums up the years of popularization, yet foreshadows the technical specialization of the subsequent era. Jiang Feng reported in 1954 that it had been reproduced fifty-six thousand times in a three-month period. Its continuing popularity may be partial validation of Jiang Feng's theory that the people will adjust their taste to whatever they are accustomed to seeing.

Artists Serve the People

In general, Chinese intellectuals welcomed the fall of the Nationalist government, which was corrupt and ineffective. Nevertheless, some artists were afraid, owing to both pre-1949 propaganda and accurate reports that people labeled as landlords were treated very harshly by Communist land reform teams. The traditional painter Qi Baishi (1863-1957), who held a largely honorific faculty post at the National Beiping Arts College, told Xu Beihong that he expected the Communists to kill him if he did not flee.[166] The poet Ai Qing, along with Jiang Feng and Wang Zhaowen, paid a visit to the aged Qi Baishi in 1949.[167] Although Ai Qing later described the encounter as though it were a pleasant social event, the three men had been instructed by the military to direct administrative transfer of the National Beiping Arts College to Communist authorities.[168] They wore military uniforms, and they probably had at least a pretext of official business in their call on an artist none had previously met. The three Communist administrators were accompanied to Qi Baishi's home by Li Keran, Qi's friend and student; even so, the artist was extremely frightened to see three soldiers at his gate. In introducing themselves, however, Ai Qing, who was a great enthusiast of Qi's work, told the old artist how much he had admired a Qi Baishi painting that hung in the classroom where he studied art. Moreover, both Wang Zhaowen and Ai Qing had studied under Lin Fengmian at Hangzhou; as they discussed their common interest in Lin Fengmian's work, the old artist gradually overcame his misgivings. Once he realized that these Communist soldiers were art lovers, he quickly painted gifts for each of them. Ai Qing was particularly pleased with his picture, which may have been a 1949 painting dedicated to him that was published several years later; if not the same, it was at least very similar.[169] Jiang Feng liked his painting, too, but was never as enthusiastic about Qi Baishi's work as was the poet. In keeping with the military discipline of the time, they later paid the artist for his work. Mao Zedong was similarly inundated with paintings and calligraphy by guohua artists, whose motives ranged from patriotism to panic.

Through the efforts of Xu Beihong, Ai Qing, and others, Qi Baishi received


the protection of the Communist authorities, even if he were too old (or disinclined) to reform his world view. He was not required to learn the new art and continued painting in the traditional manner. Indeed, his enduring health and productivity became an important part of the Communist party's public relations program over the next eight years. Mao Zedong, who was otherwise relatively uninterested in pictorial art, became an enthusiast of Qi Baishi's paintings and acquired at least five works by this fellow Hunanese in the early years of the PRC.[170]

Other artists, more optimistic about the new government, willingly bent their artistic activities to its needs in the first years after the founding of the People's Republic. Preceding sections have discussed officially approved paintings from the early 1950s. The styles and subjects of the official art were, as we have seen, extremely limited. This uniformity in artistic expression is all the more striking when one considers the extremely varied backgrounds of the artists who made the pictures.

This phenomenon raises questions about the responses of individual artists to political demands upon their art. To what degree and for how long were artists willing to submit to official requirements? If willing, to what extent did they possess the technical versatility and intellectual detachment needed to succeed? At what point might unreconcilable conflicts between the demands of party discipline and individual expression arise? Of many possible examples, we will briefly introduce five artists, Hou Yimin, Dong Xiwen, Li Keran, Yan Han, and Shi Lu, whose careers we will follow in subsequent periods as well. During the early 1950s, their work briefly converged in a single party-sponsored propaganda style. In later decades, they developed their artistic talents in different media and different expressive modes.

We will not discuss the generation of Xu Beihong (1895-1953), Liu Haisu (b. 1896), Lin Fengmian (1900-1991), and Yan Wenliang (1893-1988) in detail, for they were largely uninvolved with the new art. Xu Beihong, the artist best suited temperamentally and stylistically to the Communist artistic order, fell ill in 1951 and died two years later.[171] Yan Wenliang was valued as a technician and taught color and perspective theory at Hangzhou until the Cultural Revolution. He published a book on perspective in 1957.[172] The effects his apolitical landscape paintings (fig. 20) may have had on students were largely counteracted by classes in creation, which were taught by faculty who better understood the new political order.

One surprising aspect of Yan's influence was the development of an underground landscape painting movement in Shanghai during the early 1970s, at the height of the Cultural Revolution's promotion of progovernment figure painting. With art schools closed since 1966, young artists had no choice but to teach themselves.[173] Most began with pamphlets on how to paint portraits of Chairman Mao, but some moved on to copying prohibited reproductions of


European Painting and to plein air sketching. Yan Wenliang was liberated from the investigatory incarceration of the Cultural Revolution authorities in 1969 and spent time in subsequent years painting by himself.[174] He attracted many young followers when it was discovered that he painted in the park and that he sometimes gave technical pointers to young artists who worked nearby. Thereafter, he quietly welcomed enthusiastic teenage artists to his apartment, where he showed them the landscapes he had painted in France and Italy forty-five years before. The odd result of his kindness was that romantic and impressionist styles of early-twentieth-century France became synthesized into a new regional Shanghai style. It was practiced by Yan himself, a few of his elderly students from the Suzhou Art Academy, and many self-taught artists of the "lost generation," those born in the 1950s who had been denied formal schooling by the Cultural Revolution (fig. 32). Yan Wenliang was made a director of the national CAA in 1981, at the age of eighty-eight.[175]

Liu Haisu and Lin Fengmian, whose artistic principles were the explicit targets of Communist art policies, left China after the Cultural Revolution. Although they were given honorific titles in the mid-1950s, the art they might have produced during the three decades with which we are concerned, 1949 to 1979, was exhibited infrequently and with little fanfare. Much of it was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Thus, all were best known for their early work, transformed into historical figures while still in their fifties. The new art was the art of younger men.

Hou Yimin

We first mention the youngest of our five artists, Hou Yimin (b. 1930), only to emphasize the great importance accorded very young painters by the Communist regime. Hou, a native of Gaoyang county in Hebei, enrolled in the newly reestablished National Beiping Arts College in 1946, at the age of sixteen. He joined the underground Communist party cell at the school and in 1949 became its secretary. His family background was sufficiently prosperous that it marred his later party career with the label "bad class background," in spite of his early political activism.

In December 1948, when it became clear that Beiping would soon fall to the Communists, the eighteen-year-old artist set about organizing academy students and faculty, including Dong Xiwen, Zhou Lingzhao, and the printmaker Li Hua, to make pro-Communist handbills. The propaganda pictures were secretly printed at Xinminbao (New People's Gazette) and distributed after the Nationalist surrender.[176] Hou remained at the academy to participate in the art cadre classes, and then became an instructor. During this period he produced several model nianhua . The ambitious Celebrating the Thirtieth Anniversary of the CCP (fig. 21), as we have seen, was painted in collaboration


Image not available

Figure 32
Han Xin, Landscape, 1972, gouache on
paper, 11.8 cm × 8 cm, collection of the


with Deng Shu, his future wife, and won a prize in the 1952 Ministry of Culture competition. Hou Yimin and Deng Shu exemplify the new art not only in the style and content of their ambitious picture but also in their very lives. Hou was an academically trained young artist. His wife was a veteran of North China University's propaganda work who studied in the art cadre class at CAFA after liberation. Both became instructors at CAFA. In their painting they combined academic training with revolutionary zeal; in their lives they might represent the merging of the society of the liberated zones with the intellectuals of China's cultural centers. Such marriages were not exceptional; the young revolutionary Lin Gang, for example, married Pang Tao, daughter of the prominent French-educated art professor Pang Xunqin.

Beyond his famous collaborative picture, Hou Yimin made several pictures about coal miners.[177] Such projects were the result of trips to experience real life required of all academic artists, during which Hou spent time living and working in mining districts. In the period between 1949 and 1952 the careers of young nianhua artists like Hou Yimin had only just begun, so we will postpone discussion of his emergence as a Soviet-style history painter until chapter 3.

Dong Xiwen

The oil painter Dong Xiwen (1914-1973) was a native of Shaoxing, Zhejiang,[178] who came from an educated and moderately prosperous household. His father, an enthusiast of Chinese antiquities, often took his son with him to view works of art. Dong Xiwen studied for a year at the private Suzhou Art Academy after completing high school. In 1934, at the age of twenty, he transferred to the National Hangzhou Arts Academy. By the time he graduated, the Japanese had invaded China's coast and the academy had set up temporary facilities in the western city of Kunming. After graduation he spent six months at the Hanoi Art Academy, on a government scholarship, absorbing French colonial culture. Upon his return, which was prompted by insufficient funds, he supported himself through various editing and writing jobs in Guizhou and Chongqing. Dong was fascinated with an exhibition of hand-painted copies of ancient murals he had seen in Chongqing. In 1943, he and his wife joined four other pairs of artists from the Hangzhou academy in an expedition to Dunhuang, the Buddhist cave temple site in remote Gansu province. The Dunhuang caves are famous for well-preserved murals painted between the fourth and thirteenth centuries. The young artists devoted the next two and a half years to studying and copying the ancient religious murals. Dong became interested in the aesthetic possibilities for modern artists that the ancient murals suggested, and particularly in the decorative and self-expressive potential of the elongated Northern Wei figure styles (fig. 33).


Chinese figure painting is generally considered to have reached its height of naturalism during the Tang and Song periods. Instead of such models, however, Dong chose more ancient forms that might be described as primitive. His compositions of the late 1940s are characterized by a decorative and gentle abstraction of the human figure; his colors tended toward lyrical pastels. His Kazak Herdswoman of 1948 (fig. 34), with its limited palette of pale colors, simplification of human forms, and stylized draperies, adapts ancient Chinese conventions to modern expressive purposes.

There is a striking parallel between Picasso's study of African sculpture, which inspired his abstractions of the female form, and Dong's enthusiasm for prenaturalistic Chinese art, from which emerged his new style. Cross-cultural influence has been a significant component of modern art in the West. The unnaturalistic aspects of non-European art, be it African sculpture or Japanese prints, appealed to European artists seeking freedom from the Renaissance pictorial conventions on which European academic art was based. As a graduate of the Hangzhou academy, with its many French instructors, Dong was undoubtedly familiar with the aesthetic foundations of modern European art, even if not up-to-date on its latest developments.[179] Dong managed to find the artistic stimulation of unfamiliar aesthetic standards within the enormous geographical and temporal span of Chinese art.[180]

Dong Xiwen was one of the young instructors recruited to the National Beiping Arts College by Xu Beihong after the war. Once his conceptual breakthrough occurred during his trip to Dunhuang, his primary aesthetic goals became the creation of a distinctly Chinese style of oil painting. Theoretically, his art made a symmetrical pair with Xu Beihong's late work: Xu painted Westernizing styles with Chinese tools; Dong tried to Sinicize oil painting. Both sought a synthesis of Eastern and Western art.

Many students who entered the academy at which Dong Xiwen taught in 1948 expected to complete a five-year curriculum. The two-year fundamental course exposed students to all media but concentrated most heavily on drawing;[181] only after completion of this basic curriculum was the student allowed to select a major. Xu Beihong participated in some of the beginning classes, for he attached great importance to drawing skills as an indicator of artistic potential. Thus, even students intending to concentrate on traditional painting were still subjected to the Western-style academic drawing requirement. Dong Xiwen was responsible for a significant part of the fundamental drawing curriculum. He, like the best-trained of his fellow academic artists, went on to become an important member of the post-1949 teaching staff at CAFA.

In late 1948, Dong began making art in support of the Communist cause. Hou Yimin, in his role as underground CCP organizer at the Beiping college, had solicited pro-Communist poster designs from sympathetic faculty before


Image not available

Figure 33

Cave 249, Mogao Caves, Dunhuang,
Gansu, Western Wei period, polychromatic
mural (detail).

the city's liberation. Dong, along with Li Hua and others, participated in making such flyers. He also prepared portraits of Mao Zedong and Zhu De for the auditorium where the first National Congress of Literary and Arts Workers was held. He witnessed Mao's proclamation of the new People's Republic of China and, on December 8, 1949, joined the Communist party.

On the occasion of the First National Art Exhibition, Dong Xiwen demonstrated both his technical virtuosity and his interest in brightly colored folk art. His Liberation of Beijing (fig. 13), one of the liveliest of the works exhibited, makes use of broad, flat areas of bright color to strengthen and simplify a complex crowd scene. Tanks, military trucks, and cannons pass under Beijing's city gates, welcomed by the banner-waving populace. In the distance, construction cranes tower over the ancient architecture, suggesting the dawning of a new era.

The stark contrasts of flat colors, the black outlines, and the anecdotal quality of the picture evoke, no doubt intentionally, folk prints. As we have seen, such sources were avidly studied by Communist artists, who rejected upper-class art forms for political reasons. Dong's interest in the Dunhuang


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Figure 34
Dong Xiwen, Kazak Herdswoman, 1948,
oil on canvas, 163 cm × 128 cm, Chinese
National Art Gallery.


wall paintings, which combine primitive beauty and abstract strength, meant that his aesthetic interests tallied remarkably well with the simplified art of the early Communist political program. Nevertheless, the linear, modernist rhythms of his Kazak Herdswoman remain evident in the bare tree branches of this work, which appear to dance in happiness with the people of Beijing.

Dong Xiwen was, in the late 1940s, an artist of substantial originality and potential. He had reached a point in his development at which his experiential, intellectual, and artistic concerns came together in an easy and innovative way. The Founding of the Nation , painted at the conclusion of the Communist thought reform and rectification campaign at CAFA, marks the last step in this development. Just as he had earlier integrated primitivist wall painting aesthetics into a work inspired by Western modernism, in the 1952 painting he combines elements of Chinese folk art with Soviet realism. It was his success at synthesizing different types of art that led to his great reputation as a master of oil painting in the national style. Unfortunately, The Founding of the Nation was the end of such experimentation. His painting was overwhelmed by the antimodernism of Communist aesthetics and, perhaps, by the pressure of his sudden fame. Dong's early approach reappears, somewhat watered down, in the works of his students.

Li Keran

Li Keran was born in 1907 in Xuzhou, Jiangsu.[182] As a child he liked to draw and was given painting manuals by the parents of a classmate. At the age of thirteen, when he was playing with friends on top of the city wall, he spotted a group of elderly men who were painting. He often went to watch them work and became the student of one old artist, Qian Shizhi. Three years later Li passed the entrance examination for the Shanghai Art Academy. After completion of the program in 1925 he became an elementary school teacher in Xuzhou. In 1929, he took the graduate entrance examination for the newly opened National Hangzhou Arts Academy. Lin Fengmian, the school's founding director, admitted him on the basis of his examination results, even though his transcripts showed inadequate formal academic preparation. Once enrolled, he studied oil painting and drawing with a French professor and was exposed to most schools of modern Western art. He joined the Eighteen Art Society at the academy, contributing two modernist oils to the 1931 Shanghai exhibition for which Lu Xun wrote his ill-fated preface.[183] The Nationalist authorities cracked down on the Eighteen Art Society the following year; Lin Fengmian, who hoped to appoint Li Keran an instructor at the academy, urged him to concentrate on completing his degree. Instead, he dropped out of school and became an instructor at an art school in his hometown. He attained national


Image not available

Figure 35
Li Keran, Landscape of Xuzhou,
ca. 1937, oil painting.

recognition for his work in oils by exhibiting a gently Fauvist landscape in the Ministry of Education's Second National Exhibition of 1937 (fig. 35).[184]

After the Japanese invasion of Xuzhou in 1938, Li went to Xi'an, then Wuhan, and eventually Chongqing, where he worked under Zhou Enlai and Guo Moruo in the wartime propaganda effort. In 1942, their office was disbanded by the Nationalist authorities as part of an anti-Communist campaign. Li thereupon concentrated on improving his Chinese painting. His favorite artists were the seventeenth-century individualists Shitao, Kuncan, and Zhu Da, all of whom had devoted themselves to art in a time of political chaos. Most of his paintings of this period depict water buffaloes, a subject about which Lu Xun and Guo Moruo had both written. Li saw the buffalo, in its different aspects, as an image for human life. His first solo exhibition was held in Chongqing in 1943.

He resumed teaching in 1943 in Chongqing. Three years later he accepted Xu Beihong's invitation to join the faculty of the National Beiping Arts Col-


lege, where he taught Western watercolor painting. In a curriculum heavily oriented to training in Western realistic styles, one year of Chinese painting was required of all students, although further study was available on an elective basis.[185] Li Keran admired the landscape painting of Huang Binhong (see fig. 18), an elderly faculty member at the academy, and is said to have studied with him. He continued to work on his guohua in Beiping under Qi Baishi's tutelage.

After the Communist reorganization of the academy in 1950, Li was assigned to teach outline-style guohua and modern new year's painting. His own prize-winning new year's picture, Model Workers and Peasants at Beihai Park (fig. 22), one of the rare landscape pictures in this genre, is a thematic preview of the area in which Li Keran was to make his name, Chinese landscape painting. Like all nianhua of the period, it was painted in the outline and flat-color mode. Even though the national emphasis on nianhua during this period came in subsequent years to be considered excessive, Li's 1951 Model Workers was included in the Chinese submission to an important Soviet-bloc exhibition in 1958.[186]

Li's landscape paintings in ink, which became most original after the death of Qi Baishi, earned him a national reputation. Unlike Dong Xiwen, who was skyrocketed to fame by a single painting, Li Keran developed his artistic style and renown more steadily. He maintained his personal vision in spite of political circumstances, having the good fortune to ride several political waves that benefited his art, but avoiding those that might damage it. By 1954, it seems, artistic integrity came before politics.

Yan Han

With the reorganization of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1950, the students acquired a new set of mentors. One such faculty member was the Communist printmaker Yan Han. Yan was born in 1916 to a poor village family in Donghai county, Jiangsu. As an elementary school student he learned to draw by copying nianhua and illustrations in old novels such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms . Either he was exceptionally enterprising as a youngster or else he had training that is not documented in his biography, for he entered the prestigious National Hangzhou Arts Academy in 1935. According to Yan, the academy under Lin Fengmian's direction emphasized modern, Western art. Artists who had returned from France showed students slides of current trends. Most instructors considered Cézanne to be the founder of modernism, and some of them, such as Wu Dayu, taught a Cézanne-like style. Yan Han was instructed in Western painting by Fang Ganmin, a French-trained cubist. During the last part of his stay in Hangzhou, Yan began studying Chinese painting under Pan Tianshou, primarily in order to economize on art supplies. He re-


calls that Pan was very traditional, teaching the students by requiring them to copy old paintings. Pan's chosen models spanned the Yuan, Ming, and early Qing periods, the era in Chinese history when literati art was at its height.

Yan Han moved inland with the academy after the Japanese invasion in 1937 but during the summer of 1938 abandoned his studies to join the Communist troops at Yan'an. He joined the Communist party in October. After three months of training at the Lu Xun Academy of Arts, he was assigned to the academy's woodcut team, headed by Hu Yichuan. The team went to the headquarters of the Eighth Route Army in the Taihang Mountains, where military leaders of the Long March, including Zhu De, Peng Dehuai, Yang Shangkun, and Deng Xiaoping, were fighting. Because metal plates were in short supply, woodblocks were used to produce many publications behind the lines. It was not until the artists adapted images from Chinese folk religion to Communist doctrines, however, that they were truly able to propagandize among the peasantry.[187]

One of the earliest groups of propaganda new year's prints was made in late 1939 or early 1940 for the lunar new year. It included door guardians by Yan Han, in which the folk gods (fig. 36) were replaced by soldiers of the Eighth Route Army (fig. 37). Despite the revolutionaries' diligent efforts, it was discovered that only peasant printmakers were able to print the outline block with the accuracy and speed necessary for commercial-scale production.[188] After mastering this traditional technology, the work team subsequently began moving from place to place to make and distribute prints. Yan Han was left behind, under Yang Shangkun's direction, to run the woodblock factory. His portrait of Peng Dehuai, made in 1941, is evidence of his journalistic responsibilities (fig. 38). He also produced serial picture stories. In 1943, the artists in the factory returned to Yan'an, probably to participate in the cadre rectification following Mao's Yan'an Talks. They shared their experience with the artists of the Yan'an woodblock factory and continued working, now under Jiang Feng's direction.[189]

After the 1942 Yan'an Talks, party discipline was strengthened and arts policies became more centralized. One of the thrusts of the post-1942 woodblock print movement was continued concern for the proper means of reaching the desired audience. A typical example of journalistic woodblocks of the pre-1942 period was Li Shaoyan's series illustrating his travels with the Eighth Route Army (fig. 39). The artist, who served as secretary to General He Long, based his techniques and many of his compositions on Soviet prints reproduced in Lu Xun's history of Soviet woodcuts, which he carried with him on his journey. The results are often quite dramatic and beautiful, but they are in a style that appealed to urban intellectuals familiar with Western art, not to the simpler folk of the Chinese countryside.

Since most of the people of northern China were poor peasants, it was


Image not available

Figure 36
Anonymous, Door Guardian, Hebei
province, one of a pair, polychromatic
woodblock print, new year's picture, Bo
Songnian collection.


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Figure 37
Yan Han, Protect Our Homes, 1939-1940,
pair of woodblock prints, published
by Lu [Xun Literature and] Arts
Woodcut Team, Chinese Historical

considered necessary to modify the European-oriented styles practiced by most woodcut artists accordingly. Yah Han, Luo Gongliu, Hu Yichuan, and others who made revolutionary new year's pictures had already adapted folk styles to the new Communist iconography. Door guardians might then convey not the protective power of the gods but the importance of the anti-Japanese war. In the post-1942 period, artists such as Gu Yuan and Luo Gongliu went on to create narrative prints in a new style that was more in tune with peasant tastes. German expressionist styles of the early 1930s were rejected, but Soviet realist art was modified as well. Rather than making heavily shaded, often rather somber prints, Gu Yuan carved away most of his block in the traditional Chinese manner, leaving behind only outlines set against a flat ground (fig. 40).[190] Jiang Feng, as we have seen, had ventured into this style by 1942 (fig.5). Yan Han carved a new version of his PLA door guardians in 1944 that is much more closely related to folk styles than are his earlier images (fig. 41).[191]

After the Japanese surrender, Yan went south with his comrades to Zhang-jiakou, Hebei. After two and a half years of civil war and land reform


Image not available

Figure 38
Yan Han, Portrait of Peng Dehuai, 1941,
monochromatic woodblock print, collection
of the artist.


Image not available

Figure 39
Li Shaoyan, The Fourth Division in
Northwestern Shanxi, 1946, from The
120th Division (Eighth Route Army) in
Northern China series, no. 23, monochromatic
woodblock print, collection of the
Chinese Artists Association, Sichuan


Image not available

Figure 40
Gu Yuan, Protect Our People's Troops,
1944, hand-colored woodblock print,
collection of the artist.


Image not available

Figure 41
Yan Han, 1944, polychromatic woodblock
prints, pair of new year's prints.
Above, left: Win the War of Resistance,
Chinese National Art Gallery.
Above, right: Army and People Cooperate,
Colgate University, Picker Art

propaganda work, he marched into Beiping with the People's Liberation Army. He participated in the National Congress of Literary and Arts Workers in July 1949, and was elected a member of the FLAC. In the fall of 1949, when Jiang Feng went to Hangzhou to reorganize Yan's alma mater, Yan Han accompanied him as part of the new administrative team. Rather than remaining in Hangzhou, as many of the Communist administrators did, Yan Han returned to Beijing in the summer of 1950 to accompany an art exhibit to the USSR. Soon after he returned he was assigned to lecture at CAFA. His responsibilities included teaching the principles of Mao's Yan'an Talks on Literature and Arts and "creation" classes in which the students applied such ideas to their finished art.[192]

Yan Han's best woodcut from the 1949 national exhibition is based on his


land reform activity in Hebei. Down with Feudalism possesses a pictorial beauty that belies its didactic intent (fig. 14). Rather than working in the simplified style of the liberated zones, Yan Han returns to a classical European mode of composing a print. A fortresslike north Chinese architectural compound dominates the picture, its monolithic strength softened by complex effects of light and shade on its masonry and roof tiles. The variegated tones of the deep sky against which it is placed further strengthen the effect. Only after this aesthetic impression has been absorbed do we concentrate on the more intellectual activity of reading the picture's story. As one peasant seals the doors of the castle in preparation for future redistribution of the wealth within, the landlord and his family are led away by the peasants who previously worked his land. Onlookers wave red banners—"Down with Feudalism," "Land to the Cultivators." The insubstantial yet brightly colored revolutionary banners are well balanced against the solid architectural structure erected under the old society, thus making not only a pleasing composition but also a statement about the difficulties overcome by the revolution against the established order.

Yan Han's works, while faithfully following the party art policies of each succeeding period, consistently rank among the most pictorially satisfying of those produced by artists of the old liberated zones. Moreover, from his earliest works he displays extraordinary technical facility and a broad range of stylistic capabilities.

Artists such as Dong Xiwen and Li Keran initially contributed to the post-liberation art academies by instructing students in technique. Communist veterans such as Yan Han, however, taught a second and equally important component: ideology. The "creation" classes for which he was responsible correspond most closely to the thesis projects or graduation exercises in an American art school, where the student is expected to demonstrate the technical and conceptual maturity developed through academic study by independently creating a body of art. The similarities end here, however, for in China "creation" was not merely an artistic statement but a political one, and the emphasis was not on individuality but on contribution to the common good. Yan Han's job, therefore, would have included advice on compositional and technical matters, as well as on choice of a suitable topic and style.

The choice of subject, particularly the effectiveness and political correctness of its didactic message, was the most important element in determining whether a work would gain acceptance in the art world of the time and whether it would be awarded a passing mark by the academy. In the early PRC years, for example, a revolutionary artist steeped in the principles of Mao Zedong's Yan'an Talks would be expected to promulgate those ideas, which were perceived as having overwhelming political significance. Only slightly less important was appropriate choice of style. If the party administration had declared that popularization of art was its goal, as it did in the early PRC period,


the creation teacher would stress that popularization meant adopting specified artistic forms—such as new year's pictures, propaganda pictures, and comic books.

Yan Han exemplified the new policies in his own work as well. As part of the new year's print movement of the early fifties he produced a prize-winning piece of propaganda for women's rights entitled The Bride Speaks (fig. 23). Rather than undergoing an arranged marriage, the subject of Yan Han's painting has presumably chosen her own spouse. In the old marriage customs, when dowry and other gifts were often specified by contracts between parents, the bride's face was covered and she was an anonymous and sometimes unhappy participant in what amounted to an economic exchange between two clans. Yan's bride and groom, by contrast, take their vows according to the new marriage law beneath a portrait of Chairman Mao. Yan's didactic image, which was probably aimed at peasants, is painted in the party-mandated outline and bright-color style, with only slight touches of Western realism.

Shi Lu

We have thus far paid slight attention to the contributions of artists outside the main urban areas of Beijing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou. However, as distant parts of China came under control of the People's Liberation Army, art propaganda workers found themselves demobilized in various provincial cities. The printmaker and Chinese painter Shi Lu is typical of the many young artists who joined the Communist revolution and then played an important role in implementing the new policies in China's smaller cities. Born in 1919 of a landholding family in Renshou county, Sichuan, Shi Lu (né Feng Yaheng) studied guohua in Chengdu between 1934 and 1936 at the Oriental Art Academy (Dongfang meishu zhuanke xuexiao ), a school run by his older brother.[193] After his graduation he worked as an elementary school art teacher. In 1938 he enrolled in West China Union University to study history and sociology. He left home permanently in January 1939 and made his way to the liberated zone. After training, he worked with a drama troupe doing propaganda. In 1940 he became leader of the art group of the Northwest China Cultural Work Team. His duties included painting, theatrical backdrops, propaganda, and cartoons. In 1943 he participated in rectification at the Central Party School's Third Section, after which he worked for two years making popular art in the Culture Association of the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region. He joined the party in 1946, participated in land reform in 1947, and became an editor of the Masses Pictorial in 1948. For a time he headed the art group of Yan'an University's arts and literature department. He attended the 1949 Congress of Literary and Art Workers in Beijing.[194] By 1950 he had moved to Xi'an, where he was responsible for the Art Work Committee of the Shaanxi-


Gansu-Ningxia Border Region Culture Association, worked as director of the Northwest Pictorial Press, and succeeded in bringing his efforts to organize new year's picture production to the attention of national authorities.[195] He was selected vice-chairman of the Northwest Artists Association in 1950 and became one of the two most important art leaders in this western Chinese city.[196]

Although his early artistic training was in Chinese painting, he learned to make woodblock prints in the liberated zones. He exhibited both landscape and figurative subjects in the First National Exhibition. His Down with Feudalism (fig. 42) is similar in subject and composition to Yan Han's work of the same title (see fig. 14). If anything, Shi Lu's picture is constructed more as a Chinese painting might be, with architectural elements ascending vertically, like mountain peaks, to the very top of the composition. His attempts to convey three-dimensionality are not always successful, as in the terraced entrance on the lower left side of the picture, but such minor defects are rendered inconspicuous by his attention to masonry, which covers most of the picture's surface with pleasing linear rhythms. Although the peasant horde sweeping up the steps is essential to the picture's intelligibility, the work succeeds because of its abstract juxtapositions of textures, tones, and angles.

Shi Lu's Mao Zedong at the Heroes Reception , an interior scene with figures, was more typical of art displayed at the First Exhibition (fig. 43). The subject of Mao Zedong expressing his appreciation to his supporters was painted by many artists in the early 1950s, as Lin Gang's nianhua illustrates (see fig. 25). Shi Lu's ambitious print possesses a certain awkward, primitive charm, but in this work he is unable to compensate for his lack of facility in rendering figures by supplying interesting surface textures. He set for himself daunting problems in perspective. Dozens of figures sit at tables in a long, narrow room. The receding wall on the left is hung with four pictures, one after the other; at right a row of windows has been pulled open, creating a potential chaos of lines receding at different angles. The technical difficulty is increased because the figures are carefully shaded with fine lines. The artist has observed and attempted to reproduce the cheerful grimace into which the faces of some old Chinese peasants settle in repose. This homely descriptive touch, seen at both left and right, is so obvious as to give the composition an almost comical aspect. Chairman Mao, just barely recognizable, exposes his teeth in a slightly less ludicrous fashion as he listens to an excited old peasant describe his good deeds. The point of view the artist adopts is both original and effective, emphasizing the closeness between Chairman Mao and the old soldiers, but the artist lacked the technical skills to execute his conception. Hindsight informs us that socialist realism was not a style with which Shi Lu ever became entirely comfortable. Although he had quite a bit of critical success in the 1950s with pictures as awkward as this, it was not until he returned to traditional painting


Image not available

Figure 42.
Shi Lu, Down with Feudalism, 1949,
woodblock print, 31.5 cm x 22 cm,
Chinese National Art Gallery.


Image not available

Figure 43
Shi Lu, Mao Zedong at the Heroes
Reception, 1946, woodblock print.

in 1959 that he found his own voice. Unfortunately, such pictures as this, in which landscapists strove somewhat unsuccessfully to paint monumental figures, made up a large part of the First National Exhibition.[197]

Shi Lu's career as a regional arts administrator typifies an important way in which revolutionary artists were supported after 1949. It provided a living wage, in return for which the artist organized and participated in official art activities, such as exhibitions, publications, and propaganda work. Such artists also served as role models and educators on the local level, promoting a unified national art that ultimately superseded any preexisting regional artistic traditions. For example, Shi Lu himself painted a well-received nianhua during the popularization movement of the early 1950s (see chart 4). Administrators in Shi Lu's position also supervised local submissions to national exhibitions, thus ensuring that the artists whose works were seen nationally were those who upheld the unified party standards.

The assignment of revolutionary art workers to provincial centers presented them with both opportunities and disadvantages. Because the official art


journals, first Renmin meishu and later Meishu , and the party newspaper, Renmin ribao (People's Daily ), were published in Beijing, the activities of artists who worked in Beijing were often reported with great detail in the national press, whereas comparatively little was heard from the provinces. As one result, the faculty and students of the Central Academy of Fine Arts were inordinately important in defining the national standards for the new art between 1949 and 1957. Artists in the provinces, by the same token, were often in the position of reacting to new art rather than defining it. Nevertheless, the party directive to learn from actual life led artists in the provinces to develop, over time, a sensitivity to the geography and local color of their new homes that unavoidably flavored their art. In a later chapter we will investigate Shi Lu's blossoming as the leader of a new regional school and then as an eccentric individualist.

Painters who supported the Communist cause were extremely varied in social background and artistic approach. They ranged from children of wealthy landlords to offspring of the poor. They were oil painters, guohua artists, and printmakers. Some joined the Communists early on and others not until 1949. After liberation they became publishers, administrators, and art professors. Yet for a brief time immediately following the Communist victory, they worked in common styles for a common purpose.


From Popularization to Specialization

In China as a whole, 1953 was marked by preparation for the first five-year economic development plan, with a focus on industrialization and technological improvement.[1] In September, the Soviets agreed to provide a broad range of technical assistance to China. The conclusion of the Korean War in the same year eliminated the perceived need for artists to make military propaganda, thus pointing to a shift from the wartime foundations of the new Chinese art. Renewed concern with the technical quality of art, moreover, seems to have accompanied the nationwide interest in Soviet technology. The year 1953, therefore, marked an important transition from a rigid emphasis on popularized subjects and forms to the administration of art as a professional, specialized undertaking.

Both the art academies and art associations were reorganized to implement the shift in policy. The two most important practical results of this change were promotion of Soviet-style oil painting and the revival of guohua . Indeed, a somewhat simplistic but largely valid generalization about painting in the period 1953-1957 is that young artists learned oil painting while old artists revived guohua . More broadly, as will be seen, all aspects of the Chinese art world, from educational institutions to the exhibition structure, were systematized during the period. This chapter will discuss the most important theoretical issues of this half-decade and their implementation in several of China's major art institutions.

While traditional art most often appeared in activities sponsored by the Chinese Artists Association, the strength of the new Soviet-inspired art was based in the academies. These institutions, which were small, exclusive, and carefully supervised, developed the most systematic approach to art, one strongly influenced by Soviet prototypes. All art was to be reformed. Oil paint-


ing was to be equated with Soviet socialist realism or with a new national form of realism. Modern styles—which, according to Soviet dogma, were incapable of reflecting the lives of the people—were theoretically indefensible and thus absent from the curriculum.[2] Chinese painting was to be improved by replacing most traditional subjects and styles with modern figurative scenes executed in a realistic mode.

In the art world outside the academies, where artists were less tightly controlled, the issues were far more complex. Although many young artists emulated the well-publicized academic models, older artists did not always understand or agree with the canons of new reformed art. Some enthusiasts of twentieth-century European or Sino-Western art harbored private doubts about the Soviet program from its earliest implementation. Outbreaks of pre-1949 modernist styles occurred among elderly artists in the early 1960s and again in the mid-1980s, indicating that they had not been completely reformed. At the other extreme, some traditional Chinese painters hoped to be exempted from the canons of revolutionary art based on their contributions to the national heritage. Debates over theoretical differences and personal rivalries led to lively critical contests during the 1950s.

Unfortunately, whatever constructive tensions existed between the art of international communism and Chinese national art were ripped apart by the polarization of the Hundred Flowers campaign of 1956 and 1957, when contradictions between Western and traditional Chinese styles became the basis for factional attacks. The period came to a close with the Anti-Rightist campaign of 1957, during which artistic opinions came to be labeled as political crimes and the most opinionated advocates of both styles were purged.

Ai Qing on the Reform of Chinese Painting

In spite of his appreciation for Qi Baishi's painting, the poet Ai Qing was an important spokesman for the view that Chinese painting should be thoroughly reformed through synthesis with Western art. He conducted a session of the Shanghai Art Workers Political Study Group on March 27, 1953, that gives a lively sense of the controversies regarding administration of traditional art. In his role as political instructor, Ai Qing castigated much of traditional Chinese painting and, by extension, most Shanghai guohua artists. The text of his speech, published by Wenyibao in August,[3] acknowledges the mandate to perpetuate the nation's cultural legacy, a mandate that dominated post-1952 art theory. Yet as Ai describes the aspects of Chinese painting to be retained and those to be eradicated, it becomes clear that he believed that most traditional Chinese art belonged in China's museums rather than in her studios. His


speech, an eloquent defense of the need for thorough reform of Chinese painting, is a key document in the subsequent intraparty battle about the future of guohua .

Ai Qing's "on Chinese Painting"

There are people who ask, "Since we esteem ancient cultural relics, why must we reform guohua ?" First we will discuss the question of our attitude toward the national cultural legacy. Our national history is very long and has an extraordinarily rich legacy, including its cultural legacy. These national legacies are our nation's wealth because they are expressions of our historical ancestors' abilities and wisdom, reflecting our ancestors' lives and struggles and the customs and habits of people of past ages, and so forth. In order to protect ancient cultural relics, our government has expended great effort and has done much collecting and research work. From the ancient cultural relics displayed in museums we can clearly see the process of our national development. At the same time, we can receive inspiration from these legacies to create even more, even better things.

The preservation of cultural relics and how one should look at these cultural relics are two different things. Ancient cultural relics are those created by people of antiquity. If a piece is destroyed, we have lost a piece, for we cannot summon the ancient person up from his grave to make another one. Thus, we must preserve it. As to how to evaluate the things left from ancient times, this is yet another matter. Such evaluation originates in our needs and our viewpoints. That is to say, we decide which things to study and which things not to study on the basis of today's needs.

Some people think that if we value the national heritage, all things that are ancient Chinese, regardless of what, are good. "If they are Chinese, they are good." This is really the "national essence" school of thought, in which ancient cultural relics are approached with a narrow, nationalistic spirit, and is something that we have opposed for a long time. Such people do not know that many of our cultural relics were suited to the needs of life and struggles in their time, but if we mechanically copy them now, the [results] are backward.

Should guohua reform? Here we must also clarify several problems. So-called guohua , in general, are paintings painted with Chinese brush, Chinese ink, and Chinese pigments on Chinese paper or silk. A more appropriate term would be national painting [minzu huihua ]; it uses our own tools and methods and it adopts forms developed by our nation over a long period of time to manufacture paintings.

Naturally, no one would misunderstand this and think that remolding guohua is like the revolution in dramatic arts,[4] in which the works left by ancient people are revised. Doing that [to old paintings], needless to say, would be criminal. So the terminology "remolding guohua " has inherent contradictions.


What we should discuss are these two questions: (1) How does our painting accept the legacy of national painting? (2) How do we use the tools we originally had (Chinese brush, ink, color, paper, and silk) to paint new things? This is the problem of how people living now can make so-called guohua .

Paintings by ancient people were painted according to the demands of their own times. Because they, to a greater or lesser degree, satisfied the demands of their own era, their works were valued and preserved. We are now working for living people. Exhibitions are held for viewing by the living, not for viewing by the dead. Printed matter is the same; our work must satisfy the demands of living people. The ancients will not make any demands of us. But many people who make paintings seem to be laboring to satisfy the demands of ancient people and do not consider the opinions of living people.

Our artists always hope people will say that our paintings are good; even if we hope that people will point out shortcomings, our goal is still to paint better the second time. There certainly won't be anyone who publishes work in the hope that people will castigate it. If we cannot create art suitable to this era, then our era will have no art. Because of copying [lin-mo ], today's so-called guohua is almost indistinguishable from that of Ming and Qing times. Many paintings leave the viewer unable to tell whether they were painted by a person of today or by a Ming- or Qing-dynasty person. The times have changed, the people's lives have changed, but the so-called guohua has not changed; it seems that guohua is an art that tells lies. Therefore, no one believes guohua anymore. Once an artist lies, the people have the right to disbelieve. The people believe artists because they tell the truth. If, in our painting, one cannot see that the subject differs from those of ancient paintings and cannot see that the expressive method differs from those of ancient paintings, then we should simply publish old paintings. Why ask lots of people to paint pictures? He paints plum blossoms; you also paint plum blossoms. He paints orchids; you also paint orchids. Your painting and his painting—if it weren't for different signatures, one could not tell who actually painted it. What literature and art fear most is repetition. No matter how good something is, a duplicate of it does not have much significance.

Paintings are painted by people. If the painting is bad, a person must take responsibility. If you say that the guohua needs remolding, the painters must first be remolded. What is wrong with the painters? Is it that they do not understand the demands of the people, they cannot see that times have changed, and they are unsuitable to this era? The unsuitable must be altered, altered until it is suitable. If clothes don't fit because they are too big or too small, they must be altered so that they fit when you try them on. If the road is too narrow, it must be altered so that it is convenient for transportation. Change is a good thing. If something is unsuitable and is not changed, we should abandon it. That we still want to change it


means we don't want to throw it out. Now all of China is undertaking reforms, reforming so that it is suitable for the development of socialism. I have heard that some people dislike the word "remolding" [gaizao ]. They prefer instead to be perpetually imprisoned by the bonds of plagiarism and imitation. They are unwilling to liberate themselves into the boundless expanses of the great creative universe. This means that they are unwilling for society to make any demands of them.

Some people think, "Workers, peasants, and soldiers don't love our paintings, and whose fault is it? The workers, peasants, and soldiers are to blame, because they are uncultured and don't understand. After eight or ten years, when they are more cultured, they will understand by themselves."

This is a way of thinking that shirks responsibility. Times have changed, and the people who look at paintings have changed. In the past, it was bureaucrats and landlords who looked at paintings; now it is the working people who look at paintings. Naturally their demands of painting will not be the same. The people who paint Chinese paintings are faced with this problem. What should they do?

Perhaps some will sigh, feeling that their art has lost its cognoscenti. Thus, they can only "appreciate its fragrance in solitude." In this case, there is no need to reform. But if a painter still has any breath of life, he will know that now is the time that his art can truly attain liberation. In the past, he served a small number of idle people, but now he serves the billions who are creating a new world. In the past, because we wished to satisfy the tastes of those half-dead people, our painting became half-dead. Now we must satisfy the demands of the billions of people bursting with energy. Our painting must be filled with vigor, its vitality extraordinarily exuberant, a thing that excites those who see it.

Some people say, "The government commemorates Qi Baishi's birthday, so the crabs and shrimp that he paints are progressive." Their meaning is that because Qi Baishi is valued, their paintings should be valued too; if Qi Baishi does not need to reform, why must they reform?

The government's commemoration of Qi Baishi's birthday and rewards for Qi Baishi, I believe, come not only because he excels at continuing our nation's painting tradition but also because he excels at expressing the things that he wants to express; and he has created many good paintings. He is not an ordinary conventional painter; he is a painter who is very courageous in creating. The subjects of his paintings are very broad, the methods he uses are greatly varied. He is a painter with rich imagination. Naturally, he has suffered from some limitations of his time, and he has not reflected the life of the people. But he still deserves to be called a great Chinese painter of today. He can observe his subject deeply and then express the subject by means of his own creative methods. He does not paint things he has never seen. Once someone asked him to paint a landscape and he said, "I have not seen a landscape for a long time, so I can't paint


one." He refused. But his paintings often adopt an original approach. In March of this year he painted a frog. One back leg was caught in water weeds, it was floating in the water, and in front of it were three little tadpoles swimming freely. When he had finished he was very happy and said that no one had ever painted this. [For a similar work, painted two years earlier, see fig. 44.] Recently he painted a lotus with a reflection in the water. He said that this was something he had never painted before. The government rewards Qi Baishi for precisely this sort of creative labor. His great achievements in art require diligent and systematic research in the future. We hope that many artists of rich creativity like Qi Baishi will oppose blindly imitating and plagiarizing. The awards for Qi Baishi are not in the hope that everyone will paint just like Qi Baishi. There can be only one Qi Baishi; if everyone imitates him, painting crabs and prawns—that is, painting exactly the same as Qi Baishi—what significance can it have?

People ask, "What is new guohua ?" For the moment we will not discuss the appropriateness of xin guohua as a name. So-called new guohua means, I think, new Chinese painting [xin de zhongguohua ]. Some painters wish to begin a new phase in the art of Chinese painting, with some new creation. Originally Chinese paintings, with the exception of a few artists' works, all played the same old tunes and followed the same stereotypes. This situation could not continue, and so some people wished to do new things. This, naturally, is a good thing.

Where is the new in new guohua ? I think we need (1) new contents and (2) new forms. If contents are new but forms are not new, then [the work] is only half new; if forms are new but contents not new, [similarly, the work] is only half new. But if the contents and forms are both new, won't it become a Western painting? This raises the question of how to continue our heritage. Only if we continue the most precious part of our national painting heritage and then create things with new contents and new forms can we call this completely new Chinese painting.

In Chinese painting, the most acute problem is figure painting. In the past we had a good tradition of figure painting, but recent figure painting is appallingly decadent. The figures painted by many people now don't have a shred of the feeling of a real person. Many figures have no body under their clothing. After viewing many figure paintings, you have no way of telling what dynasty the figures come from. Regardless of their clothing, gesture, face, or background, they haven't an iota of the appearance of a real person in society. Some people paint beauties in great quantity, but their so-called beauties cannot be seen in the park or on the street. Nor do their own family members look like that. It is obvious that they are lying.

The second problem is landscape painting. Is it permissible to paint landscapes? I believe it is. China is so large and has good mountains and good rivers everywhere. If you paint well, you will produce in people an intense love for their own land. But what of the landscape paintings we


Image not available

Figure 44
Qi Baishi, Frogs, 1951, ink on paper,
103.5 cm × 34.4 cm, Chinese National
Art Gallery.


see? These landscape paintings mostly come from books of ancient models [huaben ], and are concocted without basis in fact after an extended period of copying. The unconvincing piecing together and piling up [of such elements] has become the fashion. "A" paints five mountain peaks, "B" then paints six, "C" paints seven, and so on, until we have dozens of peaks. It doesn't matter if [the mountains are] painted to look like they will collapse; still a little building made of matchsticks must be erected on the highest mountain peak. The artist's idea is that the viewers of the painting can climb up to enjoy themselves. As for himself, he actually strolls on the asphalt streets of Shanghai. This [approach] is also a lie.

There are some people who paint one thing for their entire lives. Some specialize in bamboo painting, some in plum painting, and others in orchid painting, as though they had seen only one thing in their whole lives. Or perhaps it is that they have loved only one thing in life. But what they paint, too, are only imitations from the old versions. No matter what, this sort of person is pathetic.

Guohua, guohua —it has no variety. It has some variety, but not much. The people who paint guohua today need a little revolutionary spirit. This revolutionary spirit is not something that can be produced from nothing; it requires technical skill and guts. Having only skill or only guts won't do. Skill is your ability to observe and express the things you want to paint. Guts is that you break the bonds of your small circles—the courage to create by yourself.

In painting people one must paint living people. In painting landscapes one must paint real mountains and rivers. You must paint what you have seen, not what people have already painted many times. Paint what no one has yet painted. To sum up in one sentence, you must paint your own paintings. China is so large, its people are so numerous, its scenery is so beautiful, and its life is so rich; how can there be nothing to paint? Why must you plagiarize someone else's things? Why must you paint people who are dead? When I travel from Beijing to Shanghai, through southern Shandong and northern Jiangsu, I see many farmers with their long gowns rolled up, shouldering carrying poles, driving carts, or tilling the fields. Their gestures are quite beautiful, but why has no one painted them? Why must one always paint an old man with a walking stick followed by a zither-carrying servant boy? Can you say that they are truly beautiful? Can you say that our country has not a single solidly built house? Why do our paintings always have houses made of matchsticks?

To paint new paintings you must have new feelings, you must have feelings toward living, laboring, struggling people. Even if painting scenery, you have feelings toward nature, which has close relationships to people and society. To be a great painter, you must have thought and at least a clear awareness of your own work. What am I giving to the people? What do I wish to say to the people? Under current conditions, thoughtful painters are too few. Chinese painting, if it cannot escape the so-called


"relax the feelings and cultivate the character" flavor of the literati class, will never have a future.

I think that we must substitute depiction of real objects for copying [old paintings] as the fundamental curriculum for the study of Chinese painting. To paint figure paintings, you must learn to paint the nude human body and to sketch. To paint landscapes [fengjing ],[5] you must go to the wilds to sketch from life. In painting flowers-and-birds or insects-and-fish, you must also sketch from life. One must make profound observations of people and nature. One must conduct research on old painting with new eyes. We need scientific realism as our standard in criticizing and evaluating our art. The excellence or poorness of a painting must be seen first in whether it accords with social reality and natural reality.

Chinese painting is our national painting; it has a long and glorious tradition, and its legacy is limitlessly rich. Our people love their national art. We are the descendants of a great nation; our painters must cleverly continue their precious inheritance, enthusiastically creating paintings that describe the new life. Chinese painting has a bright future.

Ai Qing's colorfully expressed formulations for the reform of guohua may seem extreme, in that they would require both new forms and new contents. In fact, though, his views were rather similar to those of Jiang Feng and many other cultural leaders. According to Jiang Feng, Lu Xun believed that wenrenhua (literati painting)—which he equated, not entirely accurately, with xieyi ("idea writing," a loosely brushed style of painting)—might be useful only if merged with new work.[6] Ai Qing exhibits knowledge of the basics of Chinese painting and theory in his many criticisms of traditional practice. He rejects the traditional means of learning guohua , which was to copy old paintings, and instead proposes a method already in effect in China's academies: drawing from life, which included the use of nude models. An important theoretical basis for the Confucian custom of copying old paintings—the belief that one could enter a state of spiritual communion or artistic dialogue with ancient masters[7] —is implicitly ridiculed as satisfying the demands of the dead rather than the living.

One of the many contradictions between personal taste and theoretical stance that one finds in the debates of the 1950s is that Ai Qing liked Chinese paintings by traditionalists such as Qi Baishi. In his speech Ai Qing explicitly defends the government's double standard in lionizing the octogenarian painter even though his work was neither socialist nor realist. Ai Qing's defense goes well beyond orthodox party dogma in its claim that creativity, originality, and quality deserve recognition. The message he reads into the veneration of Qi Baishi is that political standards may be waived for the great but not for artists of lesser talents.[8]


Zhou Yang on the National Heritage

The 1953 changes made in art policy to encourage socialist realism, guohua , and specialization were mandated from above. The Second Congress of Literary and Arts Workers opened on September 23, 1953. Addresses by Zhou Enlai and Zhou Yang outlined new goals of raising the level of artistic training and improving the quality of art. Each constituent group, including the Art Workers Association, held separate meetings at which they reorganized in accordance with the directives calling for new, higher professional standards in art. The AWA was renamed the Chinese Artists Association.

The most important statement of the new policies may be found in Zhou Yang's speech of September 24, 1953, which was approved by a resolution of the congress on October 6.[9] In his lengthy text Zhou mentions visual art infrequently, but the references are important. Filled with quotes from Mao Zedong, the speech in its general tone implies that Zhou Yang did not speak for himself alone: "The principle of Comrade Mao Zedong's directive on dramatic activities, 'Let one hundred flowers bloom,' should become the policy for development of all literary and arts professions. If we need figure painting, we also need landscape [fengjing ] painting .... If we need comparatively high-class, complex artistic forms, we also need large quantities of comparatively simple and easy artistic forms,"[10]

Although his invoking of the hundred flowers might seem to loosen the screws on some artists, the new freedom was to be highly qualified. "We take socialist realist methods as the highest creative and critical standard for all our literature and arts."[11] Socialist realism, a term attributed to Stalin and first mentioned in print in 1932, may be defined as a "means of reflecting life in art peculiar to socialist society. It demands the true portrayal of reality in its revolutionary development."[12]

Zhou Yang's commitment to promoting the national heritage was far stronger than that of Jiang Feng or Ai Qing. His views had profound effects on the Chinese art world,[13] both because of his high position in the party propaganda organ and, most important, because it was assumed that he spoke for Mao Zedong. "We request that the contents of literary and art works express the people and thoughts of the new age, and the forms express the style and vigor [qipai ] of the nation .... All writers and artists should diligently study their own national literary and artistic legacy and take continuation and development of the national heritage's excellent tradition as their own mission."[14]

Zhou Yang's dictate that artists should use new contents but national forms explicitly contradicts Ai Qing's view that both contents and forms should be new. Jiang Feng's article of 1946, which defined national forms as "new forms," seems equally irreconcilable with the new principle. In fact, the


origins of Zhou's theory may be found in Leninist-Stalinist art doctrines rather than in the theories of Lu Xun. In 1930, a Soviet conference adopted Stalin's dictum that proletarian art must be "national in form and socialist in content."[15]

Zhou Yang's enthusiasm for China's heritage was coupled with carefully formulated criticism of theorists with other ideas.

Comrade Mao Zedong has given a very high evaluation to the achievements of the new literature and art movement that began on May Fourth [1919], of which Lu Xun is representative .... But the May Fourth Movement has not correctly resolved the duty of continuing the national literary and artistic heritage. At the time, there were people who had a completely negative and erroneous attitude toward the national heritage. This kind of attitude, when joined with a blind reverence for culture of the Western capitalist class, was a harmful influence on the subsequent development of new literature and art .... Many writers and artists often see only the feudal and backward side of the national heritage and have not recognized that the legacies are the treasury of our great national spirit .... Their understanding of the legacies' value is often narrow and one-sided. For example... [the idea that] painting is only "single-line and flat-color."[16]

The references to national painting might be interpreted as a call for the revival of traditional forms of landscape painting and of traditional techniques of brush and ink. Again, the liberal language is qualified by further explanation:

Organizing and researching the national artistic legacies should become focal points for the teaching and research of arts schools .... First we must take the democratic and progressive aspects of our heritage and distinguish them from the feudal and backward parts, take the realistic parts and distinguish them from the antirealistic parts .... In national painting, for example, that which does not stress description of real life, that which does not stress artistic creation, such as making a specialty of purely imitating the brush and ink of the ancients..., must be opposed.[17]

According to Zhou's mandate, old artistic forms were to be adopted if they were democratic, progressive, realistic, and not imitative. Although application of his directive involved expanding painting beyond the single-outline and flat-color mode of previous years, its implementation was otherwise vague.

According to C. Vaughn James, the Leninist line on past art was that an entirely new "proletarian" art was unrealizable in the turmoil of revolution. In-


stead, artists were directed to bring the best of classical traditions home to the people, not for purposes of slavish imitation, but for conscious assimilation and reworking.[18] Zhou Yang's references to Leninist doctrine are clear, but he gives little concrete advice as to how it might be applied in the Chinese context.

One important purpose of the 1953 congress was to reorganize the various associations administered by the Federation of Literary and Arts Circles. Zhou Yang explained that they would now be

voluntary organizations for professional writers and artists, which is to say that they are not groups for ordinary literature and art lovers. The important duty of the associations is to organize writers' and artists' creative work and study .... After reorganizing, the associations should absorb classical literature researchers, national dramatists, national artists , and national musicians as members and as participants in the governing structure .... Leading popular work in literature and art and training young writers and artists are among the important duties of the associations.[19]

The membership in any association under the wing of the FLAC was explicitly expanded beyond the limits set at the first congress in 1949. Those who would decide how to apply Zhou Yang's theoretical directives, then, would include both the Communist revolutionaries who dominated the association in its early years and "national artists," the latter presumably well-known professional painters of guohua, nianhua , and other indigenous forms.

Zhou Yang issued several other administrative directives. He required that provincial and municipal branches of the FLAC should become voluntary groups of writers, musicians, dramatists, and artists with definite admissions standards. It would therefore be unnecessary for each locality to establish its own branches of the national professional associations, such as, in the case of art, the CAA. The duty of a local FLAC branch, rather, was to encourage individual literary or artistic creation, to organize artistic activities, and to promote local amateur art. "Creation" groups, involving mature creative people, were acceptable during the transitional period provided they helped with other activities.[20]

In art, the policy of developing local FLAC branches rather than branches of the Chinese Artists Association had several results. One was that, in many areas, the local FLAC group became the functional equivalent of the CAA—that is, it came to serve as the primary organ of arts administration. Another was that all local control of the arts became concentrated in the hands of a small group of FLAC officials, who might or might not be art lovers. The fu-


ture development of all aspects of creativity in local areas thus depended very heavily on the interests and tastes of FLAC officials.

The new Chinese Artists Association thus brought together Communists and professionals to implement an ill-defined aesthetic doctrine. The debates over the proper course of artistic development enriched the Chinese art world but simultaneously set the stage for bitter conflicts. Zhou Yang's advocacy of national forms contained an implicit criticism of the literary theories of many followers of Lu Xun, including Hu Feng and Feng Xuefeng.[21] Zhou was undoubtedly familiar with the text of Ai Qing's speech on guohua , which was published in Wenyibao about a month before his own oration. It is thus entirely possible that his support for Chinese painting was intended also as a criticism of Ai Qing's more negative view.

As we have seen, Jiang Feng was personally associated with Lu Xun and Feng Xuefeng during his formative years as a revolutionary artist. And he and Ai Qing were close friends; they had served a prison term together in the early 1930s, jointly led the march from Yan'an to Zhangjiakou in 1945, and were administrative colleagues in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Those who attacked Jiang Feng and Ai Qing in 1957 claimed that the two had similar views on guohua , a suggestion that, whatever its motivation, appears to have been accurate.[22]

No evidence has yet appeared to indicate that Jiang Feng was personally involved in the conflicts between Zhou Yang and his rivals or that he openly opposed the new doctrines. Nevertheless, Zhou Yang's references to national painting should, logically, have been interpreted as mandating a substantial change in Jiang Feng's administrative practices. Not only was the general meaning of Zhou's speech—that native Chinese art was to be promoted rather than Western art—not Jiang Feng's view, but the proposed changes would have undone much of the thought reform and reorganization work that had taken place during the preceding four years. Fortunately for Jiang Feng, at least in the short run, the vagueness of Zhou Yang's policy statement allowed him to agree publicly with its language while continuing in practice to follow a somewhat different course.

Zhou's directive that artists present new contents using national forms made theoretical justifications for oil painting problematic. Jiang Feng's efforts to obtain Mao's blessing of The Founding of the Nation , which was published in People's Daily three days after Zhou Yang's speech, could well have been intended to counteract the pro-guohua view of national forms. The fundamental conflicts between traditional guohua and socialist realism, particularly in the context of increasing professionalization of the arts, were accentuated by Zhou Yang's unresolved juxtaposition of the two approaches. The resulting tension contributed to a flowering of artistic activity between 1954 and 1957,


but it was also one cause of the art world's cataclysmic reaction to the Anti-Rightist campaign of 1957.

Jiang Feng and the 1953 Reorganization of the Chinese Artists Association

The day after Zhou Yang's presentation, Jiang Feng gave his speech on the situation of art work during the first four years of the PRC and on the mission of the newly founded Chinese Artists Association.[23] Much of the text is as turgid as his 1949 oration, but it is a crucial guidepost to the development of the Chinese art world between 1953 and 1957. Filled with concrete details (unlike Zhou Yang's more abstract speech of the preceding day), the report began by discussing the accomplishments of Chinese artists. It stated, first, that the Chinese art world had established a strong popular base of support. Over 180 million nianhua, lianhuanhua , and propaganda pictures were published during the four-year period 1949-1953 (including, according to incomplete statistics, 6,800 different paintings and 6,490 stories in serial illustration form), in addition to pictorial magazines (huabao ), of which thirty-six titles were in print in 1952.

According to Jiang, guohua , oil painting, and sculpture production had increased. Art progressed and became useful as it began to have a closer relationship with the lives of the people, to inspire enthusiasm for labor, and to work in concert with every organized movement to reform society. Jiang stated that the quality of art had improved, with creativity in form and style demonstrated by particular artists and works (see chart 4). Jiang Feng's lists of models generally have a personal twist. Three of the guohua he praised in his report had been published prominently in People's Daily several days earlier: Hu Ruosi's The People of Xinjiang Donating a Horse to Marshall Zhu De ; Li Xiongcai's Forest ; and Jiang Yan's Examining Mama .[24]Forest was a good example of a guohua that incorporates Western effects of light and shading; the other two pictures were outline-and-color figure paintings executed in styles approved for new nianhua .

Jiang did not mention, however, the more traditional paintings reproduced on the same page of People's Daily , most notably two bird-and-flower pictures and a fairly traditional landscape composition by Liu Zijiu (Liu Guangcheng). The decision to publish the traditional pictures in People's Daily would probably have been made by Hua Junwu, then the newspaper's art director and head of its literature and arts section, on the basis of propaganda department policies. Wang Zhaowen, who wrote the exhibition review that accompanied the pictures, termed Shao Yiping's flower painting "lovely" (keai ).[25] Jiang


Feng calls Ye Qianyu's May All the Nationalities Unite (see fig. 26) a guohua , even though it had won a nianhua prize in 1952 and was not included in the 1953 national exhibition of guohua . Out of thirty-nine prize-winning nianhua on Ministry of Culture lists he mentions only five, but adds ones by Shi Lu and Zhang Leping to the ministry's sanctioned works. As party spokesman, Jiang Feng's list became the definitive word on the new monuments of official art.

Beyond its usefulness to China, Jiang praised recent art for its contributions to the international peace and friendship movement. Via exhibitions, exchanges, and other foreign contacts, people of the socialist countries and of the capitalist countries could now gain knowledge of the lives of Chinese people. Chinese art was exhibited in thirty-five nations, and such art books as Gu Yuan's prints and political cartoon anthologies were reprinted in many socialist countries. Amateur artists in factories and elsewhere were encouraged to create art, and many professional artists, such as those at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, spent time working in factories.

Thought reform was deemed to have succeeded, especially by means of the "Three Antis" Movement and the arts and literature rectification campaign. The former, directed against corruption, waste, and bureaucratism, targeted officials.[26] The latter was part of a nationwide campaign to remold the thought of China's intellectuals based, according to Jiang Feng, on Mao's principle of serving the peasants, workers, and soldiers.[27] The art world thoroughly criticized the tendency toward nonpolitical art and the phenomenon of art as a commercial object. Furthermore, the long-standing concern with artistic genealogies and the split between the new and the old art were gradually being dealt with, in order to develop an attitude of mutual study and mutual aid. The number of practicing artists increased, both because new artists were being trained, in academies and on the job, and because many old guohua, lianhuanhua , and calendar (yuefenpai ) painters underwent thought reform and so began making works with new contents.

The second section of Jiang's report detailed remaining inadequacies in art. These included a continued deficiency in the quality as well as the quantity of work produced, a failure to correct conservative ideas that had hindered the improvement of guohua , and artists' resistance to the study of political treatises. We will return to his criticisms of guohua shortly.

The last part of the report outlined the planned reorganization of the artists association, henceforth to be known as the Chinese Artists Association, as an effort to solve such problems. The most important administrative changes were aimed at raising standards through increased specialization. Jiang announced that the new national organization would consist of five sections. The first was the creation committee, which encouraged and oversaw the making of art. This committee was divided into six subcommittees by specialty: painting, national painting, printmaking, cartoons, sculpture, and applied


arts. The CAA's other four sections were the national arts research committee, the popularization work section, the editorial section, and the exhibition section.

The new charter of the CAA was published in early 1954. Like many CCP statements, beginning with Mao's Yan'an Talks, it incorporated seemingly incompatible goals. It stipulated that the association would uphold the Marxist-Leninist literary and artistic principles of the Chinese Communist party and would adopt socialist realist creative methods. In contradiction to this socialist realist mandate, one of its lesser duties was to promote study of the heritage of visual art (meishu ) so as to develop China's excellent national artistic (yishu ) tradition.[28] Just as the incongruity between popularization and the raising of standards in the Yan'an Talks was resolved by giving primacy to first one then the other in each succeeding period,[29] the CAA charter provides for the possibility of the alternation of socialist realism and traditional art. Nevertheless, it was clear until 1956 that the party art bureaucracy intended socialist realism to be primary.

Less than a day after Jiang Feng's speech, the chairman of the Chinese Artists Association and director of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Xu Beihong, died of a stroke. His obituary in People's Daily emphasized his opposition to formalism, his commitment to realism, and his creation of an individual style based on the absorption of Western progressive art and the inheritance of China's excellent national painting tradition,[30] In December, he was lauded by the party's cultural leader, Zhou Yang, in terms that made him a model of the new policies. His work was said to combine high-level technique with deep national characteristics, to perpetuate the realistic tradition of Chinese national painting, and to absorb the realistic creative methods and techniques of Western classical painting.[31]

With Xu's decease, the aged Chinese painter Qi Baishi became the figurehead chairman of the Chinese Artists Association, thus adding a "national artist" in a prominent place on the roster. The vice-chairmen were augmented from two to five. Jiang Feng remained first vice-chairman, but to the figure painter Ye Qianyu were added Liu Kaiqu, director of the academy in Hangzhou; the Belgian-trained oil painter Wu Zuoren, who was Xu Beihong's most prominent disciple; and Cai Ruohong, a revolutionary printmaker and Yan'an-era rival of Jiang Feng. The association offices were located in a building immediately adjacent to the Central Academy (since converted into the school art gallery).

Differentiation in function between the academic institutions and those associated with the CAA ultimately led to greater variety in the kinds of art being practiced and to competing centers of bureaucratic power. Although Jiang Feng, the top leader in this new structure, remained the primary figure in art education, some projects promoted by the CAA seem well beyond the


scope of his interests, if not outright antithetical to his principles. The association's national painting creation subcommittee, for example, was apparently created in response to new policies advocated by Zhou Yang, not because Jiang Feng saw such a need. Similarly, the joint mandate of the CAA's national arts research committee to study both classical Chinese painting and folk art[32] would seem to be a compromise between Jiang Feng's interests and those mandated from above.

Jiang Feng was in 1953 the administrator with the greatest personal influence on Chinese art policy and its implementation. The work to strengthen and expand the CAA through reorganization, however, created a need not for a single leader's authority, but for consensus among all art leaders. Diversity of opinion became, as art developed between 1953 and 1957, factionalism. Jiang Feng immediately began to feel pressure from his old competitor and newly elected fellow CAA vice-chairman, Cai Ruohong. Jiang's policy-setting speech of 1953 was widely disseminated, appearing first in Wenyibao and then, early the next year, in the first issue of the official journal of the CAA, Meishu . This issue also presented an article by Cai Ruohong that attacked many earlier policies, urging the revival of landscape painting, still-life painting, and portrait painting using Western media as well as supporting a broader definition of Chinese ink painting.[33] The extent to which Jiang Feng was personally identified with earlier policies made the criticisms, at least in part, an implicit attack on his leadership.

Jiang Feng dutifully adhered to the language of the party line as articulated in Zhou Yang's September 24 speech, but his ideas for implementation of that line were undoubtedly narrower than many traditional painters liked. Jiang's 1953 analysis of the status of guohua was largely negative, in keeping with the policy shift then under way. He wrote of areas that would be improved by the new policies:

After liberation, it was pointed out that guohua should be improved by beginning with practical things and requiring the description of real people and events. Under this directive the Beijing and Shanghai guohua research associations were established. From the works of some artists, it has been proven possible to use guohua's expressive techniques and tools to describe real life. A fault in the improvement of guohua , first, is that those guohua artists who are enthusiastic about depicting new subject matter but who lack creative experience or descriptive ability are rarely given concrete help or needed encouragement, which adversely affects their enthusiasm for their work. Second, we have failed to offer timely correction to those guohua artists who, in the process of reforming guohua , have an impatience that [leads them to] overlook actual conditions. Third, we have failed to criticize the conservative artistic ideas [that Chinese painting cannot


reflect the new reality]. As a result, many guohua artists have simply stopped painting, or else they use the "paint-by-number" mode to paint so-called new national paintings in which the forms and contents are out of harmony. The die-hard guohua artists who advocate the conservative point of view criticize Chinese paintings that depict new contents, using their failings as an excuse to reject the reform of Chinese painting.[34]

A year later, Jiang issued a much more optimistic report based on progress made during the first year of the new policy.[35] He expressed particular pride that under Communist rule artists had worked hard to popularize their art so that they would be useful members of society. In particular, they produced socially useful and beautiful nianhua, lianhuanhua , and propaganda posters. Of guohua he wrote:

Most guohua [production], which has long been limited to copying the works of the ancients and has lacked the breath of life, has also made progress. Many guohua artists, to escape this bad habit of copying... diligently study modern methods of drawing from life. Especially gratifying is that some old painters have ... made paintings from actual observation, so that works which depict new people, things, and events are more numerous. These works forcefully overthrow the conservative idea that "Chinese painting is unsuited to describing contemporary things" and make a good starting point for inheriting the realistic tradition of our nation's classical painting.[36]

As was customary for such reports, Jiang Feng listed artists who had been particularly successful in fulfilling party requirements. Works by the figure painters Ye Qianyu, Jiang Zhaohe, and Huang Zhou, he reported, were praised by the masses. All three of these artists painted works in the traditional media that had strong Western technical or compositional aspects; two of the three taught at CAFA. Jiang lavished particular praise on landscape sketches in ink by CAFA professors Li Keran and Zhang Ding as examples of the reform of guohua . According to Jiang, Li and Zhang used traditional techniques but drew from life in a scientific manner. The two paintings he singled out were, in fact, much more successful as works of art than many other nominally realistic guohua landscapes of the period. They represented, however, not traditional technique, but a very Western use of the traditional media (fig. 45), as we will discuss in a later section.[37] Jiang, by encouraging innovations in landscape painting, certainly broadened the permissible subject matter; notably, though, he praised no artists who worked in truly traditional styles. Other guohua artists worthy of Jiang's mention were, as in his 1953 speech, the Lingnan


Image not available

Figure 45
Li Keran, West Lake, Hangzhou (Santan
yinyue), 1953, ink on paper.

artist Li Xiongcai and two illustrators, Hu Ruosi and Yin Shoushi. Jiang encouraged Chinese painting, in adherence to party policy, but his definition of the genre, as we have come to expect, included only new Chinese painting.

Art in the Publishing Houses

The year 1953 marked a change in approach for the art publishing houses, just as it did for the rest of the art world, even though the publishers were administratively separate from professional arts organizations. In Shanghai, the art presses were directed by the publishing bureau of the municipal government. The CAA did not directly affect their activities, except as general national policies were concerned.[38] In the fall, given new orders that standards be raised as art assumed peacetime functions, the presses were criticized for not changing with the times and for retaining a wartime mentality. Periodicals whose poor circulation indicated that they had outlived their function, such as Worker ,


Peasant, Soldier Pictorial , published by the government-run East China People's Art Press, ceased publication. Later in the year, a party leader urged that serial picture stories be given a less overtly propagandistic direction by relating them to the national heritage or by basing them on great works of ancient or modern literature.[39]

Lianhuanhua creation groups were criticized for not writing their own stories but instead abridging and illustrating works by screenwriters and novelists. Although such comments were intended to raise the standards of lianhuanhua , the suggestion that groups of artists come up with their own material was rejected by Shanghai arts administrators, who remained cautious following attacks in 1951 on the contents of some Shanghai serial picture books.[40] The Beijing People's Art Press established a lianhuanhua captions research group in 1953 or 1954.[41] The texts of the new lianhuanhua thereafter usually followed the story line of approved works of literature or cinema—whose political messages were thereby publicized to a wider public—and were prepared by professional text editors. To minimize conflicts between editors and artists, between 1954 and 1957 artists in Shanghai served in six-month rotations as art editors.[42]

In about 1954, efforts were made to diversify subject matter. A People's Daily editorial reportedly published in the summer of 1954 urged cadres to improve their cultural knowledge and continue China's cultural tradition.[43]Lianhuanhua publishers responded with large numbers of historical narratives, stories taken from classical Chinese literature, myths, and folktales. Because older artists were often more proficient at illustrating these genres, the ranks of successful lianhuanhua artists were expanded to include them. The staff at New Art Press in Shanghai, to cite one example, was reorganized into four specialized work groups: realistic subjects, children's literature, translated literature, and stories requiring antique costumes. Sales of the latter were particularly good. Monkey Makes Havoc in Heaven , taken from the Ming novel Journey to the West , sold over a million copies.

Greater efforts were made during this period to reorganize private publishers as well. They were gradually incorporated into New Art Press. By 1955, New Art employed 126 artists and text editors and published an average of ten new lianhuanhua per week. On December 31, 1955, New Art and Shanghai People's Art Publishing House were combined. The private publishers ceased to exist.[44]

In the fall of 1955 People's Daily , the mouthpiece of the CCP, printed an editorial urging greater publishing freedom.[45] The Shanghai municipal publishing system responded to this good news as bureaucracies are prone to do: it raised the number of lianhuanhua the publishers were required to produce.

The People's Daily editorial may have heralded the conclusion to a year-long investigation by the Publishing General Bureau (Chuban zongshu ) of the


Ministry of Culture into "pornographic" literature. Efforts to expand the campaign to other genres were blocked by Liu Shaoqi.[46] As is often the case in China, the published call for relaxation served not as a prologue but as an epilogue. A four-year period of relative tranquillity for artists had followed the 1951 literary and arts rectification campaign. In 1955 and 1956, however, attacks were launched on lianhuanhua publishers for printing too many stories featuring antique costumes, demons, and ghosts. Li Lu, then an administrator at New Art, believes that such criticisms were unjustified; in his estimate, antique-costume stories made up only about 10 percent of his publication list.[47] Rather, he attributes the movement against traditional-style lianhuanhua to the October 1955 meeting of the Sixth Plenum of the Seventh Central Committee, which criticized rightist tendencies.[48] In any event, 1955 saw several serious political campaigns, including the posthumous castigation of State Planning Commission chairman Gao Gang, who reportedly died by his own hand after being purged from government. A campaign against the writer Hu Feng, who was stripped of all his official positions in May, followed. The political movement expanded far beyond Hu Feng and his complaints about Marxist control of culture, ultimately putting pressure on all intellectuals and artists.[49]

The cultural climate improved somewhat in 1956, with the announcement of the Hundred Flowers Movement. By that time, all Shanghai lianhuanhua artists and text editors were concentrated at a single press, Shanghai People's Art Publishing. Zhao Hongben and Gu Bingxin directed the drafting studio (called the "serial picture creation room"); Li Lu directed the text editing section. Some artists remember that the atmosphere was extremely lively, with old scholars working side by side with younger artists. Fees for completed works were raised, and even old guohua artists from outside the firm, such as Liu Haisu, Wu Hufan, and He Tianjian, were commissioned to make traditional paintings and calligraphy for lianhuanhua covers.[50] The biggest project of 1956 was a multivolume edition of Tales of the Three Kingdoms , a novel of the Ming dynasty that had been popular in lianhuanhua form in the preliberation period.

The first national lianhuanhua exhibition was not held until 1963, when prizes were awarded by the Ministry of Culture for works produced since 1949. Cheng Shifa of the Shanghai People's Art Press won a second prize for his 1956 guohua illustrations to Lu Xun's short story "Kong Yiji" (fig. 46). His work is characteristic of the new Shanghai guohua figure painting, with Western conventions of depicting spatial recession, gesture, and the human form being combined with sophisticated Chinese effects of line and wash. The psychological state of the characters is explored in an almost cinematic way. Cheng Shifa was strongly influenced by his study of the figure painters Ren Yi, of the late nineteenth century, and Chen Hongshou, of the seventeenth century. Though stylistically quite different, both earlier artists made individualistic and


Image not available

Figure 46
Cheng Shifa, illustration for Kong Yiji,
after a short story by Lu Xun, 1956,
lianhuanhua, ink and color on paper.


Image not available

Figure 47 (left and right)
Ding Bingzeng and Han Heping, illustrations
for Railroad Guerrillas, 1956-1958,
vol. 4, lianhuanhua, ink on paper,
16.5 cm × 21.5 cm.

expressive use of outlines. The richness of Cheng Shifa's ink-and-color variations is characteristic of preliberation Shanghai guohua and the tradition of Ren Yi; his outline technique, influenced by but not derived from that of Chen Hongshou, is an innovation that shaped his exuberant personal style. He strongly influenced younger figure painters and illustrators in Shanghai.

The lianhuanhua of greatest aesthetic interest and, according to Li Lu, of greatest appeal to readers were those executed with ink outlines. Most such works were produced with Chinese brush and ink on sturdy Western-style drawing paper. Visually they shared aesthetic qualities with traditional Chinese woodcut illustrations and figure paintings; as a result, they were easily accepted by readers. The outline technique had practical advantages as well. Because most lianhuanhua were printed very cheaply and very poorly, the subtleties of pencil drawing were completely lost in the production process, whereas black ink lines retained much of their effectiveness.[51]


One of the most famous outline-style lianhuanhua of the mid-fifties was Railroad Guerrillas , a ten-volume war story about workers who fought against the Japanese in Shandong (fig. 47). Drawn by Ding Bingzeng and Han Heping, two graduates of the East China campus of CAFA who worked at Shanghai People's Art Press, the work won a first prize in the 1963 exhibition. The subject has little appeal to a viewer uninterested in combat stories, but the high-quality draftsmanship is typical of the new Shanghai lianhuanhua .

The most notable aspect of Railroad Guerrillas and of the best of subsequent Shanghai publications can be appreciated only if each volume, usually about one hundred pictures, is taken as a whole. Compositions change dramatically from page to page. The same interior may be depicted from every corner of the room, from above, from near and far. The cleverly varied viewpoints may have been inspired by cinematography (many lianhuanhua stories of the period did appear as movies); in any event, the artists, unhindered by the technological or logistical limitations of the movie medium, used such techniques to extraordinary effect. In both interior and exterior scenes, moreover, textured areas of grass, thatch, furnishings, or fabric contrast elegantly with eloquent expanses of blank paper (fig. 47, left); battle scenes combine Soviet-style figure drawing with landscape conventions reminiscent of Ming-dynasty illustrated


romances (fig. 47, right). It could be argued that in the lianhuanhua genre the inherent contradictions of Communist art policy, such as popularization versus high artistic standards or socialist realism versus native traditions, were most successfully resolved.

The Academies, 1953-1957

The party's shift in goals from popularization to raising standards was implemented in the art academies beginning in 1952 and 1953. Over the next several years art instruction became more specialized, following Soviet models. In October 1952, during a national reorganization of institutions of higher learning, CAFA's three specialties, painting, sculpture, and applied art, became independent departments. The applied art department was expanded with the transfer of the Hangzhou applied art specialists to the Beijing academy. Simultaneously, Chinese administrators began to replace Yan'an teaching methods with those practiced in the USSR.

In the pre-1949 period, the Hangzhou academy had separated Western painting and Chinese painting; at both the Hangzhou and Beijing campuses of CAFA between 1949 and 1953, oil painting, Chinese painting, printmaking, and such other activities as nianhua all fell into a general painting category. In 1953, however, as part of the national move to train more professional artists, to regularize academic curricula, and to raise artistic standards, the painting department at CAFA was broken into three: a new oil painting department, chaired by Ai Zhongxin; a new native painting department (called the color-and-ink painting [caimohua ] department), headed by Ye Qianyu;[52] and, the result of a special request made by Jiang Feng in a 1953 meeting with Hu Qiaomu, a printmaking department. Yan Han served as chairman during the last department's formation, but when he was transferred to the newly established creation section of the CAA at the end of 1953 Li Hua took over.[53] In addition, the course of study at the academy was changed back to the pre-liberation standard of five years.

The East China campus, left with only painting and sculpture specialties in 1952, similarly split its painting department into three groups in 1954. They were formally established as departments in 1955, with Zhu Jinlou, Li Binghong, and Zhang Yangxi serving as chairmen of the color-and-ink painting, oil painting, and printmaking departments, respectively. The three-year curriculum was lengthened to five years in 1953.[54]

Professional artistic training for young people was fostered by the establishment of a modified Soviet-style middle school (zhongxue ) system (comprising both the junior high and high school years) at both CAFA and the East


China campus in September 1953.[55] The first director of the school at CAFA was Ding Jingwen, an administrator who served as one of Mao's bodyguards at Yan'an. According to Ding, the Soviet middle schools offered six years of specialized training before college. The Chinese, however, began with a four-year program. The full six-year Soviet system was tried for just one class enrolled between 1956 and 1962; it was abandoned, partly because caring for children on a college campus proved difficult.[56] Quite likely the opposition to specialization that marked the post-1957 period was an equally important factor. By 1955, there were six major art colleges in China: the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, the East China campus of CAFA in Hangzhou, the Northeast Art Academy in Shenyang, the Southwest Art Academy in Chongqing, the South-Central Art Academy in Wuhan, and the Northwest Arts Academy in Xi'an. All had middle schools.[57] Students attended these schools, which were boarding schools, for four to six years, and most went to college at one of the art academies. Some students from the 1956 entering class were educated from junior high through graduate school at CAFA, spending more than a decade on the same campus pursuing the formal study of art.[58]

During the 1953-1957 period, efforts were divided between research on traditional art and mastering the socialist art of the USSR. Several research institutes were established at CAFA to carry out Ministry of Culture policies regarding national art. Study of the history, theory, and practice of national painting, for example, was conducted at the Painting Research Center (Huihua yanjiu suo ), founded in 1953. Its director was Huang Binhong, an elderly and well-respected landscape painter and art history scholar on the staff at the Hangzhou academy. Vice-directors of the center were Wang Zhaowen and Wang Manshi. After Huang's death in 1955, Wang Zhaowen assumed the directorship.[59] Many well-known painters in traditional media, such as Pan Tianshou and Fu Baoshi (see figs. 62 and 72), were invited to participate in research activities. The institute's name was changed to National Art Research Center (Minzu meishu yanjiu suo ) in 1954. Despite subsequent formal name changes, it is generally referred to simply as the Art Research Center (Meiyan suo ). Significantly for the development of Chinese painting, an administrative division separated the teachers of caimohua at CAFA, who were trained primarily in Western techniques, from the researchers, most of whom were well grounded in traditional painting. As a consequence, graduates of CAFA—the young elite of the art world—were schooled in European or in new synthetic styles rather than in traditional styles alone and so perpetuated their teachers' Western orientation.

The Art Research Center would be removed from CAFA administration in 1959 as part of the dismemberment of Jiang Feng's power base following the Anti-Rightist campaign. Although it was returned to CAFA in 1961,[60] in


the post—Cultural Revolution period it has been administered directly by the Chinese Arts Research Institute of the Ministry of Culture.[61]

A second and smaller research group, the Art Theory Research Center, was founded in June 1954. Unlike the Art Research Center, this institute, directed by Xu Xingzhi, came to play an integral role in CAFA's academic activities. In 1956 it became the art history department of CAFA, accepting its first class of undergraduates in September 1957.[62] Jiang Feng held a faculty appointment in the new department.[63] Although the East China campus had a smaller research section, its national art research center, directed by Pan Tianshou, succeeded in assembling an important collection of antique paintings for use in instruction.[64]

CAFA sponsored many activities to support the development of Soviet-style art during the mid-1950s. As early as 1952, the East China campus conducted an exchange of student drawings with Soviet academies. Soon after, the school published a summary of dialogues on teaching by the nineteenth-century Russian art educator Pavel Petrovich Chistiakov (1832-1919), and an introduction to his drawing system. Chistiakov's emphasis, according to Chinese commentators, was objectivity and "restoring what is seen by the ordinary man." Practically, this meant a systematic study of the planes observable in three-dimensional objects, learning to draw five tonalities of light and dark, and ability to reproduce an object on paper accurately. The Chistiakov system, considered scientific, systematic, and successful at raising standards, was adopted as the only correct method of teaching drawing fundamentals.[65] In July 1955, a national conference on the instruction of drawing was held at CAFA by the Ministry of Culture, at which fifty faculty members from twenty-two institutions underwent further training in the Soviet drawing system. At the conclusion of the conference, an administrative order was issued that affirmed the value of Chistiakov's didactic method. This academic mode of drawing thus became the core of the Chinese art curriculum.

CAFA was the site of a national conference on the instruction of oil painting a year later. Vice-Minister of Culture Liu Zhiming urged the forty participants to raise standards, create a national style, and learn Western methods. The teachers in attendance came from the seven national art colleges, eight normal schools, and two drama schools that taught oil painting.[66] The CAFA color-and-ink painting department soon attempted to prove that Russian drawing and Chinese painting were compatible,[67] an intellectual feat made possible only by extreme selectivity in the use of examples.

In the summer of 1956, specialization was further enhanced as the applied art department of CAFA became an independent national art college under the administration of the Ministry of Light Industry. It was called the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts (Zhongyang gongyi meishu xueyuan , hereafter


CAAC).[68] Henceforth, CAFA taught exclusively painting, printmaking, and sculpture.


The large class that graduated from CAFA in 1953 included a few students left over from the Beiping Art Academy as well as the first group of artists to be educated entirely under the Communist administration. During their four years at CAFA, the curriculum in painting consisted of drawing, watercolor painting, design, lianhuanhua, nianhua , propaganda painting, and a little oil painting.[69] With popularization the goal of these students' education, they presented new nianhua in the party-mandated outline-and-color mode as their graduation work. One, by Zhan Jianjun, was reproduced in People's Daily ;[70] others, including a collaborative work by Fu Zhigui and Jin Shangyi, appeared in Meishu .[71] By the time the first class finished, however, the new emphasis on specialization dominated the academy, and the most promising graduates were retained for more advanced technical training.

The newly established color-and-ink painting departments of the national art academies were mandated to raise standards in the practice of Chinese painting. Perhaps more important, they were the laboratory in which the re-molding of guohua occurred. What was to be the relationship between new contents and national forms? Solutions varied slightly from school to school, but all promoted the development of guohua figure painting rather than the traditional genres of landscape and bird-and-flower painting. Many of the art academy graduates who were most talented in Western academic drawing were assigned to further study in caimohua , thus setting young artists with sound Western training and a great enthusiasm for oil painting to work in the traditional media. Among those who graduated in 1953 and went on to study and teach color-and-ink painting were, at Hangzhou, Fang Zengxian and Zhou Changgu and, at Beijing, Zhan Jianjun.[72]

In Beijing, the most important figure painting professors of the time were Ye Qianyu and Jiang Zhaohe, both retained from Xu Beihong's Beiping Arts College. As we have seen, Ye's meticulous outline-and-color picture in praise of ethnic harmony, May All the Nationalities Unite (fig. 26),[73] was praised by Jiang Feng in his 1953 speech; but Ye was best known within the academy for his new guohua style based on quick, outline brush strokes. His 1956 illustrations for the Mao Dun story "Midnight" use line in a particularly lively way (fig. 48).

Jiang Zhaohe painted in a more realistic manner and seems to have had a greater stylistic influence on the academy's guohua students. He was well known before 1949 for his penetrating images of ordinary people and for his


Image not available

Figure 48
Ye Qianyu, illustration for Midnight,
after a short story by Mao Dun, ca.


Image not available

Figure 49
Jiang Zhaohe, Selling Thread, 1937, ink
on paper, 84.5 cm × 47 cm.

monumental work of social commentary Refugees (see fig. 12). His Selling Thread of 1937 (fig. 49) is a poignant portrait of a small boy from an impoverished family peddling on the street. Jiang's preliberation work employs ink in a very Western way; in reproduction, one might almost think that the images were ink drawings rather than paintings on Chinese paper. The faces of his unfortunate but intensely human subjects are skillfully modeled with ink and color, their hollowed features testifying powerfully to their misfortunes. The drab clothing and somber tonality of the painting emphasize the depressing theme.

After 1949 Jiang began painting cheerful pictures, most of which are far less powerful than his preliberation pieces. He slightly increased his use of color, thus losing the subtle moods of his earlier tonalities. The contented characters of his later work may catch the eye, but they fail to engage the viewer's


emotions. Plump babies, the most auspicious of Chinese folk symbols, appear frequently in his post-1949 paintings, perhaps intended to evoke the birth of a new age.

Even so, Jiang was probably the most important influence on the development of the new Chinese figure painting in Beijing. One stylistic contribution he made to the new art can be seen in the strong sense of volume with which he imbued his figures. Jiang's Telling Uncle Soldier My Grades of 1953 (fig. 50), which depicts a little girl writing a letter to a soldier on the Korean front, is a typical example. As though seeking to emphasize the three-dimensionality of his characters, he often depicted them in strongly foreshortened or otherwise difficult perspective views. He used dark strokes of dry ink to model such forms, further increasing their tangibility, but often set them against a blank background, as though to emphasize their physical presence on the paper. Exposed skin was usually carefully modeled with ink and flesh tones.

Jiang was technically very skilled in guohua , for painting in ink on absorbent Chinese paper requires a deft hand; nevertheless, both the postures and the modeling techniques he used were unprecedented in the Chinese tradition. Indeed, Jiang's paintings might serve as proof that painting in the traditional Chinese medium could take an extremely Westernized form yet still retain traditional compositional conventions. His retention of black outlines, rather than switching to pure color modeling, was undoubtedly a conscious link with China's artistic past, as was his habit of setting figures against a flat, featureless background.

Because of the extremely conventionalized nature of traditional Chinese figure painting, widespread adoption of Jiang's more naturalistic approach would be ground-breaking. He created with the guohua medium naturalistic effects that others might achieve only with charcoal and pencil. Students who emulated his style, with its heavy chiaroscuro, arrived at denser and possibly more Western-looking results than did students at the other major figure painting center, Hangzhou. The work of Jiang Zhaohe and his CAFA pupils forms the basis of much of modern Chinese figure painting.

Developments at the East China branch of CAFA in Hangzhou were slightly different because of the school's preliberation staffing and its proximity to Shanghai. Zhu Jinlou, administrator of the newly founded caimohua department, was directed by academy officials to emphasize figure painting in the outline technique and skill at drawing from life.[74] The traditional subjects of birds-and-flowers and landscapes, the traditional xieyi technique, and the traditional didactic method of copying old paintings were to be deemphasized. At first Zhu had difficulties promoting figure painting, since the majority of the old faculty were bird-and-flower painters who specialized in the loose, free xieyi style. One old figure painting instructor was eventually hired, but he never learned to depict modern subject matter. Zhu, in consultation with


Image not available

Figure 50
Jiang Zhaohe, Telling Uncle Soldier My
Grades, 1953, ink and color on paper,
78.6 cm × 56 cm, Chinese National Art


Jiang Feng, therefore decided to produce his own figure painting instructors by retraining academy graduates. Between 1953 and 1955, thirty-nine graduates of the East China campus were kept on as instructors in the caimohua department, where they set about drawing modern figures from life with Chinese tools. As a result of exposure to the work of Pan Tianshou and other masters of the Shanghai school of bird-and-flower painting, the young teachers Fang Zengxian, Zhou Changgu, Song Zhongyuan, and Li Zhenjian were familiar with the rich effects possible with monochromatic ink. They began drawing Western-style figure sketches in which wide ink lines and richly varied ink textures were prominent, thus creating a new style that replaced the outline-and-color mode of figure painting practiced between 1949 and 1952. Their subjects and compositions were usually simple, but they sought the ideal of the time, a Soviet concept translated as the dianxing , or "typical," in developing them. In this way the young Hangzhou artists developed a successful new movement, which came to be referred to as the Zhe school of figure painting and which strongly influenced subsequent Chinese painting (fig. 51).

Fang Zengxian estimates that by the mid-1950s, half the caimohua students in Hangzhou were concentrating on figure painting. The new Chinese figure painting, which used Chinese materials to depict revolutionary subjects, so successfully combined the dialectics of Mao Zedong's cultural theories that it survived virtually all subsequent political movements, including the Cultural Revolution. The first class trained by the new teaching method included Li Shan and Liu Wenxi,[75] both of whom became quite prominent during the 1960s and 1970s.

Although Fang Zengxian admits to having studied paintings by Jiang Zhaohe in his efforts to create a new figure style, he feels that the absence of influential figure painters in Hangzhou gave him and his colleagues a creative freedom most artists of the 1950s lacked. The famous bird-and-flower painter Pan Tianshou freely expressed his largely negative opinions of their project. In his view, the new figure paintings were not guohua , and he rejected the heavy use of shading to create effects of volume and chiaroscuro. Perhaps in response to his criticism, the Hangzhou artists moved toward a simplified compositional mode in which expressive lines were emphasized and shading was reduced. For the most part, however, the young artists were unrestrained by older teachers as they worked to develop the new Zhejiang painting style. Antipathy to socialist realism on the part of respected senior professors such as Pan Tianshou segregated the new from the old and gave those who practiced the new art a sense of creative freedom the traditional master-pupil relationship might have hindered.

According to Fang Zengxian, who taught at Hangzhou from 1953 until the Cultural Revolution, the method he and his young colleagues developed to teach Hangzhou students consisted of several elements. First, students were


Image not available

Figure 51
Fang Zengxian, Every Grain Is Hard
Work, 1955, ink and color on paper,
105.6 cm × 65.2 cm, Chinese National
Art Gallery.


Image not available

Figure 52
Zhou Changgu, Two Lambs, 1954, ink
and color on paper, 79.3 cm × 39.3 cm,
Chinese National Art Gallery.

trained in the structure of the human form through drawing. That is, the overall configuration of the subject was emphasized, rather than effects of light and shade, texture, or volume. A second crucial skill to be practiced was sketching from memory, for ink, unlike charcoal or pencil, could not be removed if a stroke was incorrectly placed. Third, mastery of the ink line was necessary. Fang believes that reduction of chiaroscuro to a bare minimum was the strength of the Hangzhou figure painting style, as best exemplified in the work of Zhou Changgu (fig. 52).[76]

The new figure painters studied anatomy, perspective, and other representational principles common to all realist or socialist realist artists. At the same


time, their medium, ink on absorbent Chinese paper, presented technical challenges not encountered in most Western media. Guohua figure painters in the new style thus borrowed useful techniques from the Chinese tradition. Most contemporary Chinese figure painters assert that the new guohua has a strong traditional basis, but it is clear that their art synthesizes Soviet and Chinese techniques.

One's evaluation of the relationship between this new art and traditional painting depends on one's starting point. In comparison to Dong Xiwen's oil painting The Founding of the Nation (fig. 29), for example, Zhou Changgu's Two Lambs of 1954 (fig. 52) is extremely Chinese in feeling. The vertical format, the flat white background, the moist strokes of ink, and even the sweetness of the Tibetan girl are all qualities that may be found in Chinese painting of earlier eras. However, the pensive, portraitlike rendering of the face, the suggestion of spatial recession, and the new theme of contented national minorities are all very much in tune with contemporary official art.

Later criticisms of the pre-1953 art academy curriculum indicate that guohua instruction was limited to the rather mechanical techniques of outline and opaque-color painting. Expansion of the technical vocabulary to include the more spontaneous ink effects associated with xieyi painting, such as that practiced by Qi Baishi, was an important step toward reviving traditional painting. Yet artists with a traditional point of view would agree with Pan Tianshou that the Hangzhou figure painting did not look like guohua . Not only was its imagery new, but the young artists often lacked subtlety in their handling of ink and color.

The emphasis on new figure painting continued at CAFA until 1957. Yao Youxin, trained as a teenager in Shanghai to draw comic books, began his undergraduate course at the East China campus of CAFA in 1954. His drawing skills were particularly highly developed as a result of his work for the Shanghai publishing industry. Much to his distress, however, he was assigned in his sophomore year to the caimohua department rather than to the oil painting department, a decision he blamed, at the time, on Jiang Feng and his policies of remolding guohua .[77]

The change in Chinese brushwork as a result of the guohua reforms of the 1950s is of fundamental importance to the history of Chinese art. Not only in figure painting, but also in landscape painting, emphasis on studying nature rather than the old masters led to the elimination of all traditional techniques not immediately useful for naturalistic description. Energetic young artists such as Zhou and Fang, who did not undergo the long apprenticeship considered a critical part of the guohua tradition, became the most influential guohua instructors in the academy. As a result, many traditional techniques were not taught, and gradually, over the course of succeeding generations, they have passed out of the living vocabulary of Chinese painting.


Image not available

Figure 53
Shi Lu, Beyond the Great Wall, 1954,
ink and color on paper, 916.6 cm ×
130 cm, Chinese National Art Gallery.

Nevertheless, Zhou Changgu and Fang Zengxian did make a great contribution in the context of their time. In contrast to Shi Lu's Beyond the Great Wall (fig. 53), which attempts to recreate a socialist realist oil painting in ink on paper, Zhou's Two Lambs and, to a lesser degree, Fang's Every Grain Is Hard Work (fig. 51) are fresh and new. Artists of the Soviet bloc apparently agreed with this evaluation, for Chinese works in this new style began winning awards at international exhibitions. Zhou, for example, won first prize in the 1955 Moscow International Youth Show for his Two Lambs .[78] Fang reports that his Every Grain was praised by a visiting Russian sculptor; and a student work by Yao Youxin was reproduced in a major Soviet pictorial magazine.[79]

The new guohua thus overcame two of the three obstacles thought to block development of the old: it was international and it depicted the new society. A third objection, that it was unsuitable to large public works, may have been behind the horizontal format and awkward Western perspective of Shi Lu's Beyond the Great Wall , which we will discuss in more detail later. In-


deed, although the Hangzhou figure painters made guohua more suitable for public display by the simplification of their compositions, their use of ink still rewarded a more intimate inspection. Production of truly monumental guohua lay in the future.

The emphasis on a Western basis for the new guohua was not limited to the college level. The four-to-six-year art middle school curriculum concentrated heavily on realistic drawing as part of classical academic training. Instruction began with the Chistiakov drawing method, with students moving systematically from pencil renderings of cubes and spheres to drawing plaster busts and finally live models. In drawing the human form, a student began by drawing the head alone, advanced to half-length figures with visible hands, and finally graduated to the full-length format. Some of the artists who went through the middle school's six-year course became guohua artists after their graduation in 1962, providing further impetus for the systematic reform of guohua .[80]

Although Soviet socialist realist images and forms made up the core of guohua instruction in the 1950s, the academies did not entirely neglect the national heritage. Study of old painting was revived, but in a new form. In the past, landscape scroll paintings by famous masters had dominated art historical evaluations and scholarship. Acquisitions of private art collections by the postliberation academies permitted students to view scroll paintings, yet an even more highly regarded new means of study was to make expeditions to copy ancient mural paintings. We have mentioned in an earlier chapter the fascination that artists of the 1940s, especially Dong Xiwen, showed for the Dunhuang mural paintings. The study of old art by the academy caimohua artists of the 1950s was very different from that of late imperial China. Not only was their attitude toward the past different, as Ai Qing made clear, but they also adopted a new set of models. The young caimohua painters concentrated their efforts on copying figure paintings, not landscape scrolls, and were especially drawn to temple murals by anonymous or little-known artisans. This new practice was widely publicized in art journals of the period, presumably to encourage its wider adoption.

One notable excursion was a six-month trip conducted jointly by CAFA and the East China campus in 1954. The trip leaders were Ye Qianyu from Beijing and Jin Lang from Hangzhou, and Fang Zengxian, Zhou Changgu, and Zhan Jianjun were among the participants. In addition to copying murals, the ten faculty members and students used national painting methods to draw from life.[81] Indeed, such trips became a standard part of the curriculum and remained so into the 1980s. The theoretical justification for the new emphasis on mural painting was Marxist—it represented the art of the common people, not of the elite—and technical—it improved much-needed skills in the rendering of figures. Initial interest in temple murals predated Communist rule, as we


have seen, and may have been spurred by knowledge of Western art. One important element of the popularity is stylistic. While it is inappropriate to push the parallel between Picasso and Dong Xiwen any farther than we did in chapter 2, the affinities between primitive art and modern art undoubtedly contributed to the aesthetic appeal that ancient mural painting had for modern Chinese artists. A second element is format. In Europe, religious murals such as Michelangelo's Sistine ceiling or Leonardo's Last Supper have been hailed as some of the greatest masterpieces of world culture. In China, on the contrary, mural painters were of little consequence to historians of art. Once they became aware of the history of Western mural painting, Chinese artists seeking to redefine their tradition in modern terms came to question whether the scholarly neglect of Chinese religious murals was justified. Marxism provided a clear answer. Mural painting, from which religious meaning had now been stripped by the passage of time, was believed to have been created by anonymous folk artists and was thus ideologically superior to the art of the elites. After 1949, as a result, mural painting was largely substituted for literati landscape painting as the approved model for Chinese painters. Academic study of Chinese painting, even when it emphasized "the national tradition," was based on a tradition that had been dramatically redefined.

Soviet-Style Oil Painting

In one of his last meetings with artists of the People's Liberation Army before they moved into Beijing, Jiang Feng is reported to have celebrated the Communist victory with the words "Now we can paint oil paintings!"[82] Such enthusiasm was a clear indication that Jiang and the party intended to emulate the Soviet model in rebuilding China. As Jiang Feng himself complained in a 1952 article written for the arts and literature rectification campaign, oil painting and sculpture were the only media students at the art academies wished to master.[83]

Many factors lay behind the support for painting in this European form. As Mayching Kao's study of art education in republican China shows, modern academies concentrated on Western art as early as the late Qing dynasty. The presumption of many idealistic intellectuals was that Western media were better suited to modern, international art, or, in the language of the May Fourth Movement, to art that was more scientific.

Influential critics introduced several European oil painters' works to the Chinese art world in 1954. Jiang Feng wrote a laudatory essay on Goya; Li Hua, a printmaker and critic at the Central Academy, praised the works of Delacroix.[84] Yet the increasing technical cooperation between the USSR and China after 1950 meant that Russian and Soviet oil painting would become a major model of progressive art for the new society.


Between 1952 and 1956, researchers at the East China campus published eighty books containing translations, analyses, or surveys of Soviet art and art theory.[85]Meishu zuotan (Art Seminar), a journal published beginning in 1950 by the school's research section, and Meishu ziliao (Art Material), published beginning in 1952 by the Art Theory Teaching and Research Center, printed similar articles.[86] Beginning in January 1954, with its premier issue, the official art journal Meishu published roughly one article a month by a Soviet critic or art theorist. The first of these justified, in rather circuitous fashion, the exaggeration that we associate with socialist realism: the "typical" is defined as

not only the frequently seen things but those with substance which most completely and most keenly express a certain social power. According to Marxist-Leninism, the typical is not a sort of statistical average. The typical is the same as the substance of a certain socio-historical phenomenon; it is not simply the most common, frequently occurring, and ordinary phenomenon. Intentional exaggeration or emphasis on a phenomenon does not exclude the typical; it is a more complete exploration of it.... The question of the typical is under all circumstances a political question.[87]

The Soviet essay refines and reinforces the tenets of Mao Zedong's theories by defining socialist realist painting as an artificial construction made to convey a particular political idea. The theoretical emphasis on the typical and on political content would remain at the core of Chinese socialist realism.

The influence of Soviet art increased dramatically once important art leaders gained personal experience of the Soviet Union and its art. Yan Han had visited the USSR as early as 1950[88] and at least six other faculty from the East China campus of CAFA went to Moscow over the next few years.[89] A delegation of high-ranking art leaders, including Jiang Feng and Cai Ruohong, spent fifty days in Russia during the spring of 1954. Jiang Feng's report praises the beauty of the physical environment of Soviet cities and urges greater attention on the part of Chinese leaders to the applied arts and to architecture.[90] In particular, he noticed that good-quality oil paintings were to be found in all public and private buildings. They were so widespread as to be comparable to Chinese nianhua . Besides their startling number, Jiang was also surprised by their variety. Subjects included government leaders, revolutionary history, genre paintings, landscapes, still lifes, and copies of classical Russian paintings of earlier eras. Jiang's revelation that oil painting could be as popular as nianhua undoubtedly justified his encouragement of Soviet-style oil painting in the art academies.

By November 1954, an exhibition of Soviet art and culture had been held in Beijing. The catalogue proclaimed, in prose that was undoubtedly translated


into Chinese from the Russian, "Soviet art has matured by overcoming vestiges of formalism and naturalism; it has developed on the basis of realism. The Soviet Communist party is deeply concerned with ... helping artists raise their ideological and creative levels." This hard-line defense of realism was accompanied by a plea for creativity: "The Communist party emphasizes: socialist realism should not be narrowly or dogmatically understood, and artistic questions cannot be judged by a uniform criterion. In the realm of art we must guarantee breadth for individual creation, for individual tendencies, and for the artists' thoughts and imaginations."[91]

Chinese writers such as the oil painter Ai Zhongxin, who had been appointed to the Beiping Arts Academy by Xu Beihong, expressed immoderate enthusiasm for Soviet art in his review of the 1954 exhibition: "Soviet art is a new stage in the development of the art of all mankind. Oil painting, like all Soviet art, has had enormous achievements."[92] He likewise praised Soviet "thematic" paintings (zhutixing huihua ) and remarked on the richness of Soviet subject matter. Ai Zhongxin is in fact typical of Chinese writers of his time in his comments on the variety of subjects to be found within Soviet socialist realism. Such views not only recognize the mild thaw in Soviet art after Stalin, but also indicate the impoverished state of Chinese art in the period.

Adoption of the Soviet model resolved conflicts within China's art world between art professors who had previously advocated styles as dissimilar as academic realism, impressionism, Fauvism, and cubism. Although the virtues of Western art were widely accepted before liberation, adoption of Soviet definitions of oil painting after 1949 left little room for stylistic or conceptual dispute. The contending modernist schools were all incorrect. Academic painting of the nineteenth century was to be the primary model henceforth.

The training of young Chinese oil painters by Soviet teachers constituted the most important element in the transformation of Chinese oil painting in the 1950s. Chinese arts administrators had been visiting the Soviet Union since 1950, and they all returned with a detailed report of things to be learned from the Soviet model. Then, between 1953 and 1956, some two dozen young professional artists affiliated with academic institutions were sent for a six-year course in oil painting at the Repin Art Academy in Leningrad.[93] The first to return home with newly gained expertise was CAFA professor Luo Gongliu, a Yan'an veteran, who had gone to Leningrad on a special three-year course (1955-1958) for faculty members. His colleague at CAFA Wu Biduan went to Russia in 1956, returning in 1959 with the first group of students. Meanwhile, the artists' colleagues at home were eager to learn about Soviet art through their letters and imported books.

Among the students who were sent to the Repin Art Academy were, in the first group, Li Tianxiang, a 1950 graduate of CAFA, and Chen Zunsan, of


Image not available

Figure 54
Quan Shanshi, Study of a Woman,
ca. 1956, oil on canvas, collection of
the artist.

Liaoning. The 1954 group included Lin Gang, a young professor at CAFA, and two artists from CAFA's East China campus, Quan Shanshi and Xiao Feng. In 1955 Deng Shu, who had attained considerable recognition for her nianhua in the early 1950s, was dispatched. Li Jun, a young teacher at Beijing Normal University, went to Leningrad as part of the last group, in 1956. In general, students chosen to study in the USSR had impeccable party credentials and suitable family backgrounds. Talented artists from capitalist or landlord families were largely excluded in favor of children of workers, peasants, and soldiers. A student work by Quan Shanshi is typical of the style the artists brought hack from the USSR (fig. 54). The paint is applied in blunt, painterly strokes, with great concern for rendering volume and perspective.

While study abroad was extremely important, of equal or perhaps greater significance to the development of Chinese oil painting was the arrival in Beijing of a Soviet portrait painter, Konstantin M. Maksimov (b. 1913), on February 19, 1955. The first artist sent by the Soviet government to China, he was appointed by the Ministry of Culture to serve as a consultant to the oil painting department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. He was welcomed enthu-


siastically by Jiang Feng: "Comrade Maksimov's arrival in China enables us to directly and systematically study the advanced artistic experience of the USSR. We believe that under Maksimov's direction our art education work and our training of oil painting teachers will bring forth extraordinarily important and valuable contributions."[94]

The Ministry of Culture and CAFA organized a two-year postgraduate course in which Maksimov trained artists and art educators in Soviet academic oil painting. National competition for admission to the class was fierce; finally, after concerns for geographic and vocational balance had been considered, about twenty young art professionals—including artists from the national art academies, the normal colleges, the People's Liberation Army, and the Shanghai publishing industry—were selected. In one case, that of Zhan Jianjun, CAFA's policy of sacrificing talented young artists to the reform of Chinese painting was reversed. Zhan, who was just completing his graduate studies in caimohua , was rescued through his admission to the Russian expert's oil painting class. Under the circumstances, improving oil painting may have been considered more important than the problem of traditional art.

Other artists from CAFA included Zhan's classmates Jin Shangyi and Hou Yimin, and three more, Feng Fasi, Zhang Wenxin, and Shang Husheng, reportedly attended only part of the course. From the People's Liberation Army came Gao Hong and He Kongde. From the academy in Hangzhou came Wang Dewei, Wang Chengyi, Yu Changgong, and, the following year, the French-trained Wang Liuqiu, who entered as an irregular student. Others included Ren Mengzhang, from the Lu Xun Academy of Arts in Shenyang; Wang Xuzhu and Yuan Hao, from the academy in Wuhan; Wei Chuanyi, from the academy in Sichuan; Zhan Beixin, from the academy in Xi'an; Lu Guoying, from the Nanjing College of Arts; Wu Dezu, from the People's Art Press Creation Studio in Beijing; and Qin Zheng, from Tianjin.[95] Yu Yunjie, who worked at a publishing firm in Shanghai, was added as a special student in 1956, the only representative of his city.

Maksimov's oil painting training class had a profound effect on both the art and the careers of the twenty students who were formally enrolled. From the time of their 1957 graduation exhibition, which was attended by Zhu De and was extremely well publicized, up to the present day, their works have been represented in almost every national show. Upon graduation the artists returned to their home institutions to assume important positions and spread the gospel of Soviet realism.

One might expect to find discussion of this educational experiment limited to the Central Academy's journal, Meishu yanjiu , but party leaders considered the class important enough that news of its progress was reported in the principal national art journal, Meishu . Notes taken during Maksimov's class were serialized, to give a more personal view of the man's instruction.[96] Several


essays by students told of the Soviet teacher's contribution to the selection and execution of their graduation topics.[97] An album of their graduation work was published in 1958.[98]

He Kongde, an army artist attached to the East China Military District in Hangzhou, had first come to national attention in 1954 when his gouache paintings of the Korean front were published in Meishu .[99] These early works, which display the charm and anecdotal interest of a seventeenth-century Dutch landscape, have a journalistic quality; one usually cannot understand the picture until one has read the story. Although his interest in the natural landscape and in genre painting lessens the heroic impact of these early images (his figures, situated in scenic northern landscapes, tend to be small and a bit awkward), it nevertheless gives them a spontaneity and pictorial interest unmatched in most other propaganda pictures of the period.

The painting he exhibited in the Second National Exhibition of 1955, another battle scene, received some criticism for its dusty and inadequately heroic figures.[100] He Kongde's 1957 graduation painting, however, demonstrates an enormous change in his figure painting as a result of Maksimov's training (plate 2). He began working on a much larger scale and treating all his figures as icons of military heroism. Technically, he adopted a way of handling paint that was shared not only by his teacher and fellow students but also by Chinese students who studied in Leningrad. This picture, like most of He Kongde's subsequent work, was executed with large, blunt, squared-off brush strokes, a technique related to that of Quan Shanshi, who was then studying in Leningrad (fig. 54). This method gives the picture a painterly quality visible even from some distance.[101]

According to another student, Ren Mengzhang, Maksimov urged his students to consider their colors carefully, avoiding muddy black effects and utilizing strong color contrasts in planning their compositions. Hue should be strong from a distance and rich when the painting is viewed close up.[102] Maksimov's own paintings, such as Dawn at Zhengyang Gate (fig. 55), tend toward dramatically colored skies. An art historian who served as his interpreter now considers his instruction in color to be his most important contribution to Chinese oil painting.[103]

Works painted for the graduation exhibition, while models of socialist realism, tended to be based on the student's own experience rather than on the relatively limited themes lauded in the 1955 national exhibition. He Kongde, one of the few students who entered the class with a thematic specialization, continued his work on the Korean War. Only later, after having mastered the monumental Soviet figure style, did he expand his repertoire to include history paintings. Fortunately, his early interest in landscape painting survived his training in figural art and has remained a strong component of his later painting.


Image not available

Figure 55
Konstantin Maksimov, Dawn at
Zhengyang Gate.


Qin Zheng took his subject not from his adult career but from his childhood experiences of foreign invasion and civil war (fig. 56).[104] His painting depicts a young peasant woman and her two small children standing miserably in the ruins of their home—the sort of topic Jiang Zhaohe had painted so poignantly in the 1930s, but now somewhat stiffened by the posed quality of the central figures. Gao Hong, an army artist, painted an interior scene of a soldier feeding orphaned children. Hou Yimin depicted underground Communists printing flyers in a dingy dormitory, clearly an autobiographical theme.[105] Yuan Hao's Morning on the Yangzi explored the artist's interest in the construction of the new Yangzi River Bridge; for the project he returned to the site during the summer of 1956 and lived with the construction workers.[106]

Maksimov further encouraged diversity by urging the young artists to exploit their particular talents and artistic personalities. Some specialized in landscapes, others in portraits; some in romantic scenes, and others in more violent ones.[107] His aim was to develop separate specialties within Chinese oil painting, a goal that became so fully institutionalized that it was revived under Jiang Qing, who may have recognized its affinities with Mao's Yan'an Talks but was, apparently, ignorant of its Soviet and academic foundations.

Most of the oil painting training class's graduation pictures look trite to Westerners. Wang Dewei's Heroic Sisters , for example, would not seem out of place on the cover of an American paperback novel (fig. 57). Yet this mass market appeal was, in the context of the time, a significant advance. Oil painting previously held little appeal for the average Chinese viewer. While the outdated aspects of the "new" Soviet style were not readily apparent to most Chinese, its emotional power was clear. Among other technical advances, Maksimov's students learned to execute much more complicated compositions, many of which involve processions of figures traveling across a landscape. Some began using quite luminous and subtle colors. For the first time since 1949, the goals and the technical means of oil painters working for the Chinese government were in harmony.

Soviet influence dominated Chinese oil painting between 1952 and 1982, with the Central Academy of Fine Arts serving as the laboratory for exploring the practice and possibilities of this imported art form. For the young, Soviet training proved to be restrictive. All artists learned to paint in the same style, and individuality was strictly limited, expressible only by choice of subject matter; artists might paint a socialist theme that was related to their personal experiences, their lives carefully edited to illuminate some positive aspect of revolutionary China. Older artists, by contrast, took the opportunity to study the relationship between Soviet doctrines and their own knowledge of Western art.

For a few, the post-Stalin thaw was even liberating. Soviet official art included portraiture and landscape painting, as Maksimov's work attested. As a


Image not available

Figure 56
Qin Zheng, Home, 1957, oil on canvas.


Image not available

Figure 57
Wang Dewei, Heroic Sisters, 1957, oil on
canvas, 188 cm × 124.5 cm, Museum of
Chinese Revolutionary History.

result, the dean of CAFA, Wu Zuoren, was permitted to abandon his poor attempts at socialist realism and to paint his sensitive 1954 portrait of Qi Baishi (fig. 58). Over the next few years he exhibited numerous landscapes and flowers.

His colleague, the landscape painter Ai Zhongxin, adapted his work with some success to socialist realism, but only after learning that that genre was broader than the Chinese art world had originally believed. Like Wu Zuoren, Ai Zhongxin had originally risen to prominence under the patronage of Xu Beihong. His surviving landscapes of the preliberation period are softly colored plein air paintings; if the architecture of the Qing palace were not visible in the distance one might assume these early pictures were made by a late-nineteenth-century French artist (fig. 59). Following China's liberation, however, when landscape painting was deemed useless, Ai began to add large, ungainly figures to his paintings in order to fulfill socialist realist requirements. His painterly sensitivity to atmospheric effects proved of little value during the early 1950s.


Image not available

Figure 58
Wu Zuoren, Portrait of Qi Baishi , 1954,
oil on canvas, 113.5 cm × 86 cm.


Image not available

Figure 59
Ai Zhongxin, Melting Snow, Forbidden
City, 1947, oil on canvas, collection of
the artist.

Only when he gained a greater familiarity with Soviet painting did it become apparent to Ai that his conservative and beautiful landscapes might, particularly when used as a setting for heroic action, have a place in socialist realist iconography.[108] One such painting, On to Urumchi , was exhibited at the 1955 national art exhibition;[109] but Ai's most dramatic effort was prepared in 1957, toward the end of Maksimov's tenure in his department. The Red Army Crosses the Snowy Mountains (fig. 60), painted for the Exhibition to Commemorate the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Formation of the People's Liberation Army, depicts the Red Army crossing Sichuan's Jiajing Mountains. During this perilous part of the Long March many soldiers froze to death. Ai's picture places less emphasis on heroic individuals, however, than on the natural en-


Image not available

Figure 60
Ai Zhongxin, The Red Army Crosses the
Snowy Mountains, 1957, oil on canvas,
100 cm × 210 cm, Chinese People's
Revolutionary Military Museum.

vironment. An icy blue Himalayan sky fills the top three-quarters of this striking horizontal landscape. Organized as though in a film by Sergei Eisenstein, a dark file of soldiers fights the bitter wind to traverse the frame of the composition, finally disappearing into the opaque cloud of snow at the extreme right. A virtuoso display of landscape painting, at the same time the work conveys a legendary moment of the Red Army's history in a truly heroic image.

The Russian model revealed to Ai Zhongxin the monumental possibilities for presenting the figure in landscape composition. His personal style, based on late-nineteenth-century French painting, in fact sprang from the same roots as much of Russian landscape painting. He was one of the fortunate older artists who were able to modify their preliberation styles to suit socialist realist standards. Like Dong Xiwen, therefore, he managed to remain in the forefront of Chinese art during a period that emphasized the emergence of the young.

It was, however, young artists, those with little pre-Communist art education, who were most affected by Soviet art. Although few Chinese artists today consider Maksimov a great painter, his teaching is widely acknowledged to have been clearer and more methodical than that of Chinese oil painting professors of the period. Besides the formal course at CAFA, he conducted many informal classes for older faculty and for artists of the Beijing publishing industry. Wu Zuoren and Ai Zhongxin were among many established oil painters who felt obliged to present themselves at the Russian expert's classes. Both men were mature artists, and there is little indication that Maksimov had much effect on their technique. Yet his students, young and old alike, did adapt his instructional methods to their own teaching, with the result that


academically trained Chinese oil painters today are capable of reaching uniformly high technical levels in realistic rendering and composition.[110] A drawback to Maksimov's teaching style and to the didactic methods adopted by Chinese academies was that standardization, though beneficial in that it assured good teaching for all students, led quickly to rigidity. Creativity, as we interpret the word, had little place in this system.

The Chinese Artists Association, 1953-1957

The national CAA became extremely active between 1953 and 1957, particularly in the areas of organizing exhibitions and publishing art criticism, both of which were useful for rewarding the attainments of individual artists and critics. During the first several years of this period, a balance between Soviet-inspired and more traditional art was maintained. In 1956 and 1957, guohua became more important. The political background for these changes will be discussed after a short survey of the CAA's principal activities.

In keeping with the new policy of support for guohua , several important guohua exhibitions were held in 1953. The Beijing Chinese Painting Research Association (Beijing zhongguohua yanjiu hui ) held its first show from July 31 to August 13. The association (founded in August 1949 as the New Guohua Research Association) had been recently reorganized and comprised some two hundred members. A report in People's Daily asserted that many of the exhibition's 361 works contributed to China's excellent realistic tradition and that the figure paintings, as well as some landscapes, took their contents from real life and the new ideology. Bird-and-flower paintings were also included. Jiang Feng, Cai Ruohong, Hua Junwu, Ai Qing, and Shao Yu participated in conferences about the exhibited works. The show was important enough to warrant attendance by many government officials, including vice-chairman of the government, Li Jishen; vice-chairman of the People's Political Consultative Committee, Chen Shutong; director of the Culture and Education Committee of the Political Administrative Council, Guo Moruo; and vice-director of the Central Propaganda Bureau, Hu Qiaomu.[111]

The most important of the guohua shows, the First National Guohua Exhibition, was held by the Art Workers Association during the September 1953 FLAC conference in Beijing.[112] In May, the Ministry of Culture ordered local cultural administrations to collect works. The 842 paintings submitted by thirty-two provinces and cities were juried by the AWA, which eliminated about three-fourths of them. The goal of the exhibition was to develop the excellent tradition of national painting and to promote guohua creation. The works selected, according to the exhibition flyer, manifested the special traits


of national art, and many reflected the new life of the people and the beauty of their great motherland.[113] Published pictures, as we have seen, ranged from outline-and-color figure paintings to traditional bird-and-flower paintings.

The Second National Art Exhibition was announced in Meisbu in 1954, with a call for works in various media, including Chinese ink painting, nianhua , oil painting, watercolor, and gouache.[114] (It was for this event, which opened in March 1955, that Dong Xiwen revised his Founding of the Nation . He also exhibited a new work, Spring Comes to Tibet .)[115] The procedure for selecting works was similar to that followed in most subsequent national exhibitions. While the CAA, the voluntary organization administered by the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist party, issued its call for submissions in its journal, the Ministry of Culture, an organ of the civil government, directed local cultural organizations to organize the preparation of works. Over four thousand works were submitted, of which some nine hundred were eventually displayed. Every work was juried at least twice, once by the local authorities and again in Beijing.

The final selection appears to have occurred in the midst of another rectification campaign—one publicized in Meishu in late 1954 and early 1955.[116] Criteria for admission were primarily political. The contents and the didactic meaning had to be correct: successful works should express the achievements of the nation's reconstruction and should depict the spirit of the laboring people in production and struggle. Artistic criteria, though less important, included varied subjects, truthful images, and creativity of expressive method. Realism was to be emphasized, but mediocrity, conventionalism, and plagiarism should be avoided.[117] The final checklist included eleven categories of work: color-and-ink paintings, oil paintings, sculptures, prints, nianhua, lianbuanhua , posters, cartoons, illustrations, watercolors, and drawings.[118]

As Ellen Laing's discussion of the event makes clear, the kinds of guohua exhibited in 1955 were varied.[119] Political themes and "progressive" Soviet styles dominated, but traditional works in representational styles were not entirely excluded. Among the new guohua must be counted Shi Lu's awkward but politically correct Beyond the Great Wall (a work that was rewarded with a centerfold color reproduction in Meishu ), in which the artist attempted to use Chinese materials to paint a monumental Western-style socialist realist landscape (fig. 53).[120] One of Guan Shanyue's five exhibited paintings, Newly Opened Road , was a much more successful adaption of existing approaches (fig. 61). His style, that of the Lingnan school, was strongly influenced by Western and Japanese realism and thus more easily bent to the requirements of the new subject matter.[121] Zhou Changgu's Two Lambs represented the new Hangzhou figure style (fig. 52),[122] while Jiang Zhaohe's Child and Dove exemplified the new figure painting of Beijing.[123] Li Keran exhibited four of his modern landscapes. Even Dong Xiwen submitted a color-and-ink mountain scene that strongly resembles a Western watercolor painting.[124]


Image not available

Figure 61
Guan Shanyue, Newly Opened Road ,
1954, ink and color on paper, 177.8
cm × 94.3 cm.


Despite this variety, some rather old-fashioned guohua also appeared, including loosely executed flower paintings by the seventy-nine-year-old Chen Banding[125] and carefully painted bird-and-flower compositions by Yu Feian.[126] Though traditional landscapes were neither prohibited nor encouraged, their showing was poor. Whereas socialist painters such as Shi Lu, Li Keran, Luo Ming, Li Xiongcai, Zhao Wangyun, and Guan Shanyue were each represented by several paintings, nonideological or conservative painters such as Huang Binhong, Wu Hufan, Qi Baishi, and Liu Haisu exhibited only one painting each.[127] Such works, not surprisingly, are rarely mentioned by the critics.

The oil painting section of the exhibition included works illustrating moments from Communist military history, many of them presumably painted for the Museum of Revolutionary History in the old imperial palace. Newer history paintings by such young artists as He Kongde described scenes from the Korean War. Here, as in the guohua section, it seems that certain older artists were given special consideration. A still life flower painting by CAA vice-chairman Wu Zuoren, for example, while realistic, is completely nonpolitical in subject matter.[128] His portrait of Qi Baishi, as we have seen, represents a similar broadening of permissible subject matter (fig. 58). Nevertheless, socialist realist styles and subjects dominated the Second National Exhibition. Exceptions were made for certain well-respected older realists and guohua painters, but not for modernist oil painters.

Although works in the 1955 exhibition were selected from art units in all regions of China, Meishu and other publications of the period present Chinese art as a centralized undertaking, with all artists in China striving to attain the same goals. Well-publicized pictures tended to be made by artists with close ties to the authorities in Beijing, and such issues as regionalism or individualism are largely ignored in criticism of the period. Artists working at CAFA, indeed, seem to be featured disproportionately in critical literature of the pre-1957 period, a testimony to the importance of the academy, to their proximity to CAA headquarters, to centralization, and to Jiang Feng's support.

Regional branches of the Chinese Artists Association, which have been important since the late 1950s, were then still in their formative stages. For example, in a news item of 1954 it is stated that national CAA leaders Cai Ruohong and Shao Yu had spoken to a meeting of the North China Federation of Literary and Art Workers that March, but no mention is made of a local branch of the CAA.[129] One of the earliest local branches was the Northwestern Art Workers Association, founded in Xi'an in about 1950.[130] The East China Artists Association was formed in Shanghai in February 1954, with Liu Kaiqu of the academy in Hangzhou elected its director. Vice-directors were the printmaker Lai Shaoqi and the painter and cartoonist Feng Zikai; Chen Yanqiao headed the secretariat. Of primary concern to the new association was the


Image not available

Figure 62.
Pan Tianshou, Corner of Lingyan Gully,
1955, ink and color on paper.

creation of nianhua and of national paintings.[131] The Guangzhou CAA branch was established in March 1954.[132] By 1956, a preparatory committee for the CAA's Jiangsu branch had been formed, with Fu Baoshi, Liu Haisu, and the young military painter Ya Ming in charge.

A sharp change in the CAA's emphasis became evident in 1956, when revival of the national heritage was labeled a key element of the art world's contribution to the Hundred Flowers campaign. Traditionalism appeared with particular strength in 1956 at the Third Exhibition of the Beijing Chinese Painting Research Association (which was not limited to Beijing artists). Academic bird-and-flower or animal paintings by Xie Zhiliu and Yu Feian


largely lack innovation; and Pan Tianshou's flower-and-rock painting, one of the most beautiful of the published works from the show, displays only the subtlest, if any, influences of his involuntary study of Western drawing (fig. 62). Bird-and-flower paintings by Wang Xuetao, Chen Banding, and Wang Geyi seem unaffected by the new painting.[133] Of great importance is the reappearance at this time of traditional landscape painting in critical literature. Wu Hufan's conservative blue-green-style landscape, for example, which was reproduced in Meishu , possesses only the barest hint of modernity in its slight cropping of the foreground and its photographic scale relations between foreground, middle ground, and distant landscape elements (fig. 63). The painting, which was subsequently displayed in the Second National Guohua Exhibition, relates closely to works the artist painted as early as 1937.[134]

The Second National Guohua Exhibition, organized by the CAA and the Ministry of Culture, was held in Beijing and Shanghai between July and October 1956 and later was represented in Meishu by some modern works, including a number by the Shanghai illustrators. Lu Yanshao demonstrated his mastery of Western-style perspective in a picture of a child teaching her mother to read.[135] Lu pushed his less successful figures into the painting's middle ground, perhaps to minimize the flaws in his figure drawing. Fang Zengxian's Every Grain Is Hard Work (fig. 51) is typical of the new guohua of the younger generation at the Hangzhou academy. The exhibition, with 944 works, was much larger and more varied than earlier guohua exhibitions. For the first time, moreover, the artists were organized by province, an indication of greater concern for local developments.[136]

Art criticism underwent a Similar shift in 1956 as writers became more sympathetic to traditional guohua . The official spokesmen for the Second National Guohua Exhibition included, as Ellen Laing points out, some relatively conservative artists.[137] The academic bird-and-flower painter Yu Feian, for example, while expressing satisfaction at the progress of the older artists, specifically criticized that of the younger painters. He singled out figure painting as being the weakest aspect of contemporary guohua , noting that fewer figures than landscapes or bird-and-flower paintings were on display in the exhibition. His point of view was clearly that of a traditional artist responding to the new painting. One wonders if the emphasis on bird-and-flower and landscape themes in the exhibition itself is not the result of a similar concern on the part of the jury for old-fashioned aesthetic virtues as opposed to innovation or revolutionary subject matter.

Hu Peiheng expressed his views even more frankly as he divided the work into four categories: (1) great masters, such as Li Xiongcai, whose works he considered profound in thought and execution; (2) traditionalists whose works had not improved since liberation and whose works lacked adequate content; (3) works based on Western techniques that entirely lacked the qualities of


Image not available

Figure 63
Wu Hufan, Mountain Peaks in Mist,
1956, ink and color on paper.


Chinese painting and could be judged only on the basis of content, not on execution; and (4) works inadequate on both counts.[138] We assume that he would have placed the best of Jiang Feng's protégés in the third rank.

As the exhibition neared its close in the fall of 1956, the propaganda arm of the Communist party, which also controlled the Chinese Artists Association, outlined a shift in party art policy. An editorial in People's Daily entitled "Develop the Art of Guohua " described a new, nationalistic support for traditional forms of art. "Guohua is part of the precious heritage of our country's national arts; it has a long history and rich tradition. Over time, painters have ... expressed the magnificence of the rivers and mountains of our motherland and the appearance of the people's life in each period." The editorial goes beyond simple praise for guohua , proceeding to criticize those who would undervalue it:

But we cannot deny that in a previous time the cultural sector offered inadequate leadership to the guohua world. At the same time, certain comrades in the art world adopted an incorrect attitude of slighting and discriminating against the national heritage and guohua artists. In this way they caused the guohua world to lack the value and support it should have had in society. In the past, when guohua artists were selected to participate in the Chinese Artists Association, the leadership structure was not wide-ranging enough. In certain art academies, some guohua teachers did not hold classes for long periods. They felt deeply that they had been stifled and excluded and were considered unscientific and backward in teaching. The works and theoretical writings of guohua painters have had very few opportunities for publication in publishing organizations, newspapers, and periodicals.... The party and government have chosen a policy of actively fostering and promoting national arts imbued with the excellent tradition. Guohua , like other national forms, is the cultural product created from the life and labor of our nation's people over a long period. It established, over a long period, an intimate relationship with the thought and feeling of our nation's people and has an important function in the spiritual life of the people, so is loved by the masses.[139]

It was later revealed that "certain comrades" meant Jiang Feng and Mo Pu, while "certain art academies" referred to the Central Academy of Fine Arts. The party was changing course. Guohua artists undoubtedly found the new line cause for celebration. Some CCP art administrators, however, most notably Jiang Feng, proved unable to reorient themselves. From this point a schism developed between the CAA, which followed the new line, and the art academy system, where Jiang Feng's supporters maintained a staunch resistance to it. What neither Jiang Feng nor most guohua painters knew, when


reading the People's Daily editorial, was that Mao Zedong himself had heard the painters' complaints. Jiang Feng's days as an art administrator were numbered.

Guohua Artists, 1953-1957

The Reformers: Guohua Landscapes from Life

The art academy system had, since its establishment in 1950, mandated that all artists master life drawing, a subject usually interpreted as figure drawing. This requirement made the talents of many old guohua artists obsolete. Following Zhou Yang's 1953 speech on developing the national tradition, three faculty members at CAFA, Li Keran, Zhang Ding, and Luo Ming, conceived the idea of reforming Chinese painting by drawing landscapes from life. Their plan met with the initial skepticism of administrators such as Ye Qianyu, newly appointed head of the caimohua department, and Jiang Feng, who felt that success in reforming traditional landscape painting was unlikely in any event. Oil painters, for their part, were dubious that traditional media could be employed successfully for representational purposes. And traditional painters in Beijing opposed the plan because they were against any reform of guohua that might damage its long-established techniques and, by extension, its essential character.[140]

Nevertheless, the academy granted approval and funding for the artists to travel in southern China for five months in the first half of 1954 and try out their scheme.[141] The three men spent a month at the art academy in Hang-zhou, hiking around West Lake and the surrounding hills. Each carried a homemade sketching kit so that he could draw with ink and Chinese brush. Every night they met to discuss their results. Other places they visited, either as a group or individually, included Wuxi, Suzhou, Shanghai, the Fuchun River, Huang Shan, and Shaoxing.

Zhang Ding, who had spent many years producing cartoons and woodcuts for the anti-Japanese resistance, confesses that he struggled in his sketches with a conflict between the Western viewpoint, which he defines as objective, and the traditionalist goals of their project. After three months of work, however, he had a breakthrough: he discovered how to express a Chinese point of view, but one that combined the objective and subjective responses to a scene.[142] The journey was even more important for Li Keran, for it was to be the first stage in his ultimately successful quest to establish a new Chinese landscape painting.

Upon their return to Beijing, the artists' ink sketches were admired by


academy skeptics Ye Qianyu and Jiang Feng, as by the traditionalist Hu Peiheng. At Ye Qianyu's insistence, an exhibition was arranged by the CAA for late September 1954. The accompanying brochure, the title of which was inscribed by Li Keran's mentor Qi Baishi, then in his nineties, stated their goals in unassuming but appealing terms:

In the first half of this year, we had the opportunity to go to the Jiangnan area for an ink painting sketch-from-life trip. Using the expressive techniques of traditional ink painting to describe true scenes and objects was a new attempt, so our goals and requirements were relatively simple; they were: to paint some landscape paintings that have the style of traditional Chinese paintings, but are not the same old thing, and that have a touching authenticity.

The artists further recounted that they had seen many travelers and realized how much "the liberated people love the beautiful rivers and mountains of their motherland" and how fortunate the Chinese people are to live in "an environment that is like a painting." The artists briefly described the technical choices they had encountered. Their formulation appears to be a sincere attempt to make practical sense of the latest party pronouncements. Using phrases taken from speeches by Zhou Yang and Jiang Feng they asked important questions:

Among [our] most important [problems] were how to use traditional techniques and how to develop them further. If the question was whether we simply reject traditional techniques, thus using Chinese tools and foreign techniques to do ink sketches, or whether we use completely traditional techniques, thus making conventionalized descriptions of modern scenes and things, it would be simple. But it is not so simple if we intend to develop further the excellent parts of [our] tradition, to make them suitable for reflecting recent reality, and to blend modern foreign techniques into traditional styles, so as to enrich their expressive power. The difficulty really is not whether [we] have attained theoretical clarity; it is that we must attain a concrete resolution in practice.[143]

In short, they rejected the uncritical continuation of traditional techniques and aimed to improve Chinese landscape painting by synthesizing Western techniques with native ones. Their ultimate goal was to reflect modern reality in the traditional medium. Li Keran, as the brochure claimed, avoided using con-ventionalized brush strokes for trees or mountains (fig. 45), and his landscape recessions were often very Western in feeling. Nevertheless, his sensitivity to


Image not available

Figure 64
Zhang Ding, Landscape Sketch, 1954,
ink and color on paper, collection of the

the varied tones of his ink lines and ink washes reveals a debt to his teachers, the traditional masters Qi Baishi and Huang Binhong. Zhang Ding, by contrast, relied largely on outline strokes and colored washes, thus presenting a more Western appearance (fig. 64).

There was little initial opposition to the general policy behind the ink sketch exhibition. The accompanying brochure adhered closely to Zhou Yang's theoretical stance and claimed patriotic motives for depicting the beauties of new China. In his National Day report of October 1954, Jiang Feng made particular mention of the ink landscape sketches by Li Keran and Zhang Ding as examples of the successful reform of guohua , saying that the works, though executed with traditional technique, were drawn from life in a relatively scientific manner.[144] Not all critics were so approving. Hard-liners attacked Li and Zhang during the Anti—Hu Feng campaign of 1955 for the insufficiently political nature of their subject matter.[145] The paintings were characterized as unhealthy, formalistic, and contrary to socialist realism. During


the Hundred Flowers campaign of the following year, conversely, traditionalists declared that the new way of painting was not guohua .[146] Generally, however, the three Beijing artists' synthetic approach to landscape painting, which combined Chinese and Western painting conceptions, received favorable publicity and served as a strong influence in the development of guohua landscape painting.

Li Keran, Zhang Ding, and Luo Ming may have been the most innovative of those who made sketching expeditions, but many other artists were funded by art institutions to undertake similar journeys in 1954 and subsequent years. Indeed, the art academy system, since its founding, had required that students and healthy professors spend part of every year living and working among the peasants, a practice designed to enable them to "refine life" as preparation for subsequent art work. Between about 1954 and 1957, for example, Chinese painting professors at the East China campus of CAFA spent their Sundays on school expeditions to draw from life in the Hangzhou suburbs. Works by Pan Tianshou from this period (fig. 62) are more meticulously executed and more carefully composed than his previous paintings, which may be a response to his closer study of natural forms. Many bear titles referring to scenic spots in the vicinity of Hangzhou. As it came to be assumed that progressive art would be based chiefly on the artist's personal experiences, the government began to fund a wide variety of trips for artists to gain new creative insights.

One important early expedition was made by a group of artists including Ai Zhongxin, the CAFA oil painting professor, and Shi Lu, vice-chairman of the Xi'an CAA branch, to observe the construction of the Lanzhou-Xinjiang and the Gaocheng Railways in 1954. Ai was inspired by the magnificent western Chinese landscape to produce a series of monumental oil mountainscapes, including one about railroad construction called On to Urumchi , which was exhibited in the 1955 national exhibition.[147] Shi Lu, like Li Keran, attempted a series of color-and-ink landscapes. Unlike the sketches of Li Keran, however, Shi Lu's published paintings are socialist realist "creations" in which the observed scenery has been reworked to depict specific projects of socialist construction. His Clouds Across the Qinling Mountains , for instance, depicts the construction of mountain tunnels for the Gaocheng Railway. A second color-and-ink painting from the same trip, Beyond the Great Wall (fig. 53), portrays a section of the Lanzhou-Xinjiang Railway that passes through the Tianzhu Tibetan Autonomous Region of Gansu province.[148]

The northwestern military artist Huang Zhou depicted a highly romanticized view of Uighurs and Han surveyors traveling by camel in a snowstorm (fig. 65). The painting is a celebration of the workers who built a new road across the northwestern desert. Flecks of white paint on the surface give an immediacy to the picture that speaks of the artist's personal experiences, even if the low vantage point and sharp contrasts in scale between foreground and


Image not available

Figure 65
Huang Zhou, Snowstorm on the Steppes,
1955, ink and color on paper, 73.4 cm ×
117 cm, Chinese National Art Gallery.

background figures reflect Soviet conventions. The artist, then serving in Tibet, recalls that his group ran into the surveying party in a deserted place called Ge'ermu. He was very moved by the unexpected meeting in such a forbidding place.[149]

Works more closely related to the landscape sketches of Li Keran, Zhang Ding, and Luo Ming continued to be published in spite of attacks from both left and right. They include caimohua landscape paintings by CAFA faculty Wu Jingding and others from the fall of 1955 that attempt to combine relatively traditional brushwork with more realistic, Western conceptions of space.[150] Li Keran persisted in his new approach, as published views of Beijing attest.[151] Shi Lu's travel sketches of the same year resemble realistic Western watercolors, but he softens his landscape images with effects of ink possible only on Chinese paper.[152]

There is little question that such works are more appealing to the eye than most socialist realist figure paintings. Moreover, their combination of tradi-


tional and modern elements was justified by the theoretical stance taken by Zhou Yang in 1953. The further linking of Chinese landscape painting to patriotism, as was done by Li Keran and his colleagues in the preface to their exhibition brochure, significantly broadened the permissible range of Chinese artistic expression. The landscape-drawing-form-life movement was one of the most significant events in the development of guohua , as we will see in later chapters.

The Traditionalists

The Shanghai guohua artists, in 1953 still impoverished, finally obtained funding from the CAA and the municipal cultural bureau to run a production cooperative. The cooperative obtained fans from a government export corporation, decorated them, and then sent them to be sold in the Soviet Union. Once an artist's pattern was approved, which had to be done in advance, he normally painted the same design for a year or two. An artist would receive between twenty and ninety Chinese cents per fan. If the fan was ruined by the artist or rejected by the export corporation for poor-quality work or deviation from the approved pattern, the cooperative owed $2.20 renminbi (RMB, people's dollars) per fan, an amount that was divided among the members. Lai Chusheng, Zhang Dazhuang, and Jiang Handing are reported to have produced the largest proportion of rejected fans because of the strength of their personal styles. Later the product line expanded to include lanterns. Extremely well known artists, such as Wu Hufan, Wang Geyi, Tang Yun, and He Tian-jian, were among the participants in the cooperative.[153]

Beijing artists complained of the same inadequate employment. In the fall of 1956, People's Daily published an article by Yu Feian entitled "How Much Money Is a Guohua Painter's Labor Worth?"[154] He condemned the poor pay artists received for decorating crafts objects: decorating a piece of hand-painted stationery yielded an average of seven cents; decorating Sichuan bamboo blinds paid better, between $1.00 and $1.20 RMB each, but there was not enough work to go around. In some cases, finished work would be rejected as insufficiently "national" in style, thus leaving the artists with no recompense. This complaint was followed by the official change in policy toward guohua artists. In October 1956, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, and President Sukarno of Indonesia were photographed viewing a guohua exhibition.[155] Within the month, People's Daily editorials had blamed administrative sectors for ignoring the aesthetic quality of the guohua artists' decorations and for viewing them only from an economic point of view. The party admitted that most guohua artists could not support themselves working for the co-ops.[156]

The cooperative as a solution to the guohua problem was hardly the answer. In September 1956, as part of the Hundred Flowers campaign, the


State Council publicized plans for improving the artists' lot.[157] A Chinese Painting Institute was established in Shanghai to employ famous artists from all over eastern China, including Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Nanjing. Former mayor Chen Yi, who had been promoted to foreign minister by this time, personally inscribed the sign for the front door.[158] Plans were made for a similar institute in Beijing, and one under local auspices in Nanjing.[159]


The period 1953-1957 was critical for the development of Chinese art. A standardized national art academy system based on Soviet models was fully implemented, with Soviet socialist realism approved as the official academic style. Guohua artists such as Fang Zengxian in Hangzhou and Jiang Zhaohe in Beijing developed new socialist realist guohua styles. And rigorous technical refinement became a mandatory part of the artists' glorification of socialism.

While encouraging greater professionalism, the Communist party maintained firm control of the activities of professional artists by systematizing the activities of the Chinese Artists Association. Once artistic standards were centralized, mastery of Soviet socialist realism and, within limits, development of new forms of Chinese socialist realism could be, and were, encouraged.

With increased specialization, however, fundamental conceptual differences reemerged. The position of traditional artists was improved, a policy justified by Zhou Yang's calls to carry on the national tradition. Zhou issued renewed directives on this score in May 1955 at the second CAA directors' meeting.[160] Opposing both "nihilistic"[161] and conservative views of guohua , he announced that the tradition of Chinese painting was not only its brush and ink but also its realism. At the same meeting Konstantin Maksimov, the Soviet oil painting expert, spoke.[162] Each speaker found receptive listeners. Tensions between internationalist Communist bureaucrats around Jiang Feng and older guohua artists mounted. The battle that resulted is the subject of our next chapter.


The Politicization of Guohua

Political campaigns were a constant aspect of life for artists during the first decade of the new Communist government. Their primary effects on art—the reform or suppression of styles and subjects that contradicted Communist Party policies—were described in chapter 1. Political campaigns might also be used by CCP officials to criticize colleagues for questionable administrative decisions, professional activities, or even personal behavior. A phenomenon that became more prevalent as time passed was the attack on colleagues against whom one held a personal grudge or with whom one was in competition for administrative power. This could be accomplished obliquely as well. The 1955 attacks on Li Keran and Zhang Ding during the Anti-Hu Feng campaign, for example, were probably directed at higher authorities, men like Jiang Feng who had encouraged their activity.

As we saw earlier, Jiang Feng's 1952 report on thought reform at CAFA identified many errors in the administration of the academy. He singled out particularly the academy's failure to root out the educational thought of the capitalist class. While a collective "we" is blamed for these mistakes, Jiang himself was not in Beijing during most of the period he discussed in his article; thus, he was probably targeting someone who was. Jiang criticized old cadres who, upon entering the city, were influenced by capitalist thought. They lost interest in their administrative duties, teaching, popular work, thought reform, and political activities and became specialists, blindly working on their artistic skills in order to attain individual fame. Their goal in teaching at the academy was not to reform old education, but to use the good conditions at the academy to improve their technique. Particular ills of the academy, in Jiang's view, were individualism, ambition for fame, interest in "high-class art," and the goal of creating great works for posterity. One of his conclusions was that


the cadres from the old liberated areas must take responsibility for the damage incurred by the relaxation of the political struggle over the preceding two years.[1] Jiang's article positioned him on the extreme left of the political spectrum.

Jiang's targets were not identified, but it is certain that one was the CAFA party secretary Hu Yichuan, who had painted several monumental history paintings in oil since his arrival in Beijing and whom Jiang Feng had edged out of his position upon his return to Beijing. Hu Yichuan ended up as director of a regional art academy and continued to paint.

Jiang Feng's own policies were probably the implicit targets of Cai Ruohong's more moderate articles of 1954, as we have seen. Ironically, in early 1955 Jiang Feng was attacked by name for having praised Li Keran's nonpolitical paintings, such as West Lake, Hangzhou (fig. 45).[2] It is not clear whether the attack was intended to link Jiang Feng with the writer Hu Feng, soon to be purged from the literary sphere, or even who was behind these criticisms, which came from Guangzhou. In any case, the decision to publish the attacks must have been made by a CAA leader in Beijing. While relatively inconsequential, they mark the beginning of a difficult period for Jiang Feng that culminated in his expulsion from the Communist party in 1957.

Attacks on named or unnamed individuals often defined how party policy would be interpreted, much as court decisions refine the implementation of American laws. Innocuous personal opinions were sometimes published in the same journals as politically charged diatribes, however. In the final analysis, then, the process by which a minor complaint might spawn a nationwide campaign remains rather mysterious. If an individual had been targeted for a campaign, his activities would be castigated in meetings and in the press. The public was thereby warned to avoid doing anything similar to what he or she had done. In some cases, the object of the campaign remains obscure to Western readers. Jiang Feng's student Cai Liang, for example, was viciously attacked by members of the armed services for using a classroom model rather than a real military man for his published drawing of a military subject. The larger meaning of this anti-academic criticism, if any, is enigmatic at best.[3] In other cases, the ideological thrust of the campaign was made explicit by local administrators, who identified and censured people who engaged in activities related to the errors of the condemned person. Attacks, in short, were important for all citizens, not just the victims.

One reason it is difficult for the historian to assess the significance of published criticisms of individual artists and administrators is that evidence of personal opinion or even opportunism is always mixed with direct recitation of the party line. Attempting to separate genuine commitment, be it principled or opportunistic, from rote recitation can be important, however, since such elements affected the enthusiasm with which any party policy was pursued.


A political movement conducted in 1955 against Lu Xun's disciple Hu Feng has been analyzed both for its policy implications and for its roots in personal rivalries.[4] The art world responded with apparent enthusiasm for the campaign against this writer, though it is not immediately apparent why the attack was relevant to art at all. Hu was in sharp personal conflict with China's ideological leaders, especially Zhou Yang, and apparently had administrative ambitions of his own. He maintained a stubborn individualism in his interpretation of literary standards, which differed from that of Chairman Mao.[5] Most serious, he failed to recognize the error of his ways. In 1954 he attacked associates of Zhou Yang for their narrow literary views and their ignorance of Western literature. In early 1955 he attacked Zhou Yang himself.[6] The result was a drastic national campaign against Hu, during which the old charges of spying for the Nationalists were resurrected (see chapter 1). His associates were purged, but any intellectual was liable to attack for adhering to Hu Fengist views. Cartoonists such as Hua Junwu and Mi Gu had a field day with the revelation of this alleged spy within the ranks of the Communist party.[7]

A key issue of Communist discipline once the Hu Feng campaign expanded beyond literature was a criticism of excessive professionalism and individualism at the expense of politics.[8] For example, the art historian Wen Zhaotong was condemned as a Hu Fengist for, among other errors, failing to make clear the difference between old realism and new realism.[9] An equally important aspect of Hu Fengism was Hu's alleged rejection of "national forms" in literature. The correct resolution of Hu's literary conflict with Zhou Yang and Mao Zedong was extrapolated into pictorial art. A concrete manifestation of Hu Fengism, as described by Mi Gu, was lack of sympathy for the practice of national painting (minzu huihua ).[10] This relatively minor aspect of the Hu Feng campaign as a whole would become a profoundly important issue in 1957.

One of Hu Feng's associates, Peng Boshan, had risen to the posts of deputy-director of the East China Cultural Department and chief of the Shanghai Propaganda Bureau.[11] In June 1955, the cartoonist-administrator Mi Gu attacked Peng in Meishu for offenses against the visual arts: it was claimed, specifically, that Peng had denigrated the attainments of artists who worked in the traditional media. Mi Gu described the caimohua exhibitions held in Shanghai between 1952 and 1955: "The people of Shanghai and party political leaders of Shanghai were very satisfied with these exhibitions and believed that the efforts of the caimohua artists had produced results and that the future of caimohua was bright. But Peng Boshan expressed reproach from his first step into the exhibition hall ... and said [of the art], 'There's been no progress' and [it is] 'feudal and backward.'" Peng was further accused of


refusing to buy a painting at the 1953 exhibition, although many other party leaders had purchased works in order to encourage the artists.[12]

Zhang Ding's review of the Second National Art Exhibition followed a similar vein. Zhang believed that the key problems in dealing with the national artistic tradition were conservatism and "nihilism." Zhang's own work, like Li Keran's, had been attacked from both sides. Conservatives, in his view, were upholders of the "national essence" or "revive the ancients" school of thought. The nihilists were people who blindly loved the West and who lacked national self-confidence. Nihilism, he warned, could develop into cosmopolitanism or Hu Feng thought. The idea of forcing guohua artists to replace traditional Chinese methods with Western ones was, he asserted, parallel to Hu Feng's nihilistic ideas.[13]

Most viewers would agree that traditional guohua paintings are more appealing as works of art than Soviet-style socialist realist oil paintings. On this basis, it is natural to conclude that the Chinese government was correct to promote guohua and to discipline officials who tried to suppress it. Unfortunately, the guohua question was not merely a matter of artistic standards; it became, in the end, a test of loyalty to the party leadership. Moreover, like all political movements in China, it also served as a vehicle for opportunistic personal attacks.

As the complex problem of adapting old Chinese art to the new society became increasingly charged politically, many principled administrators found themselves boxed in by the potentially conflicting calls for art that could express the accomplishments of the new society and at the same time "perpetuate the national tradition." The long-term implications of the Hu Feng campaign were undoubtedly overshadowed by immediate problems. A letter of May 23, 1955, advocating Hu Feng's expulsion from the FLAC was published in Meishu , probably on orders from higher authorities.[14] The arts leaders who signed it—in so doing distancing themselves from Hu Fengism and demonstrating their party loyalty—included Jiang Feng, Liu Kaiqu, Ye Qianyu, Wu Zuoren, Cai Ruohong, Wang Zhaowen, Hua Junwu, Shao Yu, Gu Yuan, Yan Han, and Hu Man. Many prominent art figures, but not Jiang Feng, published articles attacking Hu Feng.

The Hundred Flowers Campaign

Following the success of the CCP's rural collectivization drive in 1955, Mao Zedong began planning for rapid economic development. It was apparent that utilization of the managerial and technical talent of educated Chinese would


be necessary to attain this goal. Bureaucrats were therefore urged to relax controls over nonparty intellectuals, a policy reinforced by the "thaw" in the Soviet Union following Stalin's death.

In mid-January 1956, Zhou Enlai's report to the Central Committee endorsed the policy of using the intellectuals in a more rational manner.[15] Investigations into the situation of intellectuals in early 1956 led to the discovery that guohua artists were very dissatisfied. On March 8, Liu Shaoqi issued a directive about drama that included a passage straightforwardly supporting traditional guohua painters and their work:

Everybody likes Chinese paintings. However, some Chinese painters are not properly settled.... Our policy is to let one hundred flowers bloom, to develop something new from the old. We cannot afford to erase certain things because they are old.[16]

Zhou Yang, vice-minister of culture, took up the issue within a few days, urging: "If we want to let a hundred flowers bloom, the first essential is to preserve and uncover the national heritage."[17]

On May 2, 1956, Mao Zedong enunciated a slogan for the new policy: "Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend." The campaign thus came to be known in China as the Double Hundred policy, and in the West as the Hundred Flowers Movement. Mao's view was, in Merle Goldman's words, that "a genuine exchange of ideas and the criticism of repressive officials would ultimately lead to ideological unity."[18] Jiang Feng did not, apparently, fully understand the political significance of Mao's statements, which differ little from platitudes of previous years. By the conclusion of the Anti-Rightist campaign, however, it became clear that guohua had been designated an area for high-level political experimentation; in 1956, as a result, the domain was effectively removed from his jurisdiction.

The Impressionism Debate

The art world under Jiang Feng took the Hundred Flowers campaign at face value, as an intellectual exercise. One important activity was a widespread academic debate about impressionism. As we saw in chapter 1, Western-style artists in the pre-1949 period worked in a wide variety of artistic styles. Many had learned oil painting in Japan, where impressionism was widely practiced well into the twentieth century. Those who studied in Europe were often steeped in similar late-nineteenth- or early-twentieth-century styles. One practical reason for this phenomenon is that the more modern artists we normally consider the most influential, men such as Picasso and Braque, did not teach


students.[19] Rather, it was the more conservative painters, those who worked in slightly old-fashioned styles, who staffed the studios where many of the Chinese and Japanese students enrolled. Although little research has yet been conducted on this period, the available evidence suggests that Chinese students for the most part did not rebel against their teachers to take up avant-garde art. Possibly language barriers or racism led to isolation from contemporary circles. Perhaps traditional respect for the teacher prevented the iconoclasm more typical of ambitious Western art students.

A second factor in the widespread adoption of impressionist landscape styles in China was its conceptual appeal. The European optical experiments with color and light undoubtedly seemed scientific and modern to young Chinese intellectuals.[20] At the same time, impressionism shared fundamental aesthetic inclinations with traditional Chinese painting, including the predominance of landscape subject matter, apparent spontaneity of execution, rejection of academic subjects and standards of refinement, emphasis on artistic individuality, and absence of overt psychological and political statements. It was a combination of this innate aesthetic affinity and practical academic opportunities that led so many artists who studied in Europe and Japan during the 1920s and 1930s to bring impressionist styles back to China. In some cities, such as Shanghai, impressionism became so potent that it was widely practiced by young artists as late as 1980.

During the latter part of 1956 and the first part of 1957, Chinese art historians and oil painters devoted themselves to answering the question "Is impressionism a form of realism?" The editors of Meishu introduced the debate in fairly mild terms, stressing that the problem of defining the terms "impressionism" and "realism" was in itself extremely complicated. They asserted that China must not reject impressionism outright even though it differed from socialist realism; at the same time, impressionism should not be affirmed in totality simply because it had useful elements. Meishu directed that it was necessary to steer a middle course between a rightist (pro-impressionist) and leftist (anti-impressionist) position.[21]

The Russian articles chosen for publication as part of the debate were largely negative. A late-nineteenth-century Russian writer, V. V. Stasov (1824-1906), criticized the impressionists because of their lack of subject matter and their "art for art's sake" attitude. He was particularly contemptuous of anyone who might rank Manet as high as Courbet. He acknowledged some value in works by painters who depicted urban life, such as Monet, Pissarro, and Sisley, but on the whole found that those who believed the impressionists constituted an important artistic movement were mistaken.[22]

The orthodox Soviet stance of the mid-1950s was conveyed to Chinese readers in translations from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia: "Impressionism is a result of the beginning of capitalism's decline. It is divorced from progressive


national art. Its proponents bring forth a thoughtless, antipeople, 'art for art's sake' program. They oppose objective realism and advocate only subjective [impressions].... They reject the idea that they are a part of the social struggle.... [Impressionism] is the last stand of formalism."[23] The editors of the encyclopedia considered it proper that some of the impressionists' techniques be incorporated into Soviet art but warned that Soviet artists must struggle against the revival of impressionism.

Despite the enthusiasm of many Chinese oil painters for impressionism, the campaign produced a fairly well unified official view: that the anti-academic beginnings of the impressionist movement were praiseworthy but that in its maturity it became an art of the capitalist class. Jiang Feng himself may have directed the debate, for he found the impressionism question so interesting that he later wrote a book-length manuscript about it.[24]

The Guohua Debate

The second major debate in the art world, about whether guohua should be reformed by requiring a basis in Western drawing, was fueled by high-ranking officials outside the world of art and quickly escaped Jiang Feng's control. Unlike the impressionism question, which had a preexisting answer defined by Soviet scholarship, the party arts leadership had profoundly conflicting views about guohua . When such a sharply divided art world was faced with the goal of producing a unified policy, clearly the views of one leadership faction would have to be affirmed at the expense of the other. For Jiang Feng, the debate was a clear attack on his intellectual principles and administrative position.

Once party leaders such as Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Yang reiterated their support for guohua in early 1956, most CAA administrators fell in step with the new policy. Jiang Feng, however, was committed to the reform of guohua and refused to waver. Following Xu Beihong's program of the early 1950s, he had required drawing as a basis for guohua instruction. This policy continued with the incorporation of the Chistiakov drawing system into the academic curriculum in 1955. Jiang Feng was understandably reluctant to see his newly systematized art education structure dismantled when party policy shifted. He apparently did not believe that the leadership wished the art world to change direction drastically, despite what Zhou Yang and Liu Shaoqi had said.

The chronology of Jiang Feng's difficulties in 1955 and 1956 has not been published, though some details are said to have been leaked a decade later in Red Guard wall posters. In 1955, Zhou Yang discussed guohua problems at the national CAA directors meeting.[25] Soon thereafter, according to oral accounts, Qian Junrui, vice-minister of culture and a man in close contact with officials in the Zhejiang Provincial Party Committee,[26] conducted an investigation of intellectuals in Hangzhou. Old guohua painters at the East China cam-


pus of CAFA, like those elsewhere, complained about their treatment at the hands of Communist art leaders, particularly Jiang Feng.[27] Whether Qian had gone to Hangzhou seeking information about Jiang Feng's "nihilism" or whether Jiang's distance from the scene made him a good target for locally orchestrated criticism is not known.

The administrative structure of the East China campus had been reorganized about a year after Jiang Feng's departure. The Zhejiang Provincial Party Committee took control of the school, appointing new members to the campus party committee in 1953.[28] With this expansion the Yan'an team put in place by Jiang Feng apparently found itself outnumbered by local Communist bureaucrats. Prominent school administrators—including Mo Pu, who remained on the party committee, Zhu Jinlou, and Jin Lang—were in agreement with Jiang Feng's policies and continued to follow his lead.[29] Problems about the school's relocation to Shanghai were only some of the frictions that resulted from this new administrative arrangement.

Many of the problems about which the old artists complained still existed in 1956, but there would have been every reason for the provincial bureaucracy to blame them all on the school's postliberation founder rather than to take responsibility themselves. Qian Junrui accepted their point of view. Even worse for Jiang Feng, he immediately reported his views to Mao Zedong, who was in Hangzhou at the time. The report apparently accused Jiang Feng of violating the party policy of uniting Communist and non-Communist intellectuals. Mao is said to have responded by asking, "Is Jiang Feng a Communist or a Nationalist?"[30]

If this account is true—and subsequent events indicate that it likely is—Qian Junrui and his confidants believed that Mao supported criticism of Jiang Feng's policies on guohua . What little is known about Jiang Feng's activities suggests that he himself probably did not know of Mao's opinion until much later. Jiang Feng's supporters, similarly in the dark, claimed in 1957 that criticism of Jiang by Qian Junrui was provoked by Cai Ruohong and other rivals; Qian, after all, knew very little about art. This view may have been partly correct, since Cai Ruohong did emerge as a supporter of traditional training for young guohua artists during the Anti—Hu Feng campaign.[31] There is no evidence, however, that Jiang's supporters knew of Mao's personal support for the Cai Ruohong-Qian Junrui approach to guohua .

Probably at Qian Junrui's suggestion, the Ministry of Culture and Zhe-jiang Provincial Committee investigated the East China campus in April 1956, an inquiry that resulted in severe criticism of Jiang Feng and Mo Pu by the overarching party organization. Subsequently, Jiang Feng was ordered to Hangzhou for further investigation. He was also required to write a letter to the party central, presumably a self-criticism. He did not immediately comply because of pressing administrative duties and his belief that the problem was


insignificant and should be resolved in Beijing. In October, at the CAA directors meeting, Jiang Feng's supporters accused the Ministry of Culture and the CAA party organizations of engaging in factionally motivated attacks on Jiang Feng. Jiang Feng requested that the proceedings of the meeting be published in Wenyibao .[32]

During this period Jiang Feng was concerned with practical administrative matters that may have seemed more important than fending off unjustified and simple-minded attacks. In 1956, after an extended period of negotiation and preparation, the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts was established, its core faculty and student body being drawn from the applied art department of CAFA. In the same year, most of the remaining private art colleges were integrated into the national art academy system. The Beijing Arts College was closed and its art department divided between CAFA and CAAC. Perhaps for budgetary reasons, Jiang Feng spent part of 1956 engaged in an experimental program in free-lance art, recommending that some academy graduates support themselves entirely by selling their services to publishers and other work units on a short-term basis. He even advocated that students try to sell their paintings in the park.[33]

The Hundred Flowers campaign, which undeniably contributed to the revival of traditional painting, was not simply a liberalization of artistic and verbal expression. The social, economic, and political dynamics of Chinese political movements made it impossible for artists or officials simply to relax. Moreover, they made idealistic or public-spirited behavior increasingly dangerous. Instead, the 1956 shift in policy led to a scramble for improved economic and social position, often at the expense of people already there.

The guohua issue was paramount in the struggle, but it was used for different purposes by each layer of the art world's social strata. At the top, CCP officials sought to encourage intellectuals to help the state. At the bottom, guohua artists wanted more money and higher position. In between were the art bureaucrats, including Jiang Feng and Cai Ruohong, who evaluated the issue in terms of their professional goals. Jiang Feng viewed the leadership's approach to guohua as wrong and as a threat to his system; Cai Ruohong, who readily accepted the new cultural trend, apparently saw it as an opportunity to attack Jiang's bureaucratic position.

The Hundred Flowers campaign presented Jiang Feng's opponents with a conjunction of party policy and professional opportunity. The Ministry of Culture investigation into Jiang Feng's "problem" with guohua was followed by public criticism. Jiang apparently resisted Qian Junrui's suggestions for modifying guohua instruction at CAFA, for in October 1956 Qian held an open meeting for art students and faculty at the Capital Theater, not far from campus. At the gathering, Qian Junrui criticized the Central Academy of Fine Arts


and Jiang Feng for requiring the study of drawing in the caimohua department. He questioned the appropriateness of studying Western art, asking, "Do we have no national pride?" In conclusion, he urged those present to bring forth their opinions about the leadership of CAFA as part of the Hundred Flowers campaign. It was then that "certain art academies" were attacked by People's Daily for their caimohua problems.[34] Zhou Enlai criticized Jiang Feng publicly at some point after the April 1956 Ministry of Culture meeting.[35]

While Jiang Feng seems to have maintained a tight hold on the academy in spite of these attacks, his influence within the CAA was successfully challenged. Whereas the arts policy of the preceding years had been aimed at educating the youth of China to function as artists in the new state, the policies of 1956 and 1957 encouraged old artists to exhibit skills that were primarily attributable to their preliberation training. The major exhibitions held in 1956 were devoted to guohua . Publications of the same year reveal an unprecedented variety of styles being practiced in the traditional media. Although the pluralism of the Hundred Flowers slogan might seem to suggest a healthy climate in which artists could produce whatever they pleased, in fact art remained subject to party policies and politics. The Hundred Flowers produced less pluralism than factionalism. Those who emerged as spokesmen for the traditionalists took a pro—Cai Ruohong and anti—Jiang Feng political stance, regardless of their artistic intent.

In response to the Eastern European uprisings of 1956 and the resistance of Chinese party administrators like Jiang Feng to the Hundred Flowers, Mao Zedong launched a party rectification campaign on April 30, 1957. For the first time, nonparty intellectuals were to participate in criticizing the errors of CCP leaders.[36] Negative opinions about party personnel and policies in the art world rained in from all sides. Old guohua artists who were offended by the emphasis on socialist realism complained about the art academy curricula. Those whose careers had suffered because of the party's earlier antipathy to guohua criticized the party's personnel policies. At the other extreme, the 1956 emphasis on guohua led young oil painters to express fear of unemployment. Thus the party leadership was criticized both by Soviet-oriented artists and by those one might call artistic nationalists.

Published reports indicate that the rectification campaign turned into an attempt by Cai Ruohong at the Ministry of Culture and Hua Junwu of the People's Daily to unseat Jiang Feng from leadership of the art world. Support for Jiang Feng poured out from the academies and from groups of old cadres, including many in the Creation Studio of the People's Art Press. Cai Ruohong's support came mainly from within the national CAA administration and, unwittingly, from traditional painters.

At a meeting held by the Ministry of Culture and the Chinese Artists Asso-


ciation on May 18, 1957, guohua artists were asked to make suggestions. The issues they raised ranged from the leadership's undervaluation of guohua to specific financial concerns. One artist complained that some artists were reduced to decorating stationery for a living and that their handiwork sold for one-tenth the price of a mechanically printed reproduction. Others bemoaned the status of guohua at CAFA.

By May 22, Jiang Feng's supporters had organized a counteroffensive against Cai Ruohong that culminated in a three-day meeting. Jiang Feng was later accused of assigning specific topics to twelve of the participants, a charge that his colleague Yan Han claims is false.[37] Jiang's supporters criticized Cai Ruohong for falsely blaming the Ministry of Culture's failings in regard to guohua on Jiang Feng and for having misled Vice-Minister Qian Junrui on the guohua issue. Qian himself was condemned for his ignorance about painting and his unwillingness to solicit opinions from experts other than Cai. Dong Xiwen asserted that guohua artists in all parts of China suffered from the same poor living conditions, work conditions, and teaching opportunities; Jiang Feng at the Central Academy of Fine Arts should not take sole blame for a national problem. The Ministry of Culture was faulted for hypocrisy: it had censured Jiang Feng for the neglect of guohua while taking no action itself to support it. Cai Ruohong, his allies, and Shao Yu of the People's Art Press were criticized for being excessively sensitive to trends in opinion, particularly regarding guohua , which led to flip-flops in administrative procedure. A painting commission on which Dong Xiwen had expended considerable effort was suddenly canceled and the project turned over to a guohua artist.

The thrust of the counterattack was that Jiang Feng had been the target of a smear campaign and that criticisms of him were completely out of proportion to any problems that might in fact exist at the Central Academy. Published and unpublished criticisms were refuted point by point, with Yan Han, Wu Zuoren, Dong Xiwen, and Xu Beihong's widow, Liao Jingwen, presenting the most convincing arguments. In addition to the spirited defense of their director, the CAFA staff and students mounted an attack on officials of the Ministry of Culture. Dong Xiwen criticized ministry officials for suppressing oil painting in response to the new policy of supporting guohua . Others complained that the ministry was refusing to send oil painters abroad to study, that it had ignored Maksimov's oil painting class, and that it refused to deal with the economic difficulties of oil painters.

According to official accounts, almost two hundred students opposed to Qian Junrui and Cai Ruohong marched to the Ministry of Culture on May 25. Assuming the official account is reliable, this action demonstrates that Jiang Feng, the old urban organizer, had successfully aroused support at the popular level. Yan Han, Mo Pu, Liu Kaiqu, and Pang Xunqin were subsequently


accused of orchestrating the event, which was deemed a victory even by its opponents.[38]

According to Yan Han, however, the action was much more modest. A May 22 meeting had originally been organized by Maksimov's oil painting students and old cadres who worked in the Creation Studio of the People's Art Press. The students, who formed the elite of their generation, were worried that the party's turn toward guohua had gotten so extreme that it threatened their careers. The old cadres, many of whom had studied with Maksimov at their studio, were unhappy about their relationship with the administrators of the press. They took the opportunity to complain of bureaucratism, focusing particularly on the chief bureaucrat, Shao Yu. The concrete request developed by the assembled artists was that an oil painting creation studio be established to concentrate the talents of the artists trained by Maksimov. Such a plan was parallel to the structure established in the new Institutes of Chinese Painting and would raise the quality of oil painting. An unstated goal was to free the old cadres from administrators whom they disliked.

A group assembled on the morning of the third day of rectification meetings to present their request to the Ministry of Culture. Originally Gu Yuan of the People's Art Press had been asked to head the group, but for unknown reasons Yan Han ended up leading the protesters to the ministry. Each constituent group selected representatives to voice their opinions to the ministry. Maksimov's class dispatched Qin Zheng, He Kongde, and Wang Liuqiu. Yan Han recalls that everyone was very excited and that they planned to arrive at the ministry before the ministers got to work. Rather than visit Minister of Culture Mao Dun, Jiang Feng's enemy Qian Junrui, or Zhou Yang, the group decided to appeal to Vice-Minister Xia Yan. He had not yet arrived at his office, and the protesters were told to go home rather than wait for him. Another Ministry of Culture meeting, they were informed, would soon be held at CAFA. Eventually a section head met with them and they presented their request to build a creation studio on Wangfujing near CAFA. They went on to discuss the Jiang Feng problem.

Yan Han remembers that a friend warned him to stay out of the discussion because it was an internal party struggle. "They want to overthrow Jiang Feng; how can I keep quiet?" was his reply. Soon thereafter, a notice arrived from the Ministry of Culture that a big meeting would be held. Qian Junrui was otherwise engaged, so Xia Yan represented the ministry. This may have been the meeting described in Meishu as occurring on June 4.

The Ministry of Culture-sponsored meeting focused on guohua artists and appears to have been organized in response to the pro—Jiang Feng events of May 22-25. In line with the opinions of Qian Junrui and Cai Ruohong, Jiang Feng was criticized repeatedly and specifically as the man responsible for the


party's neglect of guohua . Because the rectification campaign was brought to a close three days later, on June 7, and the debate ceased, Cai Ruohong and Qian Junrui had the last word.

The Anti-Rightist Campaign

Just as art students rallied to defend Jiang Feng, in the spring of 1957 college students at Beijing University demonstrated on behalf of Hu Feng, whom Mao had imprisoned two years earlier. Antiparty posters and demonstrations were widespread.[39] The Hundred Flowers campaign turned against Mao himself by the end of May. Either in alarm at the unexpected vehemence of the anti-Communist feeling remaining in China or as a cynical response to a well-laid trap, on June 8 Mao Zedong and the other party authorities moved to silence the critics they had flushed into the open. A nationwide purge of intellectuals and party officials began in the summer of 1957. Jiang Feng was named "number one rightist in the art world" and accused of leading an antiparty group. Yan Han was identified as "number two rightist." Ministry of Culture officials took over the party administration of CAFA in order to supervise the political campaign. The academy became a national model for implementation of the Anti-Rightist campaign in the art world.

The case against Jiang Feng, who was stripped of his titles and expelled from the party in June, was set out in two meetings conducted on July 28 and 30, 1957, by the Ministry of Culture.[40] The weeks between Jiang Feng's purge and the formal statement of his crime were presumably devoted to convincing his colleagues that he really was a rightist and to soliciting their testimony. Even those who had reason to resent Jiang Feng, such as former CAFA party leader Hu Yichuan, found the charges of rightism incredible. When informed of Jiang's demise by a reporter in Moscow during the summer of 1957, Hu voiced the indiscreet opinion that whatever one thought of Jiang Feng, one could hardly call him a rightist.[41]

It is probably safe to assume that no one of Jiang Feng's rank in the party hierarchy could have predicted the devastating results of maintaining a principled stand on an artistic question. Moreover, most critics of the "rightists," whatever their motives, could not have foreseen that their colleagues might be punished as harshly as they were. Some artists testified against so-called rightists for purely opportunistic reasons—to win favor with the leadership. However, some of those who were reluctant to testify were threatened. A prominent administrator who had once shared an office with Jiang Feng was visited repeatedly by party authorities who sought information on the "Jiang Feng Antiparty Group." When he failed to provide material, maintaining that


no such group existed, he was given a final warning: if he did not testify, he would be identified as a rightist in the following day's newspaper. He still had nothing to say and was consequently condemned as a member of the Jiang Feng Antiparty Group.[42]

In a typical political campaign, well-organized speeches would be prepared under supervision of party authorities before the meetings. Party officials from outside the academy were sent in to direct the campaign against CAFA administrators.[43] The report of the July anti-Jiang Feng meetings, published two weeks later, describes erroneous opinions held by those who supported Jiang Feng. Some artists, including Jiang Feng himself, considered his so-called antiparty actions and speech to be an academic matter, which would have made them exempt from interference by nonspecialists. Wang Xun, a leading art historian at CAFA, was criticized for a statement made at the May 25 rectification meeting that referred to Jiang Feng's differences with other party leaders as being merely academic. Wang had reported, "We know that the opinions of several of the leaders of the CAA differ. The party meeting of the Democratic Alliance at CAFA considered inviting Jiang Feng, Cai Ruohong, and Shao Yu to meet to exchange some academic ideas. However, because this work later proved to be difficult to do, we gave up the idea."[44] Wang was declared to be a rightist.

The very sensible opinions voiced by Wu Zuoren at the May 25 conference became evidence of Jiang's pernicious influence. "We must acknowledge that there are debates between the old and the new guohua principally over whether one wants a basis in drawing or rejects a basis in drawing. This is an issue that is scholarly and involves academic traditions .... It is not a 'You die, I live' situation."[45] The official report continues ominously to comment that since Jiang Feng's problem was not academic but rather was antiparty, it was indeed cause for a "You die, I live" struggle. Xu Beihong's protégé Wu Zuoren was protected by decision makers high in the party, and Jiang Feng, not the speaker himself, was blamed for Wu's mistaken ideas. Xu's widow, Liao Jingwen, was similarly forgiven her mistakes.

On July 30, Zhang Ding, professor and party secretary in the color-and-ink department of CAFA and a practitioner of new guohua in his own painting reported the following evidence against Jiang Feng:

In 1954, when I first arrived in the color-and-ink painting department, the old guohua artists had not yet been assigned to teach; they were still studying drawing and undergoing reform. Studying drawing is fine, but Western-style artists were put in charge. The old guohua artists could not hold up their heads at the academy. Among the young artists, nihilism [indifference to Chinese culture] is serious; they suspect that the national painting legacy has nothing to inherit and they have no faith in the future


development of guohua. Students chosen for the color-and-ink specialty try to get out of it. The color-and-ink curriculum cannot be established by [its instructors] but must be set up with that of the oil painting instructors. In that year, Jiang Feng supported Li Zongjin to hold a conference for painting department professors about guohua, and the meeting was really a siege against guohua. Jiang Feng and those who agree with him plan to "reform" guohua according to their own methods. Since that meeting, Western-style and Chinese-style artists are not united. Jiang Feng prohibits the study of tradition. He is separated from the present situation of guohua and says simplistically that if one develops upon new year's pictures, that is guohua. Landscapes and birds-and-flowers are left out. The painting department teachers say that Chinese classical painting usually lacks anatomy, perspective, texture, weight, space, and so forth, and some of them laugh at the guohua teachers .... One old painter said, "I would rather sell from a tarp on the street than teach guohua at the academy."[46]

Zhang went on to testify that Jiang Feng had rejected both Zhou Yang's ideas about guohua presented in the second CAA directors meeting, held in 1955, and Qian Junrui's suggestions of October 1956 that the academy institute a two-track guohua program, one to teach traditional techniques and the other based on Western drawing. The article further accused Jiang Feng of believing that the party's policy of developing the national tradition was opposed to revolution and that Ministry of Culture support for guohua translated to a rejection of oil painting.

Jiang Feng was accused in testimony by others of rejecting the party's Hundred Flowers policy by undervaluing guohua and by calling it unscientific, unable to represent reality, and unable to serve politics. Hua Junwu reported that at the October 1956 meeting of the CAA Jiang Feng defended his previous policies regarding guohua. His alleged comments that guohua was useless during the Korean War insulted many old guohua artists such as Yu Feian.[47]

According to the report, Jiang refused his chance to repent when he was criticized by the party organization in April 1956. Arguing that the new policy advocated tradition, not revolution, he said to CAFA students: "Before, guohua artists were traitors and they oppressed us. Now the Ministry of Culture wants to let them continue to oppress us." Comments made in front of foreign visitors included, "The Ministry of Culture is uncultured," the Ministry of Culture officials "don't understand art," and the party officials of the ministry are "amateurs" who intend to "harm" him. Efforts to correct him were met with the rejoinder "Every sentence uttered by the premier [Zhou Enlai] is not necessarily correct."[48]

Other alleged evidence of insubordination was that Jiang had failed to transmit party policy in support of the Hundred Flowers Movement to the


CAFA party branch. The ideas in question were presented in a speech by Mao Zedong to national propaganda officials on March 12, 1957, and then passed down, presumably in written form, to high-ranking party functionaries. Instead of conveying Mao's policy, Jiang discussed his own feelings, saying: "I previously agreed with Chen Qitong. Now, because my head is not a lantern, it cannot rotate with the wind."[49] Chen Qitong was an army propaganda official who had organized publication of an article that criticized the Hundred Flowers policy of liberalization in the January 7 People's Daily. Chen's group complained that some people were using liberalization to oppose the guideline of art and literature in service of politics and especially that some wished to revive old literature rather than create new socialist literature.

Chen's hard-line support of socialist realism, however, was a common one in the upper reaches of the party propaganda apparatus; indeed, it was not rebuffed by the People's Daily until March, two months after the publication of Chen's article. Mao's other important speeches of February and March, for that matter, were not published by the official newspaper until April.[50] Apparently, as Roderick MacFarquhar has described, the editorial staff of the People's Daily, certain high party officials, and many lower-level officials were feeling considerable uncertainty and resistance to Mao's Hundred Flowers campaign.[51] Jiang's refusal to jump on the bandwagon seems less extraordinary in this context, particularly since he seems to have viewed those who did so as opportunists.

The Hundred Flowers was interpreted by Zhou Yang, Qian Junrui, Cai Ruohong, and their supporters as a mandate to revive traditional painting. The State Council's establishment of new work units to support traditional artists suggests that this view became the official line. Although the CAA supported this policy, perhaps over Jiang Feng's objection, the academies he led encouraged only those aspects of Chinese tradition that could be harmonized with socialist realism. The specific "rightist" error for which Jiang Feng was condemned, in short, was his recalcitrance in fully implementing the Hundred Flowers guohua policy. His point of view had been rejected by the party when it criticized him in 1956, but he refused to back down. He consistently resisted outside interference in administration of the academies, be it from the Ministry of Culture or from local party organizations.

The procedure followed in the campaign against him was to apply the 1956-1957 party line as a standard for judging his previous career, going all the way back to Yan'an. One report asserts that Jiang Feng, Mo Pu, and Yan Han were unhappy with the Yan'an party rectification and believed that the party lacked faith in them and was too harsh with intellectuals.[52] Jiang Feng's concern for Sha Jitong, who died during the 1942 campaign, suggests that the accusation may be partly accurate, but its relevance to his administrative practices fifteen years later is not immediately obvious. During the Hundred Flow-


ers campaign, Jiang Feng's colleague Yan Han announced his opposition to the rectification procedure as practiced in Yan'an and revived several times in the 1950s on the grounds that people were publicly condemned without proper investigation of the allegations against them.[53]

The emphasis given to a Western curriculum at the academy in Hangzhou between 1949 and 1955 was blamed on Jiang Feng and his "antiparty" group, which included Vice-Director Mo Pu; color-and-ink instructors Jin Lang, Zhu Jinlou, and Jin Ye; and the oil painter Wang Liuqiu.[54] Jiang's criticism of old artists such as Pan Tianshou and Wu Fuzhi in the early 1950s was cited as evidence that Jiang Feng intended to break the continuous history of Chinese traditional painting. Requiring depiction of the "typical," concentrating on figure painting, drawing, and outline and color techniques, and abolishing the copying of old paintings were further errors, even though committed in the early 1950s. The targets of the campaign in Hangzhou were the Communist administrators Jiang Feng had installed in 1949. The Zhejiang Provincial Committee thus completed its sweep of leaders appointed before the province assumed control.

Various other policies were allegedly aimed at abolishing guohua: replacing old faculty with young, a suggestion attributed to Jin Ye, for example; and calling the specialty cairnohua rather than guohua. Guohua masters Pan Tianshou, Wu Fuzhi, and Zhu Leshan were reportedly not given teaching assignments at Hangzhou until the Zhejiang Provincial Committee criticized Mo Pu in 1955. The cairnohua department, moreover, was staffed with Western-oriented painters such as the "Three Golds [Jin ]," Zhu Jinlou, Jin Ye, and Jin Lang, all of whom were declared rightists. Wu Fuzhi had despaired, "Those who don't understand [guohua ] pretend they do, so those who do understand had better pretend they don't."[55]

While the broad outlines of the campaign were defined by the party, professors from the preliberation academies provided its elaboration. All members of the art world, that is, were called upon to express their opinions about Jiang Feng's "rightism" as a test of their own loyalty. Even for those who were not explicitly threatened themselves, previous campaigns had taught that if one did not condemn the errors of the accused, one might be considered a supporter of his viewpoint and so become a target oneself.

As the charges against Jiang Feng were publicized, artists, art teachers, and critics were expected to prepare statements supporting the predetermined verdict. The variety of topics discussed in articles condemning Jiang Feng indicates that a certain amount of creativity in supporting the party line was encouraged. As one might expect, the earliest attacks were by Cai Ruohong and his allies. Evidence collected during the May rectification meetings was used to identify other rightists, to be supplemented by new testimony collected during the months that followed.


Among those who came forth to attack Jiang Feng were some who genuinely disagreed with his policies and administrative style. The bird-and-flower painter Pan Tianshou, for example, who had been demoted from his preliberation position at the Hangzhou academy, accused Jiang Feng of predicting at a meeting in 1950 that Chinese painting would die out and be replaced by oil painting. The reason Jiang allegedly gave for this art form's future demise was that Chinese painting failed to reflect reality, that it was unsuitable for large paintings, and that it lacked international character. Jiang was further accused of trying to make his prophecy self-fulfilling by combining the Chinese painting department at Hangzhou with the Western painting department. This new administrative unit, called simply the painting department, slighted traditional techniques and emphasized Western-style drawing.[56]

The guohua painters at CAFA, who had themselves been active in practicing and teaching various new forms of guohua, were less personal in their charges than those, like Pan Tianshou, who had suffered at the party's hands. According to the official report, color-and-ink painting department artists Ye Qianyu, Li Keran, Jiang Zhaohe, and the young instructor Li Qi supported Qian Junrui's reform of the guohua curriculum, and thus did not oppose party policy.[57] The following month their criticisms of Jiang Feng, which convey a strong sense of having been orchestrated by organizers of the anti-Jiang campaign, appeared in Meishu. Li Keran and Ye Qianyu, for instance, described the development of Jiang Feng's erroneous philosophy of teaching new guohua. According to Li, Jiang had criticized the venerable Qi Baishi at the first congress of art workers in July 1949 as follows: "Chinese painting, especially ink painting, cannot develop, with the exception of outline-and-flat-color painting .... Although Qi Baishi's paintings are good, they have reached the end of the road and cannot be further developed."[58] Even if this quote is accurate, Jiang's negative view of traditional painting merely reflects the party policy of popularization in the period immediately following the Communist victory. The party's elevation of Qi Baishi to the post of chairman of the CAA in 1953, however, symbolized official reversal of this policy. New legal standards were thus applied to Jiang's previous behavior.

By about 1955, with national adoption of Soviet drawing education, a new issue arose. Theorists who had Jiang Feng's ear, such as Wang Manshi, conceived the idea that traditional Chinese painting could be integrated with the Chistiakov drawing system and that the abstract values of Chinese painting should be combined with Western techniques.[59] The party's renewed emphasis on tradition was acknowledged, however, in Mo Pu's claim that Qi Baishi had unconsciously learned to draw without formal study during the course of his long life.[60]

Li Zongjin's critics accused him of conspiring with Jiang Feng to harm the cairnohua curriculum by teaching students a combination of Western and


Chinese techniques rather than emphasizing the traditional foundations of their art. A 1955 conflict over the issue of whether to teach drawing or traditional painting led to the interruption of classes at CAFA. Li Zongjin and Wang Manshi allegedly aggravated the conflict by concluding that too much tradition was being taught; they therefore opposed the instruction of traditional ink outline drawing.[61] Li Zongjin believed that in Chinese painting one should begin painting with a brush only after one's pencil drawing is completed.[62] Presumably this meant that the academic system of first drawing a detailed cartoon before beginning a major oil painting would be applied to guohua painting. A result would be eradication of the guohua tradition of spontaneous personal expression. A further implication is that traditional techniques, which involved use of laboriously mastered conventions for lines and texture strokes, would be abandoned in favor of western modeling.

Jiang Zhaohe supplied information about the terminology problem: "Jiang Feng says, 'Oil painting is not called Western painting, so Chinese painting need not be called guohua [Chinese or national painting]. Chinese people's paintings should not be divided into Western and Chinese on the basis of the tools they use; oil painting uses oil colors; guohua uses [water]colors and ink, so is called cairnohua, color-and-ink painting.' ... Jiang Feng's supporters called critics of his idea 'narrow nationalists.'" Jiang Zhaohe concluded, in the spirit of the Anti-Rightist campaign, "But now we know that his idea was intended to oppose the party central's directive to inherit the national tradition."[63]

Some essays by CAFA professors are creative to the point of losing credibility. Ye Qianyu took the reasonable position that the long-standing bias in Chinese art schools toward Western painting helped to explain Jiang's failings in the realm of guohua. His astounding conclusion was that Jiang's pro-Soviet position was conservative—that is, rightist—whereas those in the party who favored reviving traditional painting were progressive By placing Jiang in a long tradition of academics who lacked interest in guohua, Ye got away with supporting the party line without personally condemning the man. One of the biggest faults Ye Qianyu pointed out was that Jiang propagated the Xu Beihong school of Chinese painting, which was based on Western drawing.[64] This criticism may have been the party line, but it seems odd when one considers that Ye himself was originally hired by Xu Beihong and practiced a new guohua figure painting style based on Western sketching.

Another faculty member from Xu Beihong's academy, the oil painter Ai Zhongxin, attempted to prove that Jiang's personal virtues, such as "directness, strength of character, decisiveness, enthusiasm, vision, and personal austerity," were hypocritical means for reaching his antiparty goals. Their insidiousness was such, Ai maintained, that even after his "plot" was exposed people continued to say that he was a good person with no malice in his


heart.[65] Such convoluted criticism paints an image of Jiang Feng not as a tyrant, but only as a popular administrator. While the authors' motives were complex at the time and unfathomable today, one senses behind the rhetorical structure of their public statements glimmerings of opinions that do not entirely fit the party's rigid framework.

Attacks by Cai Ruohong's faction within the CAA, however, are unambivalent. Yan Han had accused Cai Ruohong of using political movements for factional advantage. Protestations to the contrary by Hua Junwu, a supporter of Cai Ruohong, are not convincing:

Yan Han claims to be second-in-command, a great general of Jiang Feng's Antiparty Group. He is a so-called Creation Cadre of the Artists Association. Since the 1953 reorganization, the party has allowed him free rein to devote himself to the creation of woodcuts. He has not been required to undertake any administrative work. Every month he receives a very high salary; moreover, he receives fees from the publication of his works. The party has given him superior material conditions, but Yan Han uses this freedom from going to a regular daily job to organize activities all over, to solicit people for the Jiang Feng Antiparty Group, to expand the ranks of the antiparty group, and to recruit support for Jiang Feng. Yan Han also claims that when Cai Ruohong and Hua Junwu of the CAA used "elimination of counterrevolutionaries" [sufan ] to rectify him they engaged in factionalism.... Yan Han says that Cai Ruohong and I changed twenty characters in his [self-criticism] conclusion, which is politically irresponsible He thinks he is a great artist, above the party's investigation.[66]

Among many other proofs presented of plotting by the Jiang Feng group, especially by Yan Han, Qin Zheng, and Jiang Feng himself, was the alleged fact that they were afraid to communicate openly with one another. They were said to identify themselves incompletely when making telephone calls, visit one another only after dark to avoid the notice of CAA officials who lived nearby, and hold meetings in parks and on street corners.[67] If such charges were true, their caution was clearly justified, if useless, since their movements were carefully observed by the opposing faction.

Yan Han's 1988 recollection of the events placed the 1957 rectification campaign in a continuum with the Yan'an campaign and the Cultural Revolution.

The 1957 Anti-Rightist Movement... the Yan'an rectification campaign ... Mao suggested these. Many people were rectified... like a little Cultu-


ral Revolution. Or you could say that the Cultural Revolution was a continuation on a large scale of the Yan'an zhengfeng [rectification campaign]. At the time, they rectified people, but because they were surrounded by the Nationalists they couldn't go on with it for very long .... Many people were rectified, including Jiang Feng, but it was concluded quickly .... I think, and so does everyone else, that the Cultural Revolution was an inevitable development from Mao's thought, to rectify the intellectuals, rectify the old cadres, and have the Black Painting exhibition [of 1974].[68] . . . So this class struggle continues to the death. The Yan'an zhengfeng, the 1957 Anti-Rightist campaign, and the Cultural Revolution are thus related.

Both in Yan'an and in 1957, some people criticized the whole idea of struggling cadres as a method of party discipline. Especially putting on people's hats [labeling as a political criminal] without a careful investigation. You know how things work. First you put on their hats, but very often after you investigate you find that there was no problem to begin with. But I should be clear. We were rectified, but we also rectified other people. Because it was our [assigned] duty. We rectified other people; other people rectified us. We offended other people; and they offended us. But we say that we cannot assume responsibility because [Mao] was at the top and ordered this. This was a problem raised in 1957 ....

In 1957 the party central brought forth three items: (1) oppose subjectivism; (2) oppose bureaucratism; (3) oppose factionalism. These were raised by Mao. Everyone had to participate in this movement, and speak out, and help the party rectification. But actually they were just fishing. We were a little simple-minded. . . . So we all spoke out Many of us protected Jiang Feng.

... I stood up in the big meeting [in 1957] and criticized the Ministry of Culture. I said that as far as an academic question goes, Jiang Feng did not sufficiently value Chinese painting. He urged the reform of Chinese painting. But wait, wait, this is an academic question. Regardless of whether he was right or wrong? it was an academic question. But the leaders of the time were taking names [of those who] criticized Jiang Feng. They said he used academic methods to oppose the Communist party. So I spoke. "This is wrong. In academics, you said one hundred schools should contend. People can contend, can express opinions. In politics, this becomes anti-party, counterrevolutionary. This is wrong, and should be investigated. There is time, no one will escape. We should heed the lessons of the Yan'an zhengfeng. " This is one item in my being declared a rightist.[69]

The Anti-Rightist campaign in the art world arose from a conjunction of political, personal, and artistic factors. To this day, even artists and administrators who participated firsthand are not entirely clear about why it happened and what its ramifications are. There is no question that Jiang Feng was a talented, energetic, and charismatic administrator, if prone to stubbornness on


large issues and micromanagement of small ones. Yan Han believes that Jiang Feng's purge was based not on his administrative performance but on personal relations. With the purges controlled by Zhou Yang's faction in the party, the group who originally followed Lu Xun, including Feng Xuefeng and Jiang's friend Ai Qing, were obvious targets. Nevertheless, Yan Han believes that Jiang Feng's position in the art world was such that no factional competitor could have unseated him. It was Mao's involvement, based on reports he heard from Qian Junrui and others, that led to Jiang Feng's purge. After complaints about Jiang Feng's administration of Hangzhou guohua artists had been reported to Mao, the Zhejiang Provincial Committee initiated an inquiry. Jiang Feng was ordered on two occasions to go to Hangzhou to submit himself to investigation. He denied any wrongdoing and insisted on staying in Beijing while he straightened out the matter. He was subsequently criticized for not going to Hangzhou, and when he later agreed to go it was too late. In a speech of October 13, 1957, Mao Zedong reflected upon the Anti-Rightist campaign. He cited several examples of anti-Communists produced within the ranks of the 'Communist party, including General Gao Gang (who had been purged from Dong Xiwen's 1952 Founding of the Nation ), the novelist Ding Ling, Feng Xuefeng, and Jiang Feng.[70]

It would be an understatement to say that the Anti-Rightist campaign, which sentenced young artists to labor camps for expressing opinions on such normal professional issues as critical standards, methods of art education, and the performance of art administrators, offends Western standards of justice. Rehabilitation of rightists in the late 1970s indicates that current Chinese authorities recognized the resentment it created within China itself. Not only the results, but the very process of "proving" the "crimes," is appalling. Most of the case against Jiang Feng is recorded in secret documents, but even the published accounts support the view that he and his supporters were victims of factional attack. He was charged retroactively for policy errors that, when implemented, were considered correct by the party and by many of his accusers. Insofar as the views of Cai Ruohong and Qian Junrui represented the party in 1957, however, Jiang Feng was guilty of breaching party discipline.

The Anti-Rightist campaign resulted in the expulsion from the CCP of party leaders and art professors who held "erroneous" views, particularly Jiang Feng, Yan Han, Hong Bo, Mo Pu, Wang Manshi, Li Zongjin, Jin Ye, Jin Lang, and Zhu Jinlou.[71] Non-Communist professionals such as Wang Xun, Liu Kaiqu, and Pang Xunqin were similarly attacked.[72] Every unit of the Chinese administration was required to purge itself of rightists—with, in many cases, a quota of 5 percent of all personnel set as a goal.[73] At CAFA the students and professors who had defended Jiang Feng or who refused to testify against him were easy targets. Testimony was collected, rightists were condemned, and many were shipped out by train to labor camps on the Soviet border of


Heilongjiang. A total of forty-four rightists were found at CAFA.[74] According to Naranarayan Das, a special police force was established to deal with these offenders.[75]

The carefully chosen and politically reliable oil painting training class led by Maksimov offered up many victims. It is hard to imagine that the class harbored serious antiparty sentiments, since the stiff competition for admission had undoubtedly involved close scrutiny of the students' ideological records as well as their artistic competence. Support for Jiang Feng was the downfall of many of the oil painters involved, however. The names of two delegates who represented the class at the Ministry of Culture, He Kongde and Qin Zheng, appeared in print and became targets for the campaign. From an art historical view, the most serious result of "wearing a rightist cap" was that the artists were effectively barred from official exhibitions until 1962. In practice, many were prohibited from painting and spent the most important years of their lives at hard labor.

He Kongde was sheltered somewhat by his position in the People's Liberation Army and managed to put his career back on track after his cap was removed in 1962. Qin Zheng did not reemerge until after the Cultural Revolution. Two irregular students in Maksimov's class, Wang Liuqiu, who was a professor from the East China campus of the Central Academy, and Yu Yunjie, an illustrator from Shanghai, were also singled out as rightists in Meishu magazine condemnations.[76] If the oil painting class had been assigned a separate quota for the production of rightists, it might have been as high as 20 percent; however, most students were counted toward the quotas in their home institutions, thus protecting someone else.

The most profound impact the Anti-Rightist Movement had on the arts lay in its condemnation of leaders one would under normal circumstances have described as leftists: those who advocated rapid development of revolutionary art at the expense of traditional painting and who were enthusiastic about Soviet models. A second important group of artists banished from public life were those who might logically be called rightists. Liu Haisu was condemned at a meeting of the Jiangsu Provincial FLAC held between October 22 and 26 and attended by members from five provinces; he was exposed by testimony from the preparatory committee for the Nanjing branch of the CAA. Liu held many honorary titles in the new regime, including Shanghai Municipal Committee member of the Democratic League, member of the Jiangsu Political Consultative Council, member of the Jiangsu Provincial FLAC, member of the directorate of the Shanghai branch of the CAA, vice-director of the preparatory committee for the Nanjing branch of the CAA, and director of the East China Arts Academy (Huadong yizhuan ), which included the remnants of his old Shanghai Art Academy. His primary crime was his refusal to move the East


China Arts Academy from Nanjing to Xi'an, as ordered by the State Council in 1956. When, shortly thereafter, the State Council canceled the move, he took credit for the policy change. During the party rectification campaign of May 1957 he spoke out in Shanghai in favor of moving the school back to Shanghai. He ridiculed the ignorance of party officials, referring to them disparagingly as "this bunch of Shandongers" and so forth, who "don't know anything but live off the [Communist] party." He opposed the study of Soviet art and uttered such sacrileges as "The best art in the world is not Soviet art; Soviet art has no stature on the world art scene." His motive was to restore his preliberation Shanghai Art Academy.[77] The charges against him, moreover, were probably true. One Shanghai Art Academy graduate who was a party official at the East China campus of CAFA is known to have held private discussions with Liu about combining the two schools in Shanghai.[78] It is ironic that both men were condemned as rightists for their exemplary demonstration of cooperation between party and nonparty administrators.

Many old guohua artists who gave vent to their outrage at shoddy treatment by the Communists were condemned for antiparty sentiments. Others were charged with economic crimes. Lu Yanshao was declared a rightist for having tried to negotiate a higher salary when he was offered a transfer to the Shanghai Institute of Chinese Painting. Zhang Shouchen, organizer of the Shanghai fan painting cooperative, was condemned, presumably for his efforts to resolve the conservative guohua painters' economic needs.[79] The newly founded Beijing and Shanghai Chinese Painting Institutes lost several recently appointed administrators. Of four top administrators at the Beijing Institute, the director, Ye Gongzhuo, and the vice-director, Xu Yansun, were branded rightists. Ye Gongzhuo's condemnation is particularly poignant from an art historical point of view, for the best traditional paintings in Mao Zedong's residential guohua collection were joint scrolls and albums organized by Ye as birthday gifts or national day presents for China's supreme leader.[80] Xu Yan-sun was declared the leader of an antiparty group in guohua circles; his alleged crimes included accusing the party of not understanding guohua and attacking the work of Li Keran and Zhang Ding as not being guohua, as well as preferring good hotels and lower train berths when traveling.[81] He, like Jiang Feng, failed to confess properly. The art historian, calligrapher, and painter Qi Gong was identified as belonging to his group.[82]

Before the Hundred Flowers campaign, the art world had been largely free of direct interference from higher authorities. Cultural directives were issued by the party, and art leaders such as Jiang Feng decided how they might be applied to artistic activity. In 1956, however, the CCP adopted the question of guohua in new China for larger political purposes. Decisions were made that flatly contradicted previous art policy and that could not be integrated into the


art bureaucracy. In such conflicts, as we have seen, central authorities easily overruled and purged individual bureaucrats. Overturning the entire system, however, was more difficult and was not attempted.

Instead, the State Council created new institutions, most notably the Institutes of Chinese Painting, outside the existing art bureaucracy. The largely nonpolitical art produced by the privileged older artists in the Institutes of Chinese Painting was fragile, flourishing as long as men at the highest levels of the party were able and willing to protect it. It was only at the close of the decade that the party's ideological shift toward "national forms" in art was given a sound theoretical basis. Nevertheless, young artists assigned to work there in the 1960s still considered the Institutes of Chinese Painting a retirement club for old artists rather than an important cultural force.[83] The socialist realist mainstream, thus, remained vigorous, with a strong theoretical basis in Soviet and Chinese Communist doctrine and the support of a bureaucracy that continued to function, even after many of its founders were purged.

The Anti-Rightist campaign removed from professional life the most committed advocates of both the proreform and the protraditional points of view. It had disastrous personal consequences for many alleged rightists. Some artists were transported in special rightist trains to rural labor camps in Heilongjiang, the Chinese equivalent of Siberia, and were forced to leave their families behind. Others, like Jiang Feng and Yan Han, underwent labor reform in the Beijing suburbs, after which they were assigned to low-level jobs in the cultural bureaucracy. Worse than the economic privation was the fact that they were shunned by former colleagues, friends, and even some family members. Such stresses led to divorce and other family problems. Pang Xunqin hid his problems from his wife, who was in the hospital recovering from heart problems. His efforts to shelter her failed, however, for she had a fatal heart attack after hearing a radio broadcast that castigated him.[84]

Mao Zedong's campaign to squelch antiparty sentiment may have found its proper targets, but it was also used in factionally motivated attacks to ruin party art leaders. Conventional professional and human relations splintered as artists were coerced into testifying on academic questions, only to see their testimony used to exile colleagues like common criminals. With blind loyalty to the CCP being placed above all other virtues, fundamental principles of individual and social morality were eradicated. The administration of art in China has never recovered from this blow. Among the condemned were men and women of principle and vision. The art teachers and students who were labeled rightists with Jiang Feng tended to be those who possessed personal qualities we associate with the successful artist, including ambition, independence, outspokenness, self-confidence, stubbornness, even self-righteousness. The purge, however, undoubtedly made implementation of Mao's next cultural experiment somewhat less difficult.

Image not available

Plate 1
Dong Xiwen, The Founding of the
Nation, revised ca. 1967, oil on canvas,
230 cm x 400 cm, Museum of Chinese
Revolutionary History.

Image not available

Plate 2
He Kongde, A Letter from Home, 1957,
with later repairs, oil on canvas, collection
of the artist.

Image not available

Plate 3
Shi Lu, Fighting in Northern Shaanxi,
1959, ink and color on paper, Museum
of Chinese Revolutionary History.

Image not available

Plate 4
Luo Gongliu, Mao Zedong at Jingang
Shah, 1962, oil on canvas, 150 cm x
200 cm, Museum of Chinese Revolutionary

Image not available

Plate 5
Ya Ming, Peddlers, 1958, ink and colors
on silk, 78.5 cm x 212 cm, collection of
the artist.

Image not available

Plate 6
Li Huanmin, Tibetan Girl, 1959, wood-block
print, 42.5 cm x 23.5 cm, collection
of the Chinese Artists Association,
Sichuan Branch.

Image not available

Plate 7
Li Keran, Ten Thousand Crimson Hills,
1963, ink and color on paper, Chinese
National Art Gallery.

Image not available

Plate 8
Lu Yanshao, Landscapes After the Poems
of Du Fu, I962, album leaf, ink and
color on paper, collection of the artist.

Image not available

Plate 9
Wu Hufan, Twin Pines and Layered
Green, 1959, hanging scroll, ink and
color on paper, Shanghai Institute of
Chinese Painting.

Image not available

Plate 10
Tang Xiaohe and Cheng Li, Follow
Closely Our Great Leader Chairman
Mao, Ride the Wind, Cleave the Waves,
Fearlessly Forge Ahead, 1972, oil on
canvas, collection of the artists.

Image not available

Plate 11
Chen Yifei and Wei Jingshan, The Taking
of the Presidential Palace, 1977, oil
on canvas, 335 cm x 466 cm, Chinese
People's Revolutionary Military

Image not available

Plate 12
Wu Fan, Plum Blossoms and Tire
Tracks, 1980, woodblock print, 41
cm x 39-5 cm, collection of the artist.


The Great Leap Forward and Its Aftermath
More, Faster Better Cheaper"

The Anti-Rightist campaign of 1957 and the political movements that followed it had a profound effect on the Chinese art world, drastically altering the leadership structure. Between 1949 and 1957, Jiang Feng had dominated both the art academy system and the party-sponsored Chinese Artists Association, encouraging work in socialist realist styles. Within the art bureaucracy, thanks to his leadership, artistic standards were consistent and strongly centralized. Academy artists served as models for artists in society at large. With Jiang Feng's purge, the unified operation of the art world came to an end.

Cai Ruohong and Hua Junwu assumed control of the CAA and abandoned Jiang Feng's pro-Soviet theoretical stance. Their nationalistic tenor, which was characteristic of much Chinese official rhetoric of the period, was reflected in exhibitions and critical writing. They did not, however, gain administrative control of the art academies, which continued to operate with the Soviet-inspired procedures adopted under Jiang Feng. Collaboration between the CAA and the art academies occurred, but their activities and even their standards were now quite separate. On one occasion, a CAFA student was criticized by the school's party secretary for admiring works he had seen in a CAA-sponsored exhibition—a situation that can hardly have inspired confidence in the propaganda system.[1]

In this chapter we will first survey the political and theoretical background for changes in the practice of art between 1957 and 1965. Then we will look at the ways various art institutions and their artists coped with the changing ideological and administrative requirements. A brief chronological guide may be helpful before we begin. The year after the initiation of Mao Zedong's ill-fated Great Leap Forward, in May 1958, most Chinese artists were laboring in


factories or in the countryside. Hints of a developing official emphasis on regionalism and nationalism may be seen, however, in the CAA-sponsored exhibition of guohua paintings from Nanjing, which included many renderings of the local landscape, held in Beijing in late 1958 and early 1959. Between May and October 1959, many professional artists went back to work preparing paintings in celebration of the tenth anniversary of People's China. Unfortunately, conflicts within the upper echelons of the CCP produced rapidly shifting and unpredictable cultural policies throughout late 1959 and 1960. This confusion was compounded by events such as the famines of 1959, 1960, and 1961 and the Sino-Soviet split of July 1960, which culminated in a state of national crisis. Perhaps to release mounting social pressure, cultural controls were briefly liberalized between 1961 and 1963. This chaotic period left its share of victims, those caught as targets in a poorly demarcated political landscape, but it also provided unprecedented opportunities for many artists, particularly those who worked in places far from Beijing, the focus of the political struggle.

Although parallel developments may be traced in art institutions in different parts of China, greater variation is now evident than in earlier periods. For this reason, our narration will not proceed in a single chronological line. Instead, separate developments will be traced in each of the bureaucratic realms we discuss: the provincial, where woodblock prints and guohua now came to flourish; and the urban academic, where oil painting maintained its dominance. What follows, then, will describe the eclipse of the art academies and the rise of the Chinese Artists Association, with its regional branches, as the primary institutional force driving artistic development (though some young artists trained in the academies during this period did go on to play prominent roles in the late 1960s and 1970s, as we shall see). The status of art academies during this inward-looking period, the well-publicized accomplishments of the CAA, the achievements of artists in the publishing houses, and the remarkable patronage offered to artists in preparation for the new nation's tenth anniversary celebrations will all be addressed. In addition, we will look at the appearance of regional schools of art, particularly those of Jiangsu, Sichuan, Heilongjiang, and Xi'an, a development made possible by the theoretical and administrative changes of the period. A very brief survey of a fragile but related phenomenon, the appearance of individualistic strains of guohua, is included as well. We will describe the political movements leading up to the Cultural Revolution, which ended these promising developments. Finally, we will draw some conclusions about the circumstances under which the Chinese art bureaucracy might have permitted or encouraged diversity of style and theme.


Political Background

The most important political, social, and economic program of the period 1957-1966 was Mao Zedong's poorly conceived Great Leap Forward, officially launched in May 1958 shortly after the conclusion of the Anti-Rightist campaign. By the late fall, people's communes had been established in most rural areas, collectivizing 99 percent of China's peasants.[2] One slogan of the program was "Surpass Great Britain's industrial production within fifteen years." Backyard steel furnaces were set up by most work units, including schools, farms, and art academies, to boost national steel production. Even in urban areas communal mess halls were established, with individual families contributing their pots and pans to the drive for communal steel smelting.

During the spring of 1959 many leaders, including Chen Yun and Zhou Enlai, became nervous about the communes' poor planning and impossibly ambitious production targets. At a July 1959 Politburo meeting held at Lushan, Jiangxi, several members, among them Peng Dehuai, attacked Mao's policy. Rather than modifying the Great Leap Forward, however, Mao interpreted the criticism as a power play and silenced his critics.[3]

Droughts and floods in 1959 and 1960 led to poor harvests, food shortages, and even starvation in rural areas. Intraparty and international conflicts left the CCP leadership unable to respond adequately to the crisis.[4] The period between 1959 and 1961 is now called the "Three Disaster Years." The suffering visited upon China's people by these natural and manmade calamities forced Mao to give way. By late 1960, the government had liberalized economic policies in order to stimulate food production.

Along with relaxation of the domestic economy came a partial liberalization of social, cultural, and political controls.[5] Artists found themselves hungry, but some were freer than before to make their own creative choices. The liberalization of 1961 through 1963 was, for the most part, administered more benevolently than that of 1956, which had turned into a vengeful political struggle. Artists in the early 1960s sought recognition largely on the basis of their art, not their political posture. Peaceful accord between painters of different groups was encouraged in this second attempt to implement the Hundred Flowers. A wider range of creative activities allowed more artists to participate in the officially sanctioned art world.

International affairs probably played an equally important role in arts policies of the period. Border disputes with India and the Soviet Union began to isolate China, which responded with increasingly strident Chinese nationalism. Indigenous forms of art, such as guohua and woodblock prints, thus became politically appropriate for no better reason than that they were Chinese.


Soviet-style oil painting remained a vital part of Chinese artistic production, but critics referred to it by function, as "history painting" or "propaganda painting," rather than by its style, medium, or heritage.

The decentralization of finances and administration implemented to speed Mao's communization drive in late 1957 and 1958 had a strong and largely unintended influence on artistic development. Once power had been allocated to the provinces, it was impossible to return it entirely to the center, even when recentralization became a goal in the 1960s.[6] This aspect of the Great Leap Forward broadened the scope of China's cultural activities and was a key factor in the most important artistic trend of the era, the development of regional styles of art. Let us first look at some of the theoretical foundations for these changes.

Mixed Signals from Above: Zhou Enlai's Unpublished Speech of I959

In mid-April 1959, Zhou Enlai delivered an address to the National People's Congress that has been characterized as possessing "curiously contradictory overtones."[7] Artist-members of the Political Consultative Committee, who included Wang Zhaowen, Ye Qianyu, and Jiang Zhaohe from Beijing and Fu Baoshi from Nanjing,[8] responded in print with verbal contortions, leaving it unclear to their readers whether raising artistic standards, continuing the Great Leap Forward, or some other program should direct artistic activity. Variety in artistic expression seems to have been encouraged, however, as the group vowed that "just as we need history painting, we also need bird-and-flower and landscape painting."[9] Such suggestions were interpreted literally, and artistic activity increased accordingly in these three specific areas.

Perhaps aware of the confusion created by his fence-straddling oration, Zhou sought to reassure artists. Most artists were under a great deal of pressure, being expected to complete high-quality works both for the exhibition marking the PRC's tenth anniversary and for newly constructed architectural complexes while simultaneously engaging in manual labor, peasant painting, and the like. Zhou therefore invited a group of writers and artists, including Beijing intellectuals and delegates to the National People's Congress and the Political Consultative Congress, to attend a conference in the governmental compound at Zhongnanhai on May 3.

Zhou's frank remarks to the gathering on that spring day were not published until twenty years later, and as he commented sadly in 1961, "there was no response to my talk, [spoken as though] into an empty hall."[10] Although his opinions on the ten points he discussed were probably conveyed orally to most official artists, conflicts within the upper reaches of the CCP about economic issues left arts administrators uncertain about whether this was to be the last word. Moreover, the purge of Peng Dehuai following his criticism of


the Great Leap Forward in July resulted in a new political movement against "rightist tendencies" that fall. Artistic effort was diverted into the public criticism of artists who had narrowly escaped the rightist label two years earlier, which certainly discouraged experimentation.

While Zhou's call for peace of mind as a necessary condition for the production of high-quality art was superseded by subsequent events, it appears that some of his specific instructions were adopted. First, Zhou criticized the Ministry of Culture for putting too much pressure on writers and artists.

One cannot call [authors] on the telephone over and over every day to pressure them. If their spirits are too tense, they will be unable to write good things. Production of good works can be attained accidentally, but this kind of accidental attainment is built on a foundation of long life [experience] and cultivation .... I hope everyone's spirits will relax a bit, and perhaps good works will appear .... Art works and so forth need not be completed before October 1. Later in October, or late in the year, is fine, as long as they are good works.[11]

This reprieve may have been good news for some artists, but it no doubt disappointed others, for it meant, in effect, the cancellation of the Third National Art Exhibition, originally scheduled for October. Instead of a national exhibition, each province held its own exhibition in celebration of the republic's anniversary.[12] The national exhibition, finally held in the summer of 1960 during the Third Congress of Literary and Art Circles, was referred to as the Great Leap Forward Exhibition.[13]

Other points of discussion were the relationship between technical training and literary and artistic cultivation. Ideally, artists would study literature, music, and drama as well as their own specialties. Abuses in administration of manual labor were addressed with an order that old artists were not to be forced to do excessively strenuous work and that artists might decline labor assignments for health reasons upon application to the State Council. The Ministry of Culture was implicitly blamed for problems and ordered to change such extreme practices.

Zhou's tenth and last point was of great importance for the practice of art. "An art that lacks a unique style will decline." Noting that Beijing opera had various distinctive schools of performance, Zhou stated his belief that unique styles and a variety of expressive means were required in any art. Several phenomena that we will discuss, including the establishment of studios at CAFA and the extraordinary critical enthusiasm that developed for Nanjing artists, may have been generated by Zhou's remarks. His final point undoubtedly provided theoretical justification for the experiments in regional and individual styles that occurred over the next several years.


Zhou Enlai's Unpublished Speech of 1961

Two years later, on June 19, 1961, Zhou Enlai delivered talks concerning literature and the arts that, like his speech two years before, remained unpublished until after his death.[14] Delivered against the background of widespread food shortages, his message was a renunciation of the hard-line cultural policies of the Great Leap Forward.[15] It called for the regularization of artistic activity, the return of amateur artists to their regular jobs, the elimination of some newly founded art technical schools, and the democratization of art. He specifically urged intellectuals to speak their minds, claiming that the party had been advocating the liberation of thought for three years with little result. Additionally, he criticized people who restricted themselves to the framework of Mao's Yan'an Talks.

Yet Zhou also stressed the need to balance freedom with order. That freedom of speech had limits was suggested when Zhou defended the Anti-Rightist campaign except as it had applied to those who "only spoke one sentence in error." He further ordered leaders to remain responsible for preventing political errors but to interfere less in other realms. Tolerance for individual work styles was desirable, he suggested, pointing to the poetic production of Chen Yi in contrast to that of Mao Zedong: whereas Chen Yi wrote quickly and rather effortlessly, Mao pondered and reworked his compositions. Similarly, the particular requirements of each art form, be it literature, drama, music, art, dance, film, or photography, he said, must be taken into account in determining how it might best serve the people. Moreover, within each form, differences should be tolerated; an art that loses its own form will not survive. Zhou mentioned several examples of regional schools of opera or drama that should be encouraged, concluding that Beijing people should not regulate Shanghai opera. His praise for the Jiangsu guohua painters, who were cited for the abundance of their work, encouraged regional developments in guohua.[16] In spite of his protestations that the particular tastes of party leaders should not determine policy, merely by mentioning the Jiangsu group he ensured its painters a privileged position throughout the next two decades. Even though Zhou's examples were often taken too literally by cautious bureaucrats, his 1961 discussion was a mandate to promote regional arts of all kinds.[17]

Zhou argued not only for regional styles, but also for professional and local determination of standards for art. "If we government leaders happen to love drama, painting, antiques, and so forth, that does not give us the right to set standards."[18] To underscore the absurdity of political leaders establishing national artistic norms, he pointed out that he and Chen Yun liked different kinds of opera: Zhou favored that of the north, while Chen enjoyed


that of Suzhou. In emphasizing opera, Zhou may have been targeting Jiang Qing, who held extremist views on the need to reform the genre. Indeed, it became clear within two years that the moderate cultural policy outlined in Zhou's talk was strongly opposed by Jiang Qing and her allies.[19]

Zhou's remarks were part of a nationwide readjustment of policy at the conclusion of Mao's disastrous economic experiments. In 1961, the secretariat of the Politburo, led by Deng Xiaoping and Peng Zhen, drafted the Sixty Articles on Agriculture, a manual for commune management that institutionalized a retreat from Great Leap policies. The Propaganda Department similarly re-evaluated the cultural situation.[20] The result of this analysis emerged in draft form in May. In December 1961, the Eight Articles on Literature and Art, a document advocating the same sort of liberalization articulated in Zhou Enlai's speech, were drafted. They were formally issued in April 1962.[21]

The single most influential event in the cultural readjustment was a speech delivered by Chen Yi at the Canton Forum of Opera and Drama on March 3, 1962, in which he told the artists that thought reform would no longer be implemented through movements, nor would the party force them to read Mao's works. He further declared that because intellectuals had undergone thirteen years of reform, they should have their "capitalist class caps" removed. "Today, I am holding for you a 'cap-removing ceremony.'"[22] This liberalization of thought and intellectual practice, which was made public in a People's Daily editorial by Zhou Yang on May 23, 1962,[23] was an extremely powerful, if short-lived, influence on artistic circles.

The shifting policies between 1959 and 1965 made artistic activity both challenging and perilous, as we shall see. Following the failure of Mao's extremist economics, open opposition to his leadership erupted within the party. The power struggles taking place at the highest levels of government filtered down to artists in the form of ever more rapidly shifting, and sometimes contradictory, cultural policies. It appears that individual artists were rarely able to adapt to party policies in such an environment. Instead, those whose style and outlook were suited to a particular trend might emerge when that view of art was on the ascendant, only to be replaced by different artists when new requirements were made of art a few months later. Relatively traditional landscape painters, such as the Nanjing master Fu Baoshi, attained great fame in 1959 (fig. 71). Specialists in painting oil portraits of Mao Zedong, such as CAFA artists Jin Shangyi and Wu Biduan, were publicized in 1960 (fig. 68). The Xi'an guohua painter Shi Lu emerged as a landscapist in 1961 (figs. 100 and 103). Even the reclusive and apolitical Lin Fengmian was pulled into the spotlight in 1963; by 1965, however, socialist realism was once again dominant.


The Academies

The Aftermath of the Anti-Rightist Campaing

The troubles experienced by artists who worked or studied in China's art academies began well before the Great Leap Forward. The academy in Beijing, only a short bicycle ride from Zhongnanhai, the governmental headquarters and the site of China's political struggles, was particularly sensitive to each succeeding political movement. The response of its artists and administrators to events between I958 and 1963, which we trace in this section, serves as an extreme against which to consider the situation of artists elsewhere.

The academy system was severely shaken by the Anti-Rightist campaign of 1957 and 1958. Jiang Feng, the leader of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, was stripped of his titles, expelled from the Communist party, and sentenced to labor reform in the Beijing suburbs. Several years later he was given a minor position as a library worker at the National Art Gallery, but he remained banned from most professional and social intercourse.[24]

The purges were not confined to CAFA. Because Jiang Feng's accusers charged him with having established a widespread antiparty network, administrators of regional art colleges were implicated as well. The leaders of the Hangzhou campus, as we have seen, were early targets of the campaign. The director and party secretary of the Northeast Art Academy in Shenyang, Yang Jiao, who had the bad luck to be in Beijing during the bitter May debates, was discovered to be another arm of the conspiracy. He had allegedly served as one of Jiang's "three hired guns" at Yan'an and lobbied for his academy to be renamed Northeast Campus of CAFA so that he would be responsible to Jiang Feng rather than to local authorities. He and his wife, Zhang Xiaofei, who served as vice-director and party vice-secretary, were purged, a move that deprived the academy of its founding administrators.[25]

Many other important administrators, professors, and students met with similar punishment. The campaign continued with regular public criticism meetings throughout the latter half of 1957 and first half of 1958. On December 15, 1957, for example, a meeting held in the CAFA auditorium and attended by more than six hundred Beijing art figures condemned two promising young artists for rightist crimes. Speeches were delivered by CAA officials Zhang Ding, Ye Qianyu, and Cai Ruohong summing up the charges against the two men.[26] One of the two artists, Wang Zhijie, completed graduate training at CAFA in 1955 and is described by former classmates as one of the most talented students in the college. He turned down an appointment as instructor in the color-and-ink department, requesting instead permission to become a "professional artist." Once this permission was granted in 1956, he established himself as a very successful free-lance illustrator. His career exemplified an


idea Jiang Feng developed in the mid-1950s—that artists should be paid according to their artistic productivity rather than in a flat monthly wage.[27] Jiang's blessing was his downfall in 1957, and he completely dropped from view after 1958.

During the spring of 1958 CAFA and other art academies continued their campaigns against rightism and revisionism, including a thorough criticism of school policies in the period 1953-1957. Particularly serious errors were identified as individualism, elitism, and overemphasis of technique, talent, and reputation. An exhibition of condemned works—an event that was to become a standard part of political campaigns in the art—was held. As Hitler's attempt to remake the German art world by similar means proved, such methods were, as long as they lasted, successful. At the Central Academy of Fine Arts, student works were exhibited to demonstrate the pernicious influence of the Jiang Feng administration. Three periods supposedly defined the academy's development and decline: the first was marked by early political works, the second by mid-fifties works that overvalued technique and undervalued politics, and the third by rightist works.[28]

Rightist students were identified in all sections of the school, even the middle school. Among them was Fu Xiaoshi, son of the well-known Nanjing artist Fu Baoshi, who had complained that the Ministry of Culture was unfair for abolishing scholarships for art students while retaining them for music students. Other middle school "rightists" included Xu Kuang and Sun Kexiang.[29] The college student Yuan Yunsheng was castigated for believing that socialist realism was out of date and that there was no need for his work to serve the people. Criticism of Yuan was especially harsh because he had originally been regarded by school authorities as a gifted student. To their chagrin, however, he had allegedly returned from labor in a fishing village with sketches of nude fisherwomen and a picture of a couple courting in a fishing boat. The accusers, naturally, blamed Jiang Feng's leadership for Yuan Yunsheng's political and moral failings. Similar campaigns were reported at the academies in Hangzhou and Xi'an. A new job assignment policy was implemented in their wake: instead of being sent to work in specialized art and educational institutions, more students were assigned to factories and farms.[30] Students with political problems, such as Yuan Yunsheng, were exiled to the provinces after graduation.

The status and attainments of the Central Academy of Fine Arts declined after the Anti-Rightist campaign in several ways. In keeping with a general decentralization of national administration, begun in late 1957, CAFA was assigned to the control of the Beijing municipal government and removed from Ministry of Culture direction.[31] This, in effect, lowered its administrative stature by making it similar to any other local art academy. Moreover, in late summer 1958 it was decided that each of China's provinces, municipalities,


and autonomous regions should, within three to five years, establish its own institutions of higher learning to train artists.[32]

The five major provincial academies were all renamed and reorganized during this restructuring of the national arts colleges and schools in 1958.[33] The South-Central Art Academy, directed by Hu Yichuan, was even moved—from Wuhan, where it had been founded in 1953, to the southern city of Guangzhou. The instructors all stemmed from the art departments of the defunct South China Arts School, South-Central Arts School, and Guangxi Arts School; by 1958, the year of its relocation, the school had expanded to include departments of Chinese painting, oil painting, sculpture, printmaking, and industrial arts. A year after its relocation it was renamed the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, henceforth to be funded and administered by Guangdong province. The other provincial academies similarly received new names: the Southwest Academy became the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts, the Northwest Academy became the Xi'an Art Academy, and the Northeast Academy in Shenyang became the Lu Xun Academy of Art, in recognition of its ancestral bonds to the academy of that name in Yan'an.[34]

In June 1958 the East China Campus of CAFA was renamed Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts (ZAFA) and placed under direct supervision of the Zhejiang provincial government. The announcement of this change served as formal cancellation of the proposed move to Shanghai and severance of all ties to CAFA. The traditional painter and preliberation director Pan Tianshou assumed the post of director of the academy in 1959. Another part of the original CAFA administrative structure, the National Art Research Center, received harsh criticism at a Ministry of Culture conference in March 1958 and was reassigned to Ministry of Culture control.[35] Thus the powerful institutional structure once controlled by Jiang Feng was finally dismembered.

The leadership vacuum created by Jiang Feng's removal from the Central Academy of Fine Arts was never completely filled. The respected oil painter Wu Zuoren was elevated to the directorship, a largely honorary post. The sculptor Liu Kaiqu, filling the same position he had held in Hangzhou, became vice-director. Outside party officials were appointed by the Ministry of Culture and the universities section of the municipal government, though most did not serve for long. Wang Zicheng, for example, was named vice-director and party secretary. Because his primary task was to direct the Anti-Rightist campaign in the academy, he was reassigned at its conclusion in 1958. Qi Su, a second newly appointed vice-director and party vice-secretary, was removed in the late-1959 campaign against rightist tendencies. A military man who specialized in political indoctrination, Chen Pei, was appointed party secretary in 1958. With his promotion to vice-director in 1960 he became the school's leader, a position he held until 1964. Chen Pei is evaluated charitably by academy historians for his conscientious study of his new specialty and for the administrative


flexibility he developed.[36] Unfortunately, what benevolence he may have shown could not protect academy artists from forces beyond the school's walls. He himself succumbed to political circumstances in 1964, when he became the target of a rectification campaign that is now considered a small-scale and successful test of Cultural Revolution confrontational tactics.

The Great Leap Forward

With the launching of Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward in May 1958, CAFA artists found themselves being required to devote several weeks to manual labor. Prominent teachers such as Li Keran, Wu Zuoren, Jiang Zhaohe, Ye Qianyu, and Dong Xiwen, for example, spent ten days in May laboring at the Ming Tombs Reservoir construction site.[37] On May 25, the Party Central Committee, including Chairman Mao, performed one day of ritualistic labor at the site. On May 28, two hundred students and young faculty from CAFA joined the political spectacle by helping in the construction work.[38] The young instructor Li Qi recorded Mao's presence at the reservoir in a much-celebrated guohua portrait (fig. 66).

CAFA, like all work units, developed a production plan to accompany the Great Leap. In September it was reported that the academy artists had collectively produced many pictures promoting the Great Leap, including one work over thirty meters long that was displayed above the door of the Beijing Department Store.[39] They completed 138 murals for the Great Leap Forward before going to labor in the countryside.[40] For ten months, oil painting students and faculty held classes at the industrial suburb of Moshikou Village, Shijing-shan, in order to involve themselves more closely in steel production. The school also opened a paint factory, a printing factory, and a magazine called Popular Art (Qunzhong meishu ).[41] Yet even in their popularization work, CAFA administrators felt stymied by bureaucratic interference.[42] Once famines set in in 1959, students shared malnutrition with the masses. They returned from the countryside with swollen legs and faces, a result of beriberi.[43]

National policies promulgated in 1958 encouraged the training of worker-peasant-soldier artists. An important goal was to attain, within five years, a student body comprising at least 60 or 70 percent worker- and peasant-class children. By retaining these students as instructors, the goal of replacing rightists with leftists could be attained.[44] Accordingly, CAFA began a formal worker-peasant-soldier training program in that year and accepted no regular students, thus essentially suspending normal admissions procedures. Approximately 20 percent of the entering students in 1958 were graduates of the CAFA middle school; the other 80 percent were worker-peasant-soldier students.[45] In addition, the school trained seventy-nine workers to paint


Image not available

Figure 66
Li Qi, Mao at the Ming Tombs Reservoir
Site, 1958, ink and color on paper,
74 cm × 56 cm.


nianhua and other popular forms of art in a special half-year class. Faculty were dispatched to teach amateur artists at a nearby mine.[46] More regular admissions procedures were reinstituted in 1959, though outreach provisions were retained for the spring 1959 examinations. Sitting for the examination required a high school diploma, unless the candidate was a worker, commune member, or folk artist with three years' experience, in which case a middle school cultural level was acceptable.[47] Examinations were held in four regional centers that year. However, political circumstances once again disrupted normal artistic activity. The national campaign against rightist tendencies conducted in late 1959 led to a six-month hiatus in regular classroom activity.[48]

A debate launched in 1958 about the relationship between politics and specialization, the "red-versus-expert" question, was carried forward into the following year. Because the artists were already considered expert, what mattered for them was the state of their political consciousness, or the degree of their "redness." At CAFA, faculty and students who allegedly valued expertise over political reliability were selected as negative examples and subjected to public criticism in a small-scale replay of the Anti-Rightist campaign. The printmaking professor Huang Yongyu and the oil painter Dong Xiwen were attacked for exemplifying capitalist views of art, valuing art over politics, and overemphasizing student talent. First-year students Jiang Tiefeng and Guang Jun in the printmaking department and Yao Zhonghua in the oil painting department were similarly castigated for their lack of interest in politics. Some of these students were attacked again in 1964 and banned from participation in their class's graduation exhibition. Once labeled politically unreliable, their careers were ruined. In 1964, Guang Jun was assigned a job in the sanitation department; Jiang Tiefeng and Yao Zhonghua were given unappealing jobs in distant Yunnan.[49]

While similar political movements disrupted institutions all over China, they were particularly damaging to the national art academies, especially CAFA, because of the severe setbacks already undergone during the Anti-Rightist campaign.[50] Some artists who were students during those years mark their lives not by their art but by succeeding political movements.[51] These included the "red-versus-expert" debate of 1959, the Three Banners of 1960, the anti-Khrushchev movement of 1961, the anti-revisionism campaign of 1962, and the Socialist Education Movements of 1963 and 1964. Some individuals on the academy staff managed to retain national visibility during this period, as we shall see later, but the emphasis on collective activity and the failure of CAFA to compete successfully with other institutions for the attention of critics led to a decline in the academy's influence after the Anti-Rightist campaign.

Because of CAFA's location in the heart of Beijing and the ties of many students to high officials, the academy has always been more sensitive to high-


Image not available

Figure 67
CAFA Middle School Faculty, Contemporary
Heroes, 1960, guohua.

level politics than many provincial institutions have been. Children of Deng Xiaoping and Liu Shaoqi attended the academy, as did a girl reported to be Zhou Enlai's goddaughter, to name only a few. While loyal artists in China might have been able to change their styles gradually when confronted with a new official line, very few could produce an artistic response to policy change at the drop of a hat. And during the Great Leap Forward and the subsequent famine, unmanageably swift changes in political climate were more the rule than the exception. In the absence of a strong director, it is probable that political uncertainty left academy artists unclear about the best direction for their long-term artistic development. By contrast, the Lu Xun Academy of Art, under the hard-line direction of Zhang Qiren since 1957, won national recognition as a progressive work unit in 1960.[52]

It was not until June 1960, on the eve of the Third Congress of Literary and Arts Workers and the national art exhibition, and with the country facing ever-worsening domestic and international crises, that one finds young CAFA artists receiving any public recognition. Two works in particular count among the earliest artistic contributions to the cult of Mao that flowered in the peculiar iconography of the Cultural Revolution. Contemporary Heroes , a large drawing prepared collectively by fifteen young faculty members of the CAFA middle school, commemorates one of the first congresses held in the newly completed Great Hall of the People in October 1959.[53] Reworked soon after as a Chinese painting (fig. 67), it depicts Chairman Mao striding into the hall flanked by dozens of bemedaled people's delegates from all walks of life. The enormity of the architectural stage on which Mao is placed, his centrality, and the great number of people walking with him propagandize powerfully for the mutual support between Mao and the people.


Image not available

Figure 68
Jin Shangyi and Wu Biduan, Mao
Zedong with the People of Asia, Africa,
and Latin America.

Two young teachers at CAFA, Jin Shangyi and Wu Biduan, produced an equally effective iconographic formula in Mao Zedong with the People of Asia, Africa, and Latin America (fig. 68), published on the cover of an important issue of Meishu .[54] Jin was a graduate of Maksimov's oil painting class; Wu had studied in Leningrad from 1956 to 1959. "For reasons," as the editors apologetically and ambiguously state, the CAA magazine was issued two and a half months after its scheduled publication date in mid-July—the "reasons" consisting largely of the Soviet Union's abrupt announcement that it was recalling its experts in China. When the magazine finally did appear in late


September (presumably after undergoing editorial changes), the cover vividly asserted the Chinese Communist party's claim to represent both orthodox Communism in the face of Soviet heterodoxy and the regions in which it intended to dominate the international foreign policy stage. Oddly enough, considering the anti-Soviet implications of its Maoist theme, in style and subject matter the piece is closely related to the work of a leading Soviet artist, A. A. Myl'nikov (b. 1919), who had visited China not long before. His Awakening , exhibited in Beijing in 1957, depicts the peoples of Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas marching together with raised fists.[55] The stylistic and iconographic origins of the Chinese work were not publicized, however, and the young Central Academy artists, unprepared by the school's erstwhile Western orientation for the new emphasis on national forms in art, made their mark by developing a new iconography for Chairman Mao.[56]

The Studios

A brief relaxation of pressure on artists in the spring and summer of 1959 led to experiments in decentralizing instruction at some art academies. In Beijing and Hangzhou, the color-and-ink painting department had been renamed the Chinese painting department in 1958 as part of the Anti-Rightist campaign and reorganized by genre, with students specializing in landscape, bird-and-flower, or figure painting, along traditional lines.[57] The oil painting and print-making departments were later divided into separate studios that would teach slightly different styles.[58] The presumed goal was to contribute to the Hundred Flowers policy by increasing artistic variety and by diminishing the stranglehold of Soviet art on the academy's curriculum. Ai Zhongxin claims credit for the idea; the first studio at CAFA was named for the academy's director, Wu Zuoren, whom Ai assisted in administering it. Both men were disciples of the European-trained Xu Beihong.

Whatever its political justification may have been at the time, the studio system was hardly a new idea. Many Chinese artists who studied in France learned painting at privately run studios. The national academy in Hangzhou, which had a strong French tradition, had been organized by studios as early as the late 1940s. Moreover, Chinese artists who failed to obtain teaching posts before 1949 often survived by running instructional studios at home. Enterprising students, even those enrolled in the art academies, might explore different approaches by taking lessons at such private studios. Several private studios continued to operate in Shanghai during the 1950s and 1960s, led by artists who were technically very skilled but unemployable for political reasons. The most prestigious of these was the Zhang Chongren Studio, taught by a Catholic sculptor who had been trained in Belgium. Ha Ding, one of Zhang Chongren's students, taught Renaissance-style drawing and British-style


watercolors at his less expensive studio.[59] The Repin Art Academy in Leningrad, where Chinese students studied in the 1950s and early 1960s, was also organized by the studio system.[60] Apparently the French academic and Soviet systems were similar enough to satisfy both Communist and non-Communist realists.

The Soviet practice of referring to studios by the names of their directors was soon recognized as an ideological error in Communist China. Consequently, the CAFA oil painting studios changed to a numbering system. Studio One, the former Wu Zuoren Studio, was taught primarily by Ai Zhongxin, with the assistance of Xu Beihong students Wei Qimei and Feng Fasi. Its mission was to teach European styles of oil painting, by which was meant premodernist styles. Studio Two, headed by Luo Gongliu, was taught by enthusiasts of Soviet and Russian art.[61] When Luo became involved with other administrative duties, his Soviet-trained assistants, Li Tianxiang and Lin Gang, carried on.

As we have mentioned, the failures of the Great Leap Forward led to a nationwide reevaluation of administrative practices in 1961.[62] Investigation of educational policies led to the drafting of Sixty Regulations Governing Work in Institutes of Higher Education, commonly referred to as the Sixty Articles on Universities. Deng Xiaoping asked that the draft include a provision that rightist teachers could return to educational roles. Documents concerning high schools and primary schools soon followed, thus ending the half-work, half-study system of the Great Leap Forward. The documents stressed adjustment, consolidation, augmentation, and improvement (tiaozbeng, gonggu, chongshi, tigao ), an approach usually abbreviated in China as the Eight Character Directive. Party supervision of academic activity was to be minimized. Lu Dingyi called for a staffing system in universities that would yield one-third proletarian intellectuals, one-third left bourgeois, and one-third neutral bourgeois.

CAFA began to reemerge from its obscurity in this new atmosphere. Oil Painting Studio Three, headed by Dong Xiwen and Japan-educated Xu Xingzhi,[63] was founded in 1962,[64] the same year that some rightists were allowed to resume high-profile educational positions. Although Dong, like Wu Zuoren, had been protected during the 1957 Anti-Rightist campaign, he was criticized in 1959, probably because he was believed by students to value art over politics. Dong Xiwen sought to imbue the Western medium of oils with a Chinese aesthetic so as to produce "national-style" oil paintings. His work, like that of his students, was based on study of both Chinese and European art, with faint echoes of prohibited early modern styles.

The CAFA goal of attaining variety through the studio system was hindered by both high-level politics and practical administrative concerns. Dong's studio was in formal operation less than two years before the system was eliminated, targeted by the cultural crackdowns leading to the Cultural Revolution. None of the studios survived long enough to develop an artistic tradition of its


own. Moreover, the younger faculty in each studio, who did much of the teaching, had themselves been trained in a uniform Soviet manner. Maksimov pupils Jin Shangyi and Zhan Jianjun worked in Studios One and Three, respectively; Soviet-trained Lin Gang and Li Tianxiang assisted Luo Gongliu in Studio Two. Drawing fundamentals remained grounded in the Soviet-inspired Chistiakov system; hence, students assigned to studios in their second or third years were already steeped in principles of Russian art.

The print department was divided in 1961 into four studios similar to those of the oil painters, with Li Hua, Gu Yuan, Huang Yongyu, and Wang Qi the head instructors.[65] One former student characterized the differences between the print studios on the basis of political outlook more than artistic style. Li Hua, who had worked in Chongqing during the war under Guo Moruo and Zhou Enlai, is remembered best for the rigor of his teaching methods. He required students to master a standard set of knife strokes before they could carve their first picture, much as a traditional guohua teacher might require students to copy ink strokes endlessly before allowing them to paint a landscape.[66] He was a devoted disciple of Lu Xun and held his students to a canon of styles approved by the master. Gu Yuan, a veteran of the Yan'an print movement, was considered the most "revolutionary." Most of his students were party members. Wang Qi was interested in Soviet prints but diligently supported the party line.

Huang Yongyu, who attracted unfavorable publicity by refusing to join the party, was a particularly lively teacher who, like Dong Xiwen, was believed to value art over politics. His only requirements were that students love China and study hard, though he rejected potential students whose sole talent might be spying for the CCP.[67] Huang's official art, as exemplified by his New Sound in the Forest (fig. 69), tends to be sweet and optimistic. His more personal pictures, most notably his cartoons, are satirical, however, and were more welcome in Hong Kong than in Beijing.

Changes in guohua instruction between 1958 and 1963 were probably the greatest of any medium. Jiang Zhaohe taught drawing in charcoal and ink wash; Ye Qianyu and Li Hu taught outline drawing from life with a Chinese brush. While the deemphasis on academic pencil drawing and on rendering three-dimensional forms was an important shift, its effects were not immediately noticeable. The most competent students in the 1958 entering class were the CAFA middle school graduates. Yet because they had already received four years of training by the Chistiakov method, they were slow to adapt to different techniques. Zhou Sicong, one of the most talented CAFA middle school graduates to enroll, recalls that she saw objects as volumes rather than as linear forms when she entered college and had to work very hard to master outline ink sketching.[68] In 1961, the Chinese painting department was formally divided into specialties that functioned as studios. Ye


Image not available

Figure 69
Huang Yongyu, New Sound in the
Forest, 1954, polychromatic woodblock
print, 36.8 cm × 25.2 cm, Chinese
National Art Gallery.

Qianyu and Jiang Zhaohe directed figure painting instruction. The landscape painting specialty was headed by Li Keran and Zong Qixiang. The bird-and-flower specialty was taught by Guo Weiqu, Tian Shiguang, and Li Kuchan.

A former student recalls Li Kuchan's group as the daxieyi (large idea writing) studio.[69] Assigning Li Kuchan to teach was intended to correct "errors" of the previous administration by reviving a style and subject that had suffered


neglect since 1949. Li's position was somewhat special. In 1949, he had been retained as a professor at the National Beiping Art Academy, but he was not on regular salary and was assigned to decorate pots in the ceramics department. One summer night in 1950, after consuming a copious amount of liquor, he dashed off a long calligraphic complaint to Mao Zedong. The epistle, written in the "crazy-cursive" script of the Tang-dynasty monk Huaisu, took up most of a large sheet of Chinese painting paper (about one by ten feet, according to his biographer) and must have been impressive to the calligraphy enthusiast Mao Zedong. Within a month, Mao had written to Xu Beihong asking him to solve Li's employment problem. Li was subsequently assigned to the National Art Research Center and paid a steady salary.[70] This may have solved his economic difficulties, but the research center was segregated from the teaching staff. It was not until the conclusion of the Great Leap Forward that Li emerged as a teacher of traditional painting and his freely brushed pictures rose in official status.

Most exhilarating for young artists in 1962 was the burgeoning of unofficial student-organized activity. Students had been extremely enthusiastic about the Great Leap Forward. According to one CAFA graduate, they had covered every blank wall with mural paintings, built blast furnaces in the school courtyard, and carried baskets full of dirt to help build the Ming Tombs Reservoir as part of their patriotic effort. They believed the propaganda they painted—that grain was piled to the sky and that pigs were as big as elephants. The bubble burst with the onset of rationing in 1960 and real hunger in 1961. Students did not know of starvation in the countryside, but morale was low nevertheless.

In 1962 an academy leader, probably responding to Zhou Enlai's suggestion to improve and broaden the cultural level of cadres, suggested that study groups be established to improve the academic atmosphere. Several good students in the upper classes, including Guang Jun and Yao Zhonghua, were asked to organize informal groups. The students were permitted to study almost anything, including impressionism and abstract art. At night they held informal critiques of one another's work. They conducted drawing classes for students in other specialties and eventually branched out into musical performances and dancing lessons.[71] Guang Jun's group was so popular and successful that students began referring to it as "Guang Jun's salon."[72]

Students who entered the CAFA middle school in the early 1960s recall an equally lively atmosphere among high school students.[73] Their daily schedule involved ten hours of class, organized around a rigorous Soviet curriculum. Drawing, taught according to the finely sharpened pencil method associated with Chistiakov, was extremely strenuous. Despite hunger due to growing food shortages, they spent their Sundays and evenings practicing drawing, taking turns posing for each other.[74]


Enjoying the freedom and incentives of the studio system, the faculty poured their efforts into teaching and painting. Huang Yongyu, who lived in a courtyard next to his classroom, would hop out his back window to pay late-night visits to the studio, where students worked into the wee hours. One memorable and mildly shocking event was his "no-shirt party," held for his all-male studio on a hot summer evening. Former students describe the very close artistic and personal relationships that developed between professors and the pupils in their studios.[75] Some recall other practical benefits—teachers, including Huang Yongyu, provided snacks to the hungry adolescents during the three famine years. Largely for reasons that lay outside the academy, however, the short-lived studio system had little impact on the stylistic development of Chinese art.

Ominous signs were to be seen even in the midst of the liberalization. In 1962, Cai Ruohong published a letter he had sent to an unidentified art educator that implicitly advocated strict limits on creative freedom in the classroom. He proposed a list of topics that students should be required to paint. For example, guohua students should depict the teenage martyr "Liu Hulan Delivering Army Shoes," in both the hanging scroll and horizontal format. They were to base the picture on the Biography of Liu Hulan , a text describing the peasant girl's heroic virtues in the face of the enemy, and on their own imaginations. Their goal should be to convey the assistance Liu gave the Eighth Route Army, for which she was executed, by means of the arrangement of shoes.[76] Even if the CAA leader's proposal was not adopted, it is evidence that the liberalization was narrowly interpreted by some.

Another important event of the period was the second oil painting training class. It was originally planned that a second Soviet expert (identified by one student as Myl'nikov) would begin training Chinese oil painting students in 1960, just as Maksimov had done five years before. When the USSR pulled its personnel out of China just as the class was slated to begin, the Ministry of Culture decided to demonstrate Chinese self-sufficiency by conducting the class without Russian help. As a result Luo Gongliu, an artist trained in Hangzhou, Yan'an, and Leningrad, was appointed to teach the eighteen students. The group, which referred to itself as the "Eighteen Arhats," included many artists from Beijing, such as CAFA painters Zhong Han, who served as secretary, Wen Lipeng, and Du Jian; a cadre from the Creation Studio at the People's Art Press; and an army artist.[77] Although the students' graduation works, exhibited in 1963, were all history paintings, they were more varied in style than were those of the Maksimov class. This evolution probably had as much to do with developments in Soviet art, which was still the predominant model, as with the Chinese cultural thaw of 1962. In addition, Luo Gongliu himself was quite open-minded about painting styles; as we shall see below, his own work of the period is somewhat experimental. The best-known and most dramatic


Image not available

Figure 70
Du Jian, Advancing Among Swift Currents,
1963, oil on canvas, 220 cm ×
332 cm, formerly Museum of Chinese
Revolutionary History (reported destroyed).

painting of the group was Du Jian's Advancing Among Swift Currents (fig. 70), which no longer survives.[78]

The encouragement of diverse views within the academy and the bonds that developed between students in studios had an unexpected effect once political circumstances changed. When Communist authorities renewed political attacks on artists in 1964, they found fertile soil for the factional competition that drove their rectification movements. Unfortunately, by 1967 factionalism became bloodshed. CAFA seems to have been better prepared in the 1969s to respond to political swings to the left than to liberalization.

The Shanghai Art School

One of the most unexpected aspects of art education in the PRC, as we have seen, was that China's pre-1949 art center, Shanghai, was left out of the


national art college system. After the private art academies were closed Jiang Feng and Mo Pu had intended to move the Hangzhou campus to Shanghai, but the plan was scrapped with Jiang Feng's purge. Decentralization of education as part of the Great Leap Forward, which led to the establishment of many short-lived local art colleges, gave the Shanghai art world another chance. The Shanghai Art School was founded in March 1959, under the auspices of the Bureau of Light Industry. The academy was initially organized as a technical school at the high school level (zhongzhuan ) and had a three-year curriculum. In 1960, junior college and college programs were added, and the academy was reorganized under the Shanghai Department of Education. During its brief existence, it moved at least four times, occupying the grounds of an old middle school, then an abandoned synagogue, and finally moving into the old campus of St. John's University, where it shared its facilities with the Shanghai Institute of Social Sciences.

The new school's faculty members included many skilled artists who were not satisfactorily employed because of political difficulties. Zhang Chongren, a sculptor very much out-of-step with the Communist art world, was hired in 1959 to teach anatomy in the technical school. With the founding of the college program at Shanghai Art School in 1960, Zhang was promoted from anatomy instruction to his specialty, sculpture. Zhang, a devout Catholic, had been educated in church schools in Shanghai and at the Royal Academy in Brussels. He won a gold medal in a Belgian sculpture competition and collaborated with his classmate, the illustrator Hergé, on two comic books about China.[79] On his way home from Belgium he traveled to Rome for an audience with the pope. Upon returning to China he earned fame by winning a national competition to sculpt the image of the Nationalist leader Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kaishek). After liberation he had hoped to participate in carving the Beijing Monument to the People's Heroes, but the commission went instead to Liu Kaiqu, a French-trained sculptor with ties to Zhou Enlai.[80]

Our view of his subsequent career comes from younger Shanghai artists, who present a slightly negative but strangely uniform account of Zhang's career, one that may be based on Red Guard condemnations. They believe, for example, that Zhang was rejected from participation in the Tiananmen relief sculpture because he requested an excessively high payment for his draft plan. He supported himself in the 1950s by giving private art lessons in his home. His studio, though the most prestigious in the city, was also the most expensive, and he required that tuition be paid promptly. Students at the Shanghai Art School considered him an excellent watercolorist and found it memorable that he wore a Western suit to class. He spoke at a national conference on watercolor painting in August 1962[81] —proof that his talents were, however briefly, recognized by the arts leadership.

In the painting department, rightists and modernists emerged as the lead-


ing faculty members. Among the rightists were Yu Yunjie, an oil painter from the Shanghai People's Art Press who had studied with Konstantin Maksimov, and Meng Guang, who became a popular oil painting instructor. Wu Dayu, a cubist and former head of the Western painting department of the National Hangzhou Arts Academy, had been forced to leave that school after liberation. He was hired by the Shanghai Art College in 1960. Guohua was taught by part-time instructors from the Shanghai Institute of Chinese Painting, including Cheng Shifa.[82]

Russian realism was the predominant stylistic approach adopted by the students, in part because of the influence of Yu Yunjie and Meng Guang and in part because their contemporaries in Hangzhou, Beijing, and other colleges favored it. Some of the students, such as Xia Baoyuan, had graduated from the art middle schools of one or another of the national academies. All were steeped in Soviet socialist realism before admission to art college. This had its problems. One former student, for instance, described Wu Dayu's classes as incomprehensible, a problem he attributed, in retrospect, to the students' narrow interest in Soviet art rather than to the teacher's weakness. Wu Dayu himself was viewed as a particularly unworldly character, prone to relating art to the philosophy of Zhuangzi and Laozi rather than to that of Chairman Mao and refusing to collect his monthly pay in person.

Many of the first class of graduates at the high school level, who finished study in 1962, were assigned to work at the Shanghai Drama Academy, though some remained at the Shanghai Art School for further study as college students. Probably as a result Of economic recentralization in the post-Leap era, the school was closed after the graduation of its first college class in 1965. The remaining students were transferred to the local handicraft institute. Its graduates and some teachers were assigned to a newly established institution in 1965, the Municipal Oil Painting and Sculpture Studio. Because their rise to artistic prominence did not occur until the Cultural Revolution, we will delay further discussion of Shanghai Art School artists until the next chapter.

The Chinese Artists Association

The tense political atmosphere of the Great Leap Forward was harmful to both the reputations and the artistic development of most academic artists. Outside the academy, however, the period following the Anti-Rightist campaign had another aspect: unprecedented support for artistic activity, partial implementation of the Hundred Flowers policy, and increased regard for the artistic production of artists in regional cultural centers.

We have seen that political conformity was strongly enforced, both during


the concluding months of the Anti-Rightist campaign in 1958 and during the movement against rightist tendencies in the latter half of 1959. Yet two practical aspects of the Great Leap Forward were an emphasis on high productivity and a decentralization of economic administration. The former was reflected in March 22, 1958, regulations issued to all members of the Chinese Artists Association: they were to prepare Great Leap Forward work plans, to concern themselves with politics as well as art, to engage in popularizing work, and to increase their teaching of the masses. Moreover, in 1958 all but the old and weak were required to engage in manual labor in the countryside.[83]

Two slogans were coined as inspiration for increased artistic production. One, "More, Faster, Better, Cheaper" (duo, kuai, hao, sheng ) exemplified nationwide economic policy. Some groups of artists responded by contributing directly to industrial production. Shi Lu and his Xi'an colleagues, for example, designed decorations for enamelware.[84] One washbasin embellished with a Cheng Shifa design was even published in a propaganda magazine.[85] Cheng, like other artists, reportedly worked side by side with laborers, thus learning from the masses. Other painters, particularly guohua artists, were praised for making pictures that were sold cheaply, so as to be affordable to all. The Beijing painters Li Keran, Ye Qianyu, and Li Kuchan, for example, all of whom were salaried at CAFA, sold their paintings for $0.20 RMB.[86] A fan exhibition sold works by older Beijing masters such as Chen Banding and Yu Feian priced at $0.80 to $11.00 RMB.[87]

A second slogan, "Every Home a Poem, Every Household a Painting" (jia-jia shige huhu hua ),[88] was implemented by painting murals on many rural walls and by making vast numbers of folk paintings on paper. Peasants and urban artists collaborated on the designs and execution of many such works.[89] In Bi county, Jiangsu, 183,000 murals and folk paintings were reportedly produced in two months, work deemed of sufficient significance for exhibition in the CAA Art Gallery in Beijing in September 1958.[90] In a similar vein, the guohua artist Fu Baoshi painted albums illustrating the poems of Chairman Mao.[91]

Decentralization was announced somewhat obliquely in the new work policies of the CAA leadership. The national CAA officers pledged to increase their contacts with artists, to hold more exhibitions outside Beijing, and to spend at least a month or two every year inspecting art activities in localities outside Beijing.[92] According to a report published in November 1959, they did in fact investigate activities in nineteen provincial and municipal centers during the preceding year.[93]

Material support for artistic activities during this period appears to have been largely a local responsibility. Decentralization of the Chinese economy gave local officials more discretion in their use of funds and a greater incentive to produce regional results.[94] An exhibition of Great Leap Forward guohua


held on October 1, 1958, was sponsored and funded by the Beijing Municipal Committee of the CCP. Most of the artists represented in the exhibition were members of the Beijing Chinese Painting Research Institute or staff painters at the Beijing Chinese Painting Institute.[95] This model of local funding and administration seems to have been. emulated nationwide.

In some areas, decentralization gave previously neglected artists much-needed financial and critical attention. When Great Leap Forward work plans were publicized, the quotas promised by local branches of the CAA, not by the national organization, were reported in the CAA journal. For example, it was announced on March 8, 1958, that the Shanghai branch of the CAA was raising its production plan from 10,000 works of art to 20,000.[96] On March 10, fifty-five members of the Shanghai branch who had not gone to labor in the countryside pledged to turn out 9,200 works of art and write twenty-five books in 1958. The guobua artists He Tianjian and Tang Yun, for example, vowed to create a new guobua style within one or two years. The old oil painter Yan Wenliang promised to make ten paintings and write a book during the year. Others promised to join the Communist party within a specified period.[97]

The preparatory committee for the Nanjing CAA branch pledged its 791 artists to paint 80,981 pictures and its theorists to write 3,046,000 words.[98] Similar reports issued from other cities, including Chongqing[99] and Xi'an.[100] Even regions that did not yet have CAA branch organizations vowed to step up artistic production.[101] While such a method of planning artistic production is of course preposterous, it did put pressure on local leaders to ensure that all painters and art theorists had adequate support to fulfill their quotas. It also focussed unprecedented critical attention on regional artistic activities and regional artists.

A primary motivation of the CAA-sponsored Great Leap Forward activity was to produce works for the Third National Art Exhibition, which, as we have seen, was scheduled to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. The Chongqing branch, for example, announced plans to submit eighty "excellent works" to the national exhibition.[102] Such a goal was rather different from the decorating of rural walls and washbasins, for it put the various local arts administrations in competition with one another for qualitative recognition at the national level. Local support and, in some cases, political protection for the artists involved were clear prerequisites if this goal was to be met.

Reports published in the late 1950s and early 1960s indicate not only greater concern for the activities of local CAA branches but also a rapid increase in the number of such branches. In 1954 alone branches were established in six major cities: Tianjin, Chongqing, Shanghai, Xi'an, Guangzhou, and Wuhan.[103] Likewise, during the late 1950s preparatory committees, which seem to have functioned as the leadership of branches that were operating but


not yet formally recognized by central authorities, arose in many cities and provinces, including Nanjing, Zhejiang, and Guizhou. By 1960, twenty-four local branches existed, comprising about 3,500 members.[104]

For most members, the national artists association served as a voluntary professional organization. Salaries were generally paid by another work unit, such as a publisher, art academy, or research institute. Typically, though not universally, leaders of the local branches had been transferred from positions as editors or administrators at provincial propaganda publications, such as newspapers and pictorial magazines.[105] In some cases they might hold elected office in the CAA while retaining their salaried publishing jobs. The administrative link between the two seemingly different occupations is that both were, directly or indirectly, sponsored by the Propaganda Bureau of the Communist party.

Perhaps inevitably, the national CAA became more responsive to local opinion when it decentralized its admission procedures in 1958. Whereas previously the national CAA had admitted new members directly, beginning in 1958 branch organizations were made responsible for recommending potential members to the national organization. This change, coupled with greater local control of funding, greatly increased the power of regional arts leaders, both to promote and to suppress artists in their provinces.

Although its membership had expanded by 1960, the national CAA remained a highly exclusive organization. In 1953, membership stood at 104. By 1960 it had climbed to 758—after taking account of seventeen deceased members, one resignation, and three expulsions.[106] According to a Red Guard account published in 1967, by 1964 the membership was 1,116; forty-six members were workers, peasants, or soldiers, and most of this group were believed to have been admitted in 1959.[107] The most influential leaders of the CAA between 1958 and 1964 were Cai Ruohong, Hua Junwu, and Wang Zhaowen, though apparently their activities were determined less by personal conviction than by the ever-changing policies sent down from above. Of the three men, Wang Zhaowen, a prolific but thoughtful writer, reveals the greatest consistency of approach, steadfastly supporting new developments in guohua .

Commissions for the Ten Great Buildings

The best-publicized aspect of Great Leap Forward art policy was state encouragement of amateur art. Peasant paintings, which saw wide overseas promotion, were in fact initiated by professional artists who taught the farmers how to paint.[108] A related phenomenon, that of professional artists engaging in manual labor, was mentioned in our discussion of the Central Academy of


Fine Arts. The central government, however, made an extremely significant exception to the deprofessionalization of art in 1958 and 1959 with the commissioning of works for new China's tenth anniversary.

A massive construction project was undertaken in the capital in 1958 and 1959. Referred to as the Ten Great Buildings (Sbida jianzhu ), the project was, according to exaggerated reports, planned and completed in only seven months by collaborative teams of architects, engineers, and construction workers. It included construction of the Great Hall of the People, the Museum of Revolutionary History, the National Museum of History, the Chinese People's Revolutionary Military Museum, the National Agricultural Exhibition Hall, the Nationalities Cultural Palace, the Beijing Train Station, the Worker's Stadium, the Nationalities Hotel, and the Overseas Chinese Hotel.[109] Other buildings, such as the Chinese National Art Gallery, were built soon after.[110]

As Ellen Laing has pointed out, the new buildings took essentially Western forms and may be related to those of Washington, Paris, or Moscow.[111] Sited around the recently created Tiananmen Square or along one of the newly widened public thoroughfares, the monumental buildings symbolized China's emergence as a modern state. The architectural focus of the city in the imperial period, the walled compounds of the Forbidden City, became a public museum, a park, and offices for the Communist party. The new buildings shifted the focus of pedestrian attention to the unwalled and open public square south of the palace, as figure 67 suggests. Commentators proudly pointed out that the interior floor space of the Great Hall of the People was greater than that of the old palace.[112]

All the new buildings required didactic or ornamental displays. China's leading artists were therefore commissioned to produce paintings, decorations, and sculptures to fill the buildings in three campaigns conducted between 1958 and 1965.[113] The Ministry of Culture held a conference for the purpose of consulting with architects and artists on how to make the buildings "reflect the spiritual situation of our nation's people and our nation's ancient cultural and artistic traditions."[114] The paintings from the three campaigns that have been most influential in the Chinese art world were prepared for the Great Hall of the People, the Museum of Revolutionary History, and the Military Museum. Just as Dong Xiwen's national reputation was established by The Founding of the Nation , successful completion of the later commissions became, in many cases, the most important document of an artist's career.

The 1958-1959 Campaign

The first campaign, begun in 1958, was organized by the Chinese Artists Association, the Ministry of Culture, and the Ministry of Light Industry; it yielded 345 works. Of these, 136 were Chinese paintings, 108 were large oils or mu-


Image not available

Figure 71
Fu Baoshi and Guan Shanyue, This Land
So Rich in Beauty, 1959, ink and color
on paper, Great Hall of the People.

rals, and 101 were sculptures.[115] It is likely that the CAA did most of the organizational work, since its membership executed the project, but funding came from the two government ministries involved. In the frenzied atmosphere of the Great Leap Forward, deadlines were often short and expectations high. The new buildings were scheduled for completion on October 1, 1959, new China's tenth anniversary, which undoubtedly put the artists under substantial time pressure. In addition, government officials who rarely concerned themselves with concrete artistic questions involved themselves in this project, in some cases offering opinions about specific aspects of the works in process.

This Land So Rich in Beauty

One of the most notable artistic products of this campaign was the collaborative guohua of Fu Baoshi and Guan Shanyue, This Land So Rich in Beauty , painted for the grand stairway of the Great Hall of the People (fig. 71). The painting's enormous size, 5.5 by 9 meters, is the result of Zhou Enlai's opinion that an earlier version, only 4 meters high by 7.5 meters wide, was too small for its setting. The artists painted the larger, final version in only two weeks—apparently to Zhou's satisfaction, for the work became a photographic backdrop for gatherings of foreign dignitaries.[116] It is specifically mentioned in descriptions of the building.[117]


The circumstances of the commission seem to be typical of most such endeavors. Fu Baoshi and Guan Shanyue were originally brought from their homes in Nanjing and Guangzhou to Beijing by the Administrative Office (bangongting ) of the State Council for the purpose of painting individual pictures for the Great Hall of the People. When it was decided in May 1959 that a gigantic Chinese painting based on Mao's poem "Ode to Snow" should be hung on the stairway landing near the banquet hall, the two artists were asked to create it collaboratively.[118] Officials involved in the early stages of the commission included the chief of the State Council's Administrative Office, Qi Yanming; Beijing vice-mayor Wu Han; and CAA vice-directors Cai Ruohong and Hua Junwu.

The artists were then assigned neighboring rooms in the Oriental Hotel (Dongfang fandian ) and allowed to use the second-floor meeting room of the Great Hall as a studio. Despite the reputations both men had earned for successfully illustrating revolutionary poetry, they claimed to have had difficulty arriving at a satisfactory draft.[119] The standard translation of Mao's poem makes clear the problems landscape painters might encounter in converting its imagery to pictorial form:

North country scene:
A hundred leagues locked in ice,
A thousand leagues of whirling snow.
Both sides of the Great Wall
One single white immensity.
The Yellow River's swift current
Is stilled from end to end.
The mountains dance like silver snakes
And the highlands charge like wax-hued elephants,
Vying with heaven in stature.
On a fine day, the land,
Clad in white, adorned in red,
Grows more enchanting.

This land so rich in beauty
Has made countless heroes bow in homage.
But alas! Qin Shihuang and Han Wudi
Were lacking in literary grace,
And Tang Taizong and Song Taizu
Had little poetry in their souls;
And Genghis Khan,
Proud Son of Heaven for a day,
Knew only shooting eagles, bow outstretched.


All are past and gone!
For truly great men
Look to this age alone.[120]

When Foreign Minister Chen Yi, FLAC chairman Guo Moruo, Wu Han, and Qi Yanming came to check on the painting's progress, the artists were forced to confess their failure to complete a usable draft. Chen Yi, the poet-general, immediately advised them to focus on the word jiao (beauty) as the key to the composition. He stipulated that the picture should include territory on both sides of the Great Wall, the full length of the Yellow River, the snowy northwestern plateaus, and the broad expanse of Jiangnan; it should incorporate the four corners of China and the four seasons. Only then might it convey the magnificence of the fatherland's mountains and rivers.

The group immediately accepted Chen Yi's ideas and began refining them. Would figures be included? Should the sun be visible? All agreed that figures were unnecessary, but Guo Moruo suggested that a red sun rising in the east would aptly symbolize ten years of Communist rule. Just as Mao's poem was deemed to exemplify revolutionary optimism, the artists aimed to emphasize this same optimism with a dawn landscape. Following Chen Yi's suggestions, they sought to describe the beauty of the nation as a whole. The landscape thus was constructed as a composite of different geographical features, rather than as a description of one particular place. To emphasize China's grandeur, the artists took care in applying color, so that the mountain peaks appear to recede over a vast distance.

A draft of the entire composition in Fu's hand survives,[121] but the most prominent details of the finished version are from Guan's brush. The scratchy and rather subtle brushwork visible beneath the pine trees suggests that Fu painted the waterfall and mountains in the right foreground. Yet Guan's more dramatic style is pronounced in the remaining foreground treatment, with its distinctive mountain vegetation. As the collaboration proceeded, Guan Shanyue painted the Great Wall and the distant snowy mountains, while Fu Baoshi was responsible for the panoramic middle distance, including the river view that leads the eye to the right, toward the glorious rising sun. The resulting composition is held together by the crossed diagonals of Guan Shanyue's bold mountains and Fu Baoshi's more restrained panorama.[122]

By mid-September the work was complete. The two artists were instructed to have the painting hung for an inspection by Premier Zhou Enlai and Chen Yi. Zhou studied it from all angles for almost an hour before judging it a success. Even so, he concluded his viewing with two complaints. First, the painting was too small; and second, the sun was out of proportion to the architectural setting.

Following his instructions, the artists completely repainted the work before


the October I national holiday.[123] Particular care was taken in the enlarged version to make the red sun more prominent and to spread the red tonalities of light more widely. The goal was to create the feeling of "the east is red; the sun has risen," joining images from Mao's poem with phrases from the national anthem.

The painting was completed with the arrival of Mao Zedong's handwritten inscription of its title, the poetic phrase on which the painting was based. Zhang Zhengyu, a professor at Beijing's Central Academy of Arts and Crafts, spent the night before the tenth anniversary celebration laboriously enlarging and copying Mao's calligraphy onto the completed work.

The selection of guohua landscape painters to fulfill the most important commission of the period was a clear sign of the government's commitment to indigenous forms of art. Regardless of party slogans urging inheritance of the "national tradition," however, This Land So Rich in Beauty is unprecedented in the Chinese tradition. It is crucial to recognize the incorporation of Western concepts in the form and content of this painting, for it may serve as a marker of the effective replacement of traditional painting with a new, synthetic mode that combines Chinese and European traditions.

The problem the two guohua artists were set was extremely difficult. The painting commission, like the building in which it was hung, was essentially Western in conception. Like many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European paintings, their work was to be a monumental, horizontal, framed picture on permanent display in a public building. The artists believed that this was the first such guohua ever created. It was certainly one of the largest Chinese works ever painted on paper.

Traditional guohua tended to be created in one of three basic formats: hanging scrolls, handscrolls, and albums. Hanging scroll paintings on paper or silk were exhibited on walls, with collectors generally rotating works according to season or personal inclination; as a result, even in the home, works were not on permanent display. A small horizontal scroll or album was meant to be held in the hands, like a book, and then, after viewing, rolled or folded up for storage. Less commonly in later Chinese history, painted screens might be made as part of the interior decoration of a palace or mansion; murals were often included in decorative programs for temples.

Fu Baoshi excelled at painting small hanging scrolls and albums that require intimate inspection of their subtle brushwork and washes for fullest enjoyment. His work of the 1940s and 1950s, like this painting, conveys effects of weather and mood by contrasting hazy, wet ink and color with dry, scratchy brush strokes. His album leaf The West Wind Blows Red Rain , for example, is a richly textured and quite beautiful small landscape (fig. 72). Slightly more chaotic than many of his best small pictures, this autumnal scene is brought to order by the sweep of red leaves falling on the delicately rendered


Image not available

Figure 72
Fu Baoshi, The West Wind Blows Red
Rain, 1956, ink and color on paper,
45.7 cm × 48.3 cm, Fu family collection.

skiff and ancient scholar at lower left. The tidy boat is balanced by the artist's inscription, a phrase from a poem, in the opposite corner. This same rather romantic style may be seen in paintings Fu executed immediately before his 1959 call to Beijing. The most notable of these is his delicate album after the poems of Mao Zedong, which he painted in November and December 1958 and which includes a remarkable monochromatic ink rendering of Mao swimming the Yangzi.[124]

Guan Shanyue is best known for his hanging scrolls, of which his Newly Opened Road of 1954 is typical (fig. 61).[125] Slightly under two meters high and about one meter wide, the painting provides a breathtaking view of a


mountain gorge, making excellent use of the vertical format to convey height. Using a combination of loose wet outline strokes and careful washes, the artist has exploited to the fullest his mastery of atmospheric perspective, thus adding depth to the scene. From a technical point of view, Guan combines a traditionalist's interest in the abstract qualities of ink with more naturalistic, Western-style spatial effects. The latter, achieved by carefully conceived washes, may be found in Song dynasty painting as well, but their revival in the twentieth century is due in large part to Western influence reaching China from Japan.[126] Silhouetted against mountain mists, a band of tiny monkeys perches atop foreground trees. Our attention is drawn to the object of their curiosity, a truck lumbering up a newly built mountain road. While both men had painted successful political guobua , neither artist's earlier work indicates a talent for painting on the scale or in the format required for This Land So Rich in Beauty .

This Land So Rich in Beauty is a monument not only to the Communist regime and its founder but also to the artistic policies in effect when it was created. Because communist ideas of statehood were heavily influenced by Western ideologies, it is not surprising that physical monuments to the regime would require Western forms. Yet in the aftermath of the Anti-Rightist campaign, cultural policy called for more attention to national forms in art. The huge painting implicitly responds to a discredited idea attributed to Jiang Feng—that guohua was unsuited to large paintings for public spaces.

The contradiction at the core of this artistic effort is inherent in the nationalism of the period. Twentieth-century Chinese nationalism, like communism, has a strongly Western flavor. With the clash between Mao's ambitions and Soviet policies in the late 1950s, the Chinese Communist party saw fit to mandate the selective revival of traditional cultural forms. The result was a hybrid, a complex synthesis of Western and Chinese elements. The party leadership's selection of these native and foreign components was an important determinant in the subsequent development of guobua .

The format and materials of This Land So Rich in Beauty are the clearest physical evidence of a synthesis of Chinese and Western conventions. The work is painted on Chinese paper with Chinese ink and colors; it was backed with stiffened paper and decorated with silk borders, in the Chinese way, but then was framed in the Western manner.[127] Its brushwork is bold and its atmospheric perspective strong, so that it may be viewed from a distance. The subtle effects of ink and wash that characterize Fu Baoshi's best work and most good Chinese paintings may be found if the work is inspected from a ladder or platform, but they are lost when the work is seen from the floor. Moreover, the size, shape, and proportions of the painting are closer to those of nineteenth-century France than of imperial China.


While large, framed guohua may be unprecedented, China has a long tradition of mural painting. According to historical texts with which the artists were undoubtedly familiar, Tang-dynasty palaces, temples, and tombs often boasted large landscape paintings as decoration. Thus, although the tradition was largely defunct by the twentieth century, and likely would not have been revived had China not been exposed to Western art, those seeking native sources for the concept of monumental mural painting could easily find textual evidence of great Chinese muralists centuries before Michelangelo. The beauty and technical refinement of Tang imperial tomb murals excavated during the Cultural Revolution strengthened such claims in the late 1970s and 1980s, but temple sites such as Dunhuang, Yonglegong, and Fahaisi provided similar material to artists and theorists of the 1950s. The somewhat shaky conclusion that the practice of monumental mural painting in modern China merely represents a continuation of the national tradition is not far behind.[128]

Just as the physical form of This Land So Rich in Beauty synthesizes native and foreign elements, so does its theme. Chinese emperors in earlier periods had commissioned paintings from court artists to praise, legitimize, or propagandize for their reigns and dynasties;[129] the 1959 picture, though clearly more national than imperial in substance, performs a similar function. We will examine the ways in which This Land refers to traditional imperial propaganda, but it is important to keep in mind that the fundamental concept of the painting, the glory of the Chinese nation, is as modern and Western as the Great Hall of the People in which it hangs.

Specifics of the painting's commission unquestionably reflect the Chinese tradition, in which poetry, painting, and calligraphy have long been viewed as closely related arts. Just as court artists of the Song dynasty were required to base their paintings on poems by the emperor, Fu Baoshi and Guan Shanyue were asked to make a painting based on a poem by the contemporary Chinese leader. As in some Song paintings, the poetic line that inspired the picture is inscribed on the painting in the calligraphy of the ruler.

The idea that the spirit of man can be represented by means of a generalized landscape has been fundamental to Chinese painting since earliest times. An identification of Mao's spirit with the grandeur of the scene is implicit in this painting.[130] Natural images were used to characterize individuals in literary texts as early as the fifth-century A New Account of Tales of the World (Shishuo xinyu ).[131] Yet despite this reference to traditional Chinese views of the landscape and by extension to dynastic legitimacy, in This Land Western-style nationalism is never far off. The natural environment was a vehicle for conveying many meanings in traditional China, but national greatness was not one of them. Some American landscape paintings of the late nineteenth century, by contrast, embodied intensely nationalistic sentiments.[132] One might


argue that Communist intellectuals were often as sympathetic to such Western values as to the Confucian culture underlying traditional Chinese landscape painting.

Details of Fu and Guan's execution are immediately recognizable as Chinese. The emphasis on ink and brushwork that led the artists to use huge brushes, rather than simply building up the image from many small, inconspicuous, strokes, is a fundamental of Chinese painting. Atmospheric perspective, which produces a sense of expansive space in the mountains, has parallels in both early Chinese landscape painting and Western art, as we have seen. On the surface, the execution of the picture makes it an excellent example of traditional Chinese forms in art. At a deeper level, however, the expression of nationhood that it embodies is based quite securely on nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century Western ideas of art.

Fighting in Northern Shaanxi

The Great Hall of the People was constructed with large rooms in which delegates from each province might hold meetings and banquets or simply relax. These rooms were decorated by artists who lived in the province in question, and often depicted the scenery, customs, or cultural history of the region. The history museums on the other side of Tiananmen Square, conversely, were better suited to illustrations depicting famous events. In either case, the artists selected for these prestigious commissions gained an opportunity for unprecedented national visibility.

One artist whose 1959 work attracted a great deal of attention was the Xi'an guohua painter Shi Lu. He was called to Beijing to make two monumental paintings, one for the Shaanxi room of the Great Hall of the People and the other for the Museum of Revolutionary History. Both paintings were praised for their local color and innovative style, but his Fighting in Northern Shaanxi , rendered for the museum, became particularly famous (plate 3).[133]

According to a friend who accompanied Shi Lu to Beijing, the artist's desire to create a powerful and innovative image led him to difficulties in executing his assigned topic. The picture depicts Mao Zedong pausing during a military campaign to contemplate the local landscape. Mao was on the run from the Nationalist army during this period, but his future victory is foreshadowed by his elevated position in the scene. He stands isolated on a precipice, planning his next move. Below Mao on the trail one sees his heroic white horse and three bodyguards.

Mao himself is depicted with dark washes of ink in which the artist has left pale highlights. The rich ink bleeds into the paper, as in paintings by earlier masters, while the highlights create a startlingly three-dimensional effect. According to his friend, Shi Lu based his image of Mao on a sculpture rather than on a photograph. The figures who accompany Mao are depicted with pale gray ink, which pushes them into the distance and diminishes their im-


portance. It is significant that Shi Lu chose not to paint a figural composition, but instead surrounded his small image of Mao with a grand landscape.

Shi Lu's painting bears certain similarities to the huge painting by Fu Baoshi and Guan Shanyue both in the panoramic concept and in the nontraditional approach to guohua landscape painting. Shi Lu's innovative style, however, is less a synthesis of Western and Chinese norms than a mode of painting oblivious to both. His earlier work, most notably his woodcut Down With Feudalism (fig. 42), demonstrates the artist's powerful innate sense of composition. Yet neither his spotty artistic education nor his previous work provides evidence that he was particularly skilled in the refined techniques of either Chinese or Western painting. This painting, indeed, marks a breakthrough for the artist; it is, moreover, compositionally more successful than the much larger This Land So Rich in Beauty .

The viewer gazes on the panoramic landscape as though from a helicopter. Bold, dark outline strokes and deep orange pigment create a heavily abstracted but powerful image that is very effective when viewed from afar in the museum setting. The hills become paler in tone as they recede, giving a sense of the vast territory that waits to be conquered. The stark, loess plateaus are identifiable geographic references, but the overall feeling of the landscape remains highly generalized.

Although the work shares its romantic view of the Chinese landscape with This Land So Rich in Beauty, Fighting in Northern Shaanxi was conceived as a history painting, not as an interpretation of a poem. Nevertheless, Shi Lu's painting describes a particular moment in time and a known locale in such a way as to transcend the specific. Indeed, Mao could as easily be composing a poem as planning strategy. His noble character and the greatness of China thus become more important themes of the work than the particular military campaign the artist was asked to illustrate. The territory Shi Lu was assigned to depict was that of his home province, but the elevated point of view seems to make Shaanxi a symbol of the entire nation.

One wonders whether proximity to the Fu and Guan project may not have spurred Shi Lu to his innovation. Shi Lu's work, like This Land So Rich in Beauty , satisfies the new interpretation of national forms in painting. His landscape subject matter has deep roots in the Chinese aesthetic tradition. His execution, however, is based not on traditional conventions for rendering mountains but on a personal reinvention of guohua techniques. He dragged his brush across the paper to create a structure of slightly messy ink outlines and paler texture strokes. Outlines and texture strokes were mandatory elements of Chinese landscape painting as early as the tenth century, but none, not even those of Shi Lu's idol Shitao, ever looked quite like this.[134] His medium, ink and color on paper, his landscape subject matter, and even his concept, that the loftiness of the man might be reflected in his setting, come straight from the


Chinese tradition. Yet the large square compositional format was new, and the bright color, even today, overwhelms the exhibits located next to it. The result was a thought-provoking exploration of the problem of painting modern guohua . More important in its time, it was a remarkable success in its assigned task: to glorify the regime from the walls of the Museum of Revolutionary History.

Five Heroes of Mount Langya

Many of the best-known works for the history museums were oil paintings in the Soviet style. There was, by 1959, a strong group of painters who had been trained in this mode. In addition to the artists who had studied with Konstantin Maksimov in Beijing, students were beginning to arrive back in China from their six-year courses in Leningrad. One typical example of the Soviet style was painted by Zhan Jianjun, a faculty member at the Central Academy of Fine Arts who had studied with Maksimov. The Five Heroes of Mount Langya is executed in the broad, flat strokes of paint favored by many Russian-trained artists (fig. 73). The five figures in the composition are fierce, well-muscled men. They are placed, as on a pedestal, atop a precipitous mountain peak and carefully posed, one behind the other, to form a single, rather sculptural unit. The artist's unifying intent is made explicit in the background of receding mountain ranges, one peak of which echoes exactly the silhouette of the group. The heroes, in short, represent the highest peak of the glorious natural configuration that they dominate.

The exaggerated poses and musculature of the figures, as well as the artist's handling of paint, are based on Soviet socialist realism, though it is probable that the artist was well aware of the romantic landscapes of the guohua painters. In 1955, after all, he had completed the CAFA graduate program in guohua , one of the young artists Jiang Feng hoped would develop the new Chinese painting. In spite of the growing emphasis on "national forms"—which meant guohua and folk painting—Soviet-style works such as this continued to play a key role in Chinese art. As we have seen, the Ten Great Buildings project, which itself was undoubtedly influenced by Soviet prototypes, assumed a central role for art created for public display. The Soviet-style paintings were thus admirably suited to exhibition in the new museums, both because of their dramatic, or even melodramatic, styles and because of their narrative content. To remove the stigma of foreign influence, this form of art came to be called by a simple, relatively unideological term: history painting.

Bloody Clothes

An unusual work prepared for the Ten Great Buildings is Wang Shikuo's Bloody Clothes , which depicts peasants during land reform testifying to the horrors they had suffered at the hands of a brutal landlord (fig. 74). Wang had studied at the National Hangzhou Arts Academy under Wu


Image not available

Figure 73
Zhan Jianjun, Five Heroes of Mount
Langya, 1959, oil on canvas, 200 cm ×
185 cm, Museum of Chinese Revolutionary

Dayu and at the Shanghai Art Academy, from which he graduated in 1935. He was an art student in Japan until the Japanese invaded China following the Marco Polo Bridge incident of 1937, and in 1938 he joined the Communists at Yah'an. He had exhibited a woodblock print on the subject of land reform, Reform the Hooligans , at the First National Exhibition in 1949 (fig. 6). During the 1950s he became one of the most popular teachers at CAFA. Rather than abandoning the theme of land reform, as most printmakers did once the movement concluded, Wang made it his life's mission to execute a monumental history painting on the theme. He worked on sketches throughout the fifties and was invited to complete the work for the 1959 opening of the historical


Image not available

Figure 74
Wang Shikuo, Bloody Clothes, 1959,
charcoal on paper, Museum of Chinese
Revolutionary History.

museums. Because of time constraints, he did not contribute an oil painting, but instead a huge black-and-white charcoal drawing on Chinese paper. This version was admired by art leaders and by Zhou Enlai. Wang later painted a preliminary version in oils, but failed to complete his revisions before his death. The powerful drawing remains on display at the Museum of Revolutionary History and is the artist's most famous work.[135]

While many of the new paintings were publicized in Meishu and caused excitement in artistic circles, the 1958-1959 history painting project did not come to a successful conclusion. As we have seen, in July 1959 Defense Minister Peng Dehuai criticized the excesses of the Great Leap Forward in letters and speeches. A split in the party developed, with Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping absenting themselves from the meeting at which Peng's comments were discussed. Mao responded to the criticisms by firing Peng Dehuai and by launching an anti-rightist drive in the fall. Although the new ideological campaign was slightly milder than the one two years before, it marred planned celebrations of the nation's tenth anniversary.

As the Museum of Revolutionary History prepared to open in this tense atmosphere, it was inspected by high party officials. One of the reported partic-


ipants was Kang Sheng, a hard-line ideologist who had played an important part in the 1942 Yan'an rectification campaign[136] and who, during the early 1960s, emerged as a protector of Mao's thought against the forces of liberalism. He deemed the entire display ideologically erroneous and, for good measure, singled out particular paintings for criticism. One work Kang considered too gloomy was Jin Shangyi's Farewell (Departing for the Long March ), a scene in which the artist, according to his own account, had emphasized the gray tonalities of early-morning mist.[137] Another was Liu Shaoqi and the Anyuan Coal Miners by Hou Yimin.

The previously mentioned Red Guard account from 1967 presents a view favorable to Kang Sheng, in which Peng Zhen, Lu Dingyi, and Hu Qiaomu criticized the exhibition because it contained too many portraits of Chairman Mao and Zhou Enlai found the "red line insufficiently prominent." Kang Sheng, viewing the exhibition on September 11, apparently concluded that there were too few portraits of Chairman Mao. As a result of these last-minute difficulties, the central authorities decided not to open the museum.[138] Paintings that Kang had criticized were removed from the display. The combination of economic disaster and internal dissension that befell China at this time prevented the new museum from opening for another two years.

The 1961 History Painting Campaign

The second campaign to cover the walls of the new museums, conducted in 1961, produced some of China's most famous history paintings. Artists were called to Beijing from all over the country for this project, which was directed by Luo Gongliu of CAFA. China was still suffering from food shortages during this period, but the artists, who were housed at the Oriental Hotel near Tiananmen Square, received nutritious meals. By this time more artists had returned from the Soviet Union, and complete absorption of Russian canons of history painting into Chinese art practices is evident. Even so, some variation was to be found within the genre's rather narrow confines.

Jin Shangyi, a graduate of Maksimov's class, was particularly skilled at portraiture. After rejection of his 1959 painting Farewell , he transmuted his newly assigned historical topic to better suit his individual talents and the hard-line requirements of the new Museum of Revolutionary History's inspectors. His work for the project, entitled Mao Zedong at the December Conference , was a half-length portrait of the young Mao Zedong against a red background (fig. 75). Another notable work was executed by Bao Jia and Zhang Fagen, two oil painters working in Anhui, who collaborated on a nineteenth-century-style battle scene. The Huai-Hai Campaign depicts the vast and victorious Red Army advancing under Chen Yi's leadership against a Turneresque pink sky (fig. 76 ). Quan Shanshi, recently returned from the USSR, displayed


Image not available

Figure 75
Jin Shangyi, Mao Zedong at the December
Conference, 1961, oil on canvas,
155 cm × 140 cm, Museum of Chinese
Revolutionary History.

his painterly talents in a boldly brushed Soviet-style painting, Death Before Surrender (fig. 77). This painting stands out less for its melodramatic image, which was standard for such commissions, than for its rich colors and lively brushwork.[139]

An iconographically interesting image from the 1961 painting project was Liu Shaoqi and the Anyuan Coal Miners by Hou Yimin (fig. 78).[140] According to 1967 Red Guard material, the 1958 plans for the display had also included a work by this title. Hou, a party committee member at CAFA, had visited coal mines in 1951 with his students, and on this basis he was commissioned by Luo Gongliu and Cai Ruohong to execute the painting. His topic was ex-


Image not available

Figure 76
Bao Jia and Zhang Fagen, The Huai-Hai
Campaign, 1961, oil on canvas,
150 cm × 320 cm, Museum of Chinese
Revolutionary History.

tremely suitable for the period: with Mao's decision to partially retire at the end of 1958, Liu Shaoqi had assumed the post of chairman of the People's Republic in the spring of 1959. Nevertheless, the first version was rejected in the confusion surrounding the museum's aborted opening.

Hou Yimin was recruited for the new painting campaign and assigned to produce a better version of the Liu Shaoqi painting. Whatever details may have been criticized in 1959, it is probable that the key issue involved differences over who would be portrayed as the maker of party history, Mao Zedong or someone else. Shifts in historical interpretation inevitably followed the policy shifts or personnel changes resulting from high-level power politics. According to the 1967 Red Guard account, Deng Xiaoping personally required that a photographic or painted portrait of Liu be displayed when the new museum formally opened on June 29, 1961. The 1967 discussion of Hou's painting, written at the height of the Cultural Revolution, is slanted to its own purposes, which were to castigate Liu Shaoqi and his supporters. Nevertheless, there is every reason to believe that the painting's prominence in 1961 derived from a broad view of party history that corresponded more closely to the Liu-Deng view than to that of the Maoists.[141]

One of the most peculiar products of the project was Luo Gongliu's Mao


Image not available

Figure 77
Quan Shanshi, Death Before Surrender,
1961, oil on canvas, 233 cm × 127 cm,
Museum of Chinese Revolutionary

Zedong at Jingang Shan (plate 4). Luo, who was then forty-five years old, was prepared by his artistic background to be versatile. He had studied Western painting at the National Hangzhou Arts Academy from 1936 to 1938, worked briefly as a propagandist in Wuhan, and by 1938 had begun making revolutionary woodcuts in Yah'an. He joined the CCP in October 1938. In the early


Image not available

Figure 78
Hou Yimin, Liu Shaoqi and the Anyuan
Coal Miners, 1961, oil on canvas,
formerly Museum of Chinese Revolutionary
History (reported destroyed).

1950s he returned to oil painting with his Tunnel Warfare , painted for the first history painting project of 1951-1952 (fig. 2.7).[142] In 1955 he went to learn Soviet-style painting in Leningrad. After the Anti-Rightist campaign, Luo was no doubt somewhat constrained in his advocacy of Soviet styles. This painting clearly represents an experiment in the Sinicization of oil painting, a concept that was much discussed but rarely implemented. Unlike many of his comrades, Luo had the technical facility and education to invent a Chinese way of using the Western medium.

In Luo's painting, Mao is seated on a rock, as though resting after making his plans. Behind him are rice paddies and a mountain range. Rather than painting sharply defined peaks as Zhan Jianjun did in Five Heroes , however, Luo seems to have copied his gently rolling hills from a Chinese ink painting. This particular compositional mode, with its overlapping triangular forms, is best known from the mid-fourteenth-century ink landscape Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains by Huang Gongwang.[143] Instead of the large, squared brush strokes the Chinese artists learned to make from their Russian teachers, Luo employed the longer, curved strokes of Chinese painting to describe his mountain. Moreover, Luo applied regular vertical dabs of color to suggest


mountain foliage, a clear reference to the distinctive pointed dots of ink used by many ancient landscape painters.

Chinese oil painters were periodically criticized for painting human figures that looked like Europeans. Luo had no difficulty painting Chinese figures, but he goes on to make his landscape Chinese as well, by depicting it in the Chinese manner. Thus Luo attempted to implement the rejection of Soviet models in a substantive way, by changing both his brushwork and his landscape imagery. This was not an experiment that could be copied, though. Younger artists who might have wished to follow his example did not have Luo's range of experience, and his innovation did not become a movement.

The 1964-1965 History Painting Campaign

The last major history painting campaign of the period took place in 1964 and 1965, a renewed period of hard-line cultural controls. Cosponsored by the Ministry of Culture and the Museum of Revolutionary History, it was directed by Wang Shikuo. Some famous artists, Dong Xiwen, Hou Yimin, and Ai Zhongxin among them, did not participate because they were targets of a political campaign then under way at CAFA. Those who contributed paintings included Maksimov students Wang Dewei, Zhan Jianjun, and Jin Shangyi and artists returned from study in the USSR, such as Quan Shanshi, Lin Gang, Deng Shu, and Li Jun. A new crop of young oil painters participated as well. Among them were Cai Liang, a CAFA graduate who had been exiled to Xi'an in the Anti-Hu Feng campaign; Yin Rongsheng, a CAFA instructor; and the young Tang Xiaohe, from Wuhan. The most significant additions to the group were the 1963 graduates of the second oil painting training class held at CAFA, young artists taught by Luo Gongliu rather than by a Soviet instructor.[144] The new works did not differ significantly in style from those of the two earlier campaigns.

Shanghai Illustrators

By the late 1950s, steady development in illustration, particularly in Shanghai, was leading to works of superb aesthetic quality. We will observe in all genres of art that the period 1958-1964 was dominated by an emphasis on national forms. Art policy did, however, shift from the extreme popularization of 1958 to an interest in raising standards by 1962. This new concern was already evident in an exhibition of lianhuanhua in 1959, and it culminated in late 1963 with the awarding of prizes for the best lianhuanhua of the first fourteen years of the PRC—during which time, a high-ranking Ministry of Culture official re-


ported, seven hundred million volumes of these serial picture stories had been published.[145]

He Youzhi won a well-deserved first prize for his art work in Great Change in a Mountain Village of 1963 (fig. 79). He Youzhi was a Shanghai-born artist who had grown up in a rural Zhejiang village. He quit school to work as a laborer in Shanghai, but in 1952 was invited to join New Art Press, where he attended drawing classes under Yan Wenliang. He emulated the Western drawing style of Gu Bingxin and Liu Jiyou, the two most famous revolutionary illustrators, in his early work, but expanded his stylistic repertory by studying Ming-dynasty illustrated books, the woodcuts of Chen Hongshou and Ren Xiong, and reproductions of detailed, realistic, outline-style paintings such as the Song-dynasty Spring Festival on the River .[146]

There is little doubt that He Youzhi and his colleagues were better educated in the history of Chinese illustration than artists of the preliberation period. Gu Bingxin, one of the studio supervisors, was an avid collector of old books, both lianhuanhua and original editions of Ming and Qing illustrated dramas. The improvement in the cultural and physical circumstances of the Shanghai lianhuanhua artists thus allowed the production of some works that equal or surpass in quality paintings by guohua artists or oil painters.

The text of Great Change in a Mountain Village was based on a book of the same title by Zhou Libo about the successful communization of a rural village. He Youzhi's art—over five hundred illustrations—is of greater merit than the uninspiring text deserves. So concerned was he with quality and local color that the artist made several journeys to the region in Hunan where the work is set to sketch and familiarize himself with local customs.

We reproduce two striking scenes from volume 3 of the multivolume lianhuanhua edition of Great Change . It is evident that the artist had absorbed compositional devices from Qing prints in his effective contrasts of white paper and linear textures. In figure 79 (left) we see how he used the sharply tilted ground plane of Ming illustrations. Figure 79 (right) is filled with details of foliage and rock that are reminiscent of traditional prints. Textural contrasts, such as that between the flat white roof and the carefully described weeds around it, resemble those developed by the greatest of Ming and early-Qing woodblock illustrators. Yet the pictures are completely unlike traditional illustrations in the individualization of human figures. Although He Youzhi's mastery of realistic figure drawing is evident throughout his work, he goes well beyond simple technical skill to effect a psychological penetration of his characters. In figure 79 (left), for example, we do not see the faces of the three figures being depicted, but only their backs and feet. Nevertheless, their postures and footwear are sufficient to characterize them. The strong young man wears new shoes, one bent old woman wears neatly patched cloth shoes, and a third slouched figure wears cloth shoes that have frayed and collapsed—a


Image not available

Figure 79 (left and right)
He Youzhi, illustrations for Great
Change in a Mountain Village, 1963,
vol. 3, lianhuanhua, ink on paper,
Shanghai People's Art Press collection.

warning of her despair or laziness. He Youzhi has a talent well suited to an illustrator, that of observing people as an actor or director might, to develop a cast of visible, moving characters based on the printed word.

He Youzhi's illustrations for Li Shuangshuang (fig. 80) are slightly more conventional, but no less successful. Many of the scenes take place indoors. A device we saw in the earlier Railroad Guerrillas is used here to great effect: the artist looks at his figures from every corner of the interior space, including the ceiling, so as to increase the variety of his compositions and intensify the emotional tenor of each scene. Colleagues from the press still marvel at the visual interest he managed to create in each of the seemingly endless series of party meetings the story required. Unlike Railroad Guerrillas, Li Shuangshuang does not portray exaggerated socialist realist heroes, but relatively ordinary, if attractive, people. He Youzhi's flair for surface pattern is particularly evident in the two scenes reproduced here. Textile designs, window lattices, and even electric switches contribute to striking formal relationships. The blank rectangu-


lar window behind Li Shuangshuang's head (fig. 80, left) is a fitting frame to contain the isolation she felt in her hopeless quarrel with her husband.

Li Shuangshuang was based on a film script of the same title, and some viewers believe that the heroine looks rather like the actress who starred in the movie. Nevertheless, the lianhuanhua version stands very well on its own. The focus of the story is Li Shuangshuang's marital conflict. Shuangshuang has become active in local party affairs, a role in which she does many good deeds for fellow villagers. Her husband, humiliated by these exhibitions of female independence, quarrels with her and eventually leaves her, though in the end he · sees his error and returns. Their little daughter is used throughout the story to intensify the drama of their bitter arguments. In scenes 100 and 101, pictured here, the little girl appears to be the only means of communication between her mother and father.

A third important lianhuanhua of the period was Monkey Beats the White-boned Demon by Zhao Hongben and Qian Xiaodai (fig. 81), which won one of the four first prizes in the 1963 competition. The story, taken from the Ming novel Journey to the West , and the pictorial style, which has a strongly traditional flavor, are very much in keeping with the nationalism of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Whereas He Youzhi incorporated traditional elements into his modern style, Zhao and Qian go the opposite route and modernize the "ancient costumes" genre. The simplified settings, angular rocks,


Image not available

Figure 80 (left and right)
He Youzhi, illustrations for Li Shuang-shuang,
lianhuanhua, ink on paper,
Shanghai People's Art Press collection.

trees, drapery folds, and details of costume make reference to conventions of traditional woodblock illustration. Nevertheless, the individualization of character, naturalistic gestures, and essentially Western figural arrangements give the images a three-dimensionality rare in classical illustrations.

Claims that Shanghai lianhuanhua combine national forms with realistic observation are fully realized in works such as these. The reform program in the publishing houses reached its goals between 1958 and 1964, producing illustrations of unprecedented popular appeal, quality, and originality.

The Reappearance of Regional Art

As we described at the beginning of this chapter, the cautious liberalization proposed by Zhou Enlai in his speeches of 1959 and 1961 was paralleled by greater diversity in the administration and practice of art. The most notable trends of the period—the development of regional schools of art and the limited reappearance of artistic individualism—may be attributed, in part, to


this ideological stance. A more important change, however, was wrought by the administrative decentralization of the Great Leap Forward.

This restructuring had irreversible consequences for the Chinese art world in its encouragement of local artistic activity. While events in the major art centers of Beijing and Shanghai continued to be reported nationally, regional groups of artists began to receive unprecedented national attention during the Great Leap Forward. Conditions necessary for this critical success included one or more effective local arts leaders, unusually strong support for these leaders by the provincial party organization or by a national political leader, a local group of capable artists, and good relations with national CAA leaders. In most cases, such groups worked in Chinese media, such as guohua or wood-block prints. We will look at two schools of guohua painters, those of Nanjing and Xi'an, and two groups of printmakers, those of Sichuan and Heilongjiang.

The Nanjing Painters

The group that received the earliest and most enthusiastic national recognition was the Nanjing guohua painters. In a review of a late-1958 exhibition of their work in Beijing, editors of the official art journal cited the strength of Nanjing painting as evidence that guohua was flourishing nationwide. Further, in this era of decentralization, the Jiangsu provincial party secretary was lauded for his successful participation in their activities.[147]

Although some of the Nanjing artists had exhibited in previous exhibitions


Image not available

Figure 81
Zhao Hongben and Qian Xiaodai,
illustrations for Monkey Beats the
White-boned Demon, lianhuanhua, ink
on paper.


and had strong individual reputations, the emergence of the Nanjing painters as a regional group corresponded with a new cultural formula. Mao Zedong urged that literature and art should "combine revolutionary realism and revolutionary romanticism." Party theorist Zhou Yang elaborated on Mao's views in a June 1958 article that found both realism and romanticism in the works of great writers of China's past. The new formula was exemplified in the contemporary period by Chinese folk songs and by the poems of Chairman Mao.[148]

The December 1958 Jiangsu Province Guohua Exhibition had the good fortune to open in this euphoric atmosphere of cultural nationalism.[149] Just as Zhou Yang cited folk songs and Mao's poems as exemplars of the union of revolutionary realism and romanticism, an important article in praise of the Jiangsu exhibition identified two art forms as particularly appropriate for the current era: peasant paintings and Chinese paintings. "Chinese painting is our nation's precious art treasure," the author wrote, "with unique national style, a long history, and excellent traditional skill; it is loved by the masses and valued by our party."[150]

The leading spokesman for the exhibition, the Nanjing guohua painter Fu Baoshi, was much more modest than the Beijing critics in his claims for Nanjing painting.[151] He credited the exhibition's success to the unity of party leadership, the painters, and the masses, a unity that included consultative revisions of the work to be shown. The censorship or interference in the artistic process implied by the last phrase leads one to low expectations of the results, which are sometimes justified. A typically uninspiring, though technically skilled, collective product is People's Commune Dining Hall (fig. 82), sometimes called Free Food for All , by members of the preparatory group for the Jiangsu Provincial Guohua Institute. Its closest art historical ancestor might be the documentary scrolls of civil works projects and imperial journeys prepared by artists at the court of the eighteenth-century Qianlong emperor.[152] Several exhibited works by Fu Baoshi's colleague Qian Songyan, including On Furong Lake (fig. 83), are similarly filled with minute depictions of laudable economic activity.[153] The well-organized landscape setting of On Furong Lake indicates that Qian's particular contribution to the Nanjing school may have been his sound foundation in traditional painting.

The exhibition flyer, written by the Preparatory Committee for the Jiangsu Branch of the CAA under Fu Baoshi's direction, is more explicit in crediting rectification, ideological education, the Great Leap Forward, and local party officials for the improvement in guohua . Commentators also cited such ideals of the period as "the high-level union of ideology and art" and "the union of revolutionary realism with revolutionary romanticism," along with popular slogans—"The east wind knocks down the west wind" and "Each day equals twenty years"—as providing motivation for the paintings.[154]


Image not available

Figure 82
Collective painting, People's Commune
Dining Hall, 1958, guohua.


Image not available

Figure 83
Qian Songyan, On Furong Lake, 1958,
ink and color on paper, 108 cm × 64.5 cm.


Fu Baoshi devotes most of his Meishu article to artistic rather than political questions, yet it is clear that the guohua he promoted was carefully formulated to avoid political difficulties. He describes many conventions of literati painting that his group sought to eradicate, including adulation for the ancients, concern for qualities of brush and ink, interest in the antique or the elegant in painting, and avoidance of real life and of the common people. Nevertheless, Fu Baoshi quotes the early Qing individualist Shitao as writing that brush and ink (bimo ) must follow their time. Bimo , which may be translated literally as brush and ink or figuratively as brushwork, comprises, in Fu's view, the primary expressive tools and forms of China's national painting. Fu exhorts that bimo must not be mystified or made the only creative method, nor should the artist fail to consider whether his brushwork is appropriate to his subject.[155]

Such opinions argue implicitly for a reform of traditional techniques. Brushwork should not be flaunted for its own sake; brushwork that is out of harmony with a painting's modern subjects should be avoided, but bimo should be retained. In practice, this meant that the Nanjing group sought to develop new types of landscape brushwork to describe China's modern life.

A typical Fu Baoshi work from the 1958-1959 exhibition is his Ode to Yuhuatai , painted to illustrate a contemporary commemoration of Communist soldiers who died in a Nationalist prison in Nanjing (fig. 84). The painting is a highly romanticized view of the city of Nanjing, in which industrial images are used to extraordinary pictorial effect. The foreground is defined, somewhat photographically, by pine branches hanging down from the upper right corner. Less photogenic, but with a surprising abstract beauty, are the delicately rendered power lines sweeping across the lower right section of the picture. The middle ground, in which a memorial stele dominates a tree-covered hill, occupies the left side of the picture. A tiny file of Young Pioneers proceed along a hilltop path to pay respects to the heroes. In the distance we see the hazy city, its smokestacks emitting delicate strokes of gray ink.

The image's pictorial unity is created in a traditional manner. Ink dabs of different tones but similar rounded shapes define the foreground foliage, middle ground trees, and distant puffs of smoke, thus linking all parts of the surface. One might identify them as "Mi-dots," a way of texturing mountains popularly thought to have been invented by the Northern Song painter Mi Fu, but their function has been modernized. The composition is organized by its linear silhouettes, such as the pine branches, power lines, the crenelated wall of the old city, the contour of the hill, and the white path leading to the memorial stele. These gently curving lines come together in the center of the composition, uniting the pine, a traditional symbol of immortality, and the monument to heroic soldiers against a romantically tinted rosy sky. The work, painted for the August 1 military holiday, succeeds in combining revolutionary realism


Image not available

Figure 84 (top)
Fu Baoshi, Ode to Yuhuatai, 1958, ink
and color on paper, 60 cm × 105 cm.

Image not available

Figure 85 (bottom)
Gong Xian (1619-1689), Mountains and
Clouds, leaf from a six-leaf landscape
album, ink on paper, 22.2 cm × 43.7 cm,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New


and revolutionary romanticism. Indeed, if one can overcome environmentalist objections to the glorification of industrial smoke, the picture is beautiful.

Fu Baoshi's reputation as a painter was well deserved in the context of his time. That his talent was recognized and promoted, however, probably had to do with high-level patronage. In 1938 he had served as secretary in the Third Section of the Political Ministry, serving under the poet Guo Moruo. Guo, who was appointed to direct the government's Culture and Education Committee in 1949, held the post of chairman of the All-China Federation of Literary and Art Circles in 1958. He was one of the greatest enthusiasts of the doctrine of revolutionary realism and revolutionary romanticism, in part because of a long-standing interest in romanticism.[156] As Guo's critical influence soared, Fu Baoshi reminded the art world of the long relationship between the two men by quoting a Guo Moruo poem of 1944.[157] The poem advocates smashing elegance, seeking truth, adopting folk forms, and pursuing the ordinary or common (su ) in painting. The 1958 publication of Fu's paintings bore a preface by Guo.[158]

Guo Moruo's personal secretary confirms that the two men remained close until Fu's death in 1965.[159] Guo Moruo was Fu Baoshi's primary patron at the national level. Fu's political reliability was suspect in the early PRC period, though, which led to a lowly job assignment at a Nanjing normal school. Former students recall that he required them to make drawings of plaster statues, as did all Chinese art instructors in the early and mid-1950s, but that Fu had his class execute them in ink outline with a Chinese brush, shunning the Western manner.[160] In October 1956, probably owing to a turnabout in national policy on guohua , Fu was appointed to direct the preparatory committee for the Nanjing branch of the CAA. In February 1957, he became director of the preparatory group for the Jiangsu Provincial Chinese Painting Institute.[161] The Jiangsu branch of the CAA was formally established on April 13, 1960. Fu Baoshi was elected chairman, and the military artist Ya Ming (b. 1924) was general secretary. Four of the five vice-chairmen, Ya Ming, Chen Zhifo (1886-1962), Qian Songyan (1899-1985), and Xie Haiyan (b. 1910), were guohua painters.[162] Only Lü Sibai (1905-1972), a French-trained rival of Xu Beihong, worked primarily in oils. With Guo Moruo's assistance, Fu was selected as a delegate to the Political Consultative Conference in 1958.[163] He became a vice-chairman of the national CAA and a member of the All-China FLAC, which Guo chaired, in 1960.[164]

Political connections were one element in Fu's rising reputation, but professional factors provided the foundation for his fame. His earlier academic appointments recognized his technical skill, scholarly reputation, and strong personal style. His best landscapes of the mid-1950s are lyrical explorations of color and brushwork. A distinctive feature of these paintings is strong textural contrasts, as in The West Wind Blows Red Rain (fig. 72) and Ode to Yuhua-


tai . In both, Fu juxtaposes tangled brushwork with blank sections of paper. Densely textured surfaces, while present in much of Chinese painting, are particularly evident in works by early Qing-dynasty artists who worked in the Nanjing area, such as Gong Xian (fig. 85) and Zou Zhe. The Nanjing landscape, even today, seems more heavily wooded, and thus visually richer, than that of many other parts of China.

Fu Baoshi was not a Nanjing native, but he is well known as a scholar of early Qing painting.[165] Whatever artistic affinities he may have felt with previous artists were probably accentuated by his art historical awareness of the seventeenth-century "Eight Masters of Jinling," a loose collection of Nanjing painters centered on Gong Xian and famous in the early Qing period.[166] Fu Baoshi ultimately became the focus of a latter-day "Jinling" group.

A second key figure in the development of the Nanjing school was Ya Ming, with whom Fu Baoshi collaborated in executing a military history picture in 1957.[167] Unlike Fu Baoshi, who had studied in Japan and had a well-established academic career before 1949, Ya Ming was a product of the People's Liberation Army. He joined the New Fourth Army at age fifteen and managed to pursue his early enthusiasm for art during his military career. After liberation he was assigned to Nanjing, where he engaged in organizational work for the party. He used his spare time to study Chinese painting, and much of his work shows a good understanding of Fu Baoshi's technical innovations. Ya Ming was a particularly important figure in the establishment of both the Jiangsu Painting Institute, where he served as vice-director, and the local branch of the CAA.[168]

Ya Ming's contribution to the 1958 exhibition, Peddlers (Huolangtu ), reveals an artist of ambition, technical skill, and enthusiasm for traditional Chinese art (plate 5).[169] This large horizontal painting successfully synthesizes the contradictory critical ideals of his time, especially realism and romanticism, contemporaneity and tradition. The general theme, prosperity among minority peoples, was politically appropriate for its period.

In the work, a colorfully dressed cluster of tribal women excitedly inspects goods being sold by an itinerant merchant. The painting bears many evidences of a background in socialist realism. The women are all quite robust, as in much Soviet art. As in Western academic art, the figures form complex compositional groups in which dramatic gestures and bent torsos are essential organizational elements. Geometric forms, such as the rectangular rug and the merchant's cart, are rendered with vanishing point perspective rather than the "scattered point" perspective of ancient Chinese art. Moreover, although the work appears in reproduction to be a handscroll in the traditional small scale, it is in fact a large picture meant to be hung on a wall, Western style.

European influences aside, the picture is clearly intended first and foremost to evoke masterpieces of ancient Chinese figure painting. The most obvious


Image not available

Figure 86
Attributed to Emperor Huizong (1082-1135),
copy after Zhang Xuan, Court
Ladies Preparing Newly Woven Silk,
handscroll, ink and color on silk, 37
cm × 145.3 cm, Museum of Fine Arts,

source is a handscroll attributed to the Song emperor Huizong entitled Court Ladies Preparing Newly Woven Silk (fig. 86). This painting, which has been in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts since 1912,[170] was reproduced in Meishu shortly before Ya Ming began work on his composition.[171] Believed to be a copy of a picture by the Tang-dynasty master Zhang Xuan, the Boston painting exemplifies a genre of traditional painting dedicated to depicting aristocratic ladies engaged in graceful feminine occupations. Ya Ming's picture, though less obviously a "beautiful ladies" painting, nevertheless has strong links to the ancient genre. Of the five males included among its two dozen figures, none plays a dominant role in the composition: two are old merchants and three are small children.

The title of Ya Ming's painting, Huolangtu , leads us to classify it not as a "beautiful ladies" painting but as part of a different subgenre of traditional painting. The Song-dynasty artist Li Song is best remembered for a series of album leaf paintings by the same title in which children and a peddler engage in commercial exchange. The objects for sale are rendered with extraordinary detail and in minute scale. A typical example, dated 1212, is far less decorous than Ya Ming's work (fig. 87).[172] In it the overburdened peddler frantically tries to bring order to his potential customers, a band of small boys who are about to smash a small snake with rocks and sticks. Meanwhile, one of their comrades appears to be stealing from the peddler's baskets. The youngest of the boys, on the fringes of the activity, are barefoot and untrousered, presumably because they are not toilet-trained. In this album leaf, as in Li Song's other peddler pictures, the interaction between the children and the peddler is the psychological focus of the work. Mothers and nurses, when present in Li's


Image not available

Figure 87
Li Song (fl. 1190-1265), The Knickknack
Peddler, dated 1212, album leaf,
ink on silk, 24.1 cm × 26 cm, Cleveland
Museum of Art.

other paintings, lack importance.[173] Despite the depiction in the Ya Ming picture of a bare-bottomed little boy, his painting has few stylistic affinities with Li Song's work.

The title Huolangtu enriches the painting's meaning by emphasizing small-scale urban commerce. It probably also distracted critics from the fact that, although the subject was ostensibly minority customs, Ya Ming was in fact reviving a genre not considered politically progressive, that of beautiful women. Many of Ya Ming's earlier paintings, such as the undated Mending Nets , his best-known previous painting, also depicted pretty girls.[174]

Similarities between Ya Ming's work and the Boston picture are explicit. Like most Tang and Song painters, Ya Ming chose to paint on silk with a me-


ticulous outline-and-color technique. While the dimensions of the two works are very different, both paintings are horizontal. Human activity is organized around bolts of fabric stretched across the composition and surrounded by lovely women. Ancient court ladies iron a section of cloth; modern women stretch a piece to inspect it before purchase. A large, flat-bottomed brazier defines the ground plane in the Song painting. In Ya Ming's work, a large wooden washtub serves the same function. In both pictures, a small child, who leans playfully to the left, animates and unifies the picture. Textile patterns, hairpins, and jewelry provide rich surface textures for both pictures as foils to the unpainted silk background on which the images are presented.

A prominent figure in Ya Ming's painting is the woman at right who turns her back toward us (plate 5). The beauty of her face is only suggested by its partial reflection in a hand mirror. This device, though not present in the Boston painting, appears in several surviving album leaves from the Song period. The best-known example may be Admonitions of the Instructress to the Ladies of the Palace , a handscroll owned by the British Museum.[175] Ya Ming's painting thus reveals diligent study of early Chinese figure painting motifs and conventions, which were then synthesized with thoroughly modern forms.

At the National Cultural Education Heroes Meeting, reported in September 1960, four institutions were particularly singled out as progressive units. They were the Shanghai Art Film Company, the Lu Xun Academy of Art, the Jiangsu Provincial Chinese Painting Institute, and the print group of the CAA's Chongqing branch.[176] Each of these four units, including the Nanjing group, was rewarded by an article praising its virtues.[177]

That same month, thirteen Nanjing artists departed on a trip to sketch in China's northwestern and southern regions that was to last until December and cover a distance of twenty thousand li . In May 1961 they presented their new works in a Beijing exhibition entitled "The New Look of Mountains and Streams." Guo Moruo composed a laudatory poem for the occasion.[178] Zhou Enlai specifically mentioned the Jiangsu painters in his important speech of June 19 as exemplars of China's rich and multihued culture. "I do not approve of saying that only Jiangsu guohua are good, even though I am from Jiangsu. We must say that every region has good guohua paintings."[179]

In the face of such high-level support, critics presumably felt little inclination to make their own judgments about the paintings; their task was to explain why they liked them. Anonymous spectators were quoted as saying that the paintings conveyed the spirit of the Great Leap Forward, they made viewers love the fatherland, they carried on the excellent national painting tradition, and they advanced the art of guohua . Not only were the mountains and rivers new, but the look of Chinese painting was new. Some works boldly used watercolor and gouache techniques, yet without losing the special traits of Chinese painting.[180]


Image not available

Figure 88
Ya Ming, Steel Mill, 1960, album leaf,
ink and colors on paper, 27.8 cm ×
40.1 cm, collection of the artist.

Fu Baoshi's works were predictably popular. Qian Songyan's Summer Light on the River was lauded for conveying a calm feeling in terms identical to those used by Zhou Enlai in an important speech of 1959;[181] several of Qian's other works were judged by viewers to possess poetic meanings (shiyi ) as well.[182] Ya Ming's Steel Mill album was singled out for its innovative use of the guohua medium (fig. 88).[183] Indeed, this work is unprecedented, and marks an end to his concentration on female subject matter. Painted on extremely absorbent Chinese paper with ink and hot colors, Steel Mill conveys the feeling of having been painted from life (or at least from color photographs). The work makes little attempt to directly emulate the Soviet or Western styles prevalent in Chinese academies, yet it also completely breaks with conventions of Chinese painting. His only possible figural prototype is a pale one: Fu Baoshi's ancient figures, as we saw in his album leaf of 1956, are similarly slender.

We have attributed the rise of the Nanjing artists to a combination of decentralized artistic administration and the high-level connections of its leading


artists. The group's affirmation of the national tradition and other cultural policies of the period made its emergence particularly important. In addition, the guohua painting of Nanjing is a good example of regional artistic development in the period following the Anti-Rightist campaign. Several other regional groups that emerged during the same period were important for slightly different reasons. The printmakers of Sichuan and Heilongjiang, for example, fully assimilated Soviet models but used them to develop a distinctly regional iconography. The guohua painters of Xi'an, by contrast, developed a new way of painting landscapes in the traditional media. We will briefly survey these three groups before concluding with the spokesman and most important innovator in the Xi'an group, Shi Lu, who went beyond the bounds of regionalism to become an artistic individualist.

The Sichuan Printmakers

A surprising feature of regional schools of art promoted by the PRC art establishment is that most of the artists were not natives of the areas they came to represent. This is particularly true of the Sichuan printmakers, a group that included old soldiers from the northern Chinese campaigns and young graduates of the national art academies. One prominent exception, as we will see, is Wu Fan, a Chongqing native.

Artists from the Sichuan print group, despite their mutual influences, are stylistically fairly diverse. The most substantial feature that distinguishes this group from those of other regions is the high technical quality of their work and the subject matter on which many artists concentrated—namely, Tibetans. The latter was undoubtedly a key factor in the group's rise to national fame, for it gave them a domestically unimpeachable political stand on the side of national unity. The Tibetan rebellion of March 1959 led to diplomatic crises with India and the Soviet Union and gave the Sichuan prints a political weight they might not have carried in more peaceful times. The Chinese response to the crisis was one of the few issues on which the Chinese leadership seems to have been unified.

Several of the Sichuan artists, including Niu Wen (b. 1922) and Li Huanmin (b. 1930), were involved in the Communist conquest of Tibet in 1951 and 1952, and they based their work on their own experience there. One well-known Niu Wen print of 1959 (fig. 89) depicts Tibetan schoolchildren dancing and singing the Communist song, "The East Is Red." The composition's simplified spatial setting refers viewers back to the popularizing directness of the Yan'an print movement, of which the artist had been a part, and gives the work a naive charm.[184]

The most powerful figure in the Sichuan art world was Li Shaoyan (b. 1918), a Shandong-born printmaker. Li himself attributes the great produc-


Image not available

Figure 89
Niu Wen, The East Is Red, the Sun Is
Rising, 1959, monochromatic woodblock
print, 36 cm × 34.5 cm, collection of the
Chinese Artists Association, Sichuan

tivity of the Sichuan group between 1958 and 1966 to the secretary of the municipal party committee, Ren Baige, who encouraged artists to make prints rather than waste time on politics.[185] As the Niu Wen print makes clear, however, art of the period is closely tied to politics. The difference between "good leadership" of the kind described by artists in Chongqing and Nanjing and the alternative, which artists at the Central Academy of Fine Arts seem to have encountered, is that artists in the two provincial cities were urged to be political in their art but not to give up making art to become laborers or ideologists.[186]


By 1960 the local branch of the CAA supported at least a dozen printmakers in its print group, a substantial financial commitment.[187] One artist claims that no other province had such a print group.[188] Indeed, sums that went to maintain guohua in Nanjing, Xi'an, or Shanghai were allocated in Sichuan to printmakers. This support was justified when the Chongqing branch of the CAA was selected as Sichuan's "progressive work unit" delegation to the National Cultural Education Heroes Meeting in Beijing in 1960 and became one of four nationally publicized arts units.[189] Four artists from the print group of the Chongqing branch, Wu Fan, Li Huanmin, Fu Wenshu, and Xu Kuang, also received prizes as progressive workers.[190] Selection of the group for national recognition was undoubtedly influenced by concerns for geographic and administrative diversity: as mentioned earlier, the other three units were in Shenyang, Shanghai, and Nanjing and included an art college, a film group, and a guohua institute. Even so, the Sichuan group had clearly been remarkably active.

The primary reason cited for the group's receiving the award was its enthusiastic implementation of the Great Leap Forward policy of popularizing art.[191] From the dozen or so Sichuan printmakers in 1949, the group had swelled to more than two hundred ten years later.[192] The associated artists had completed over two thousand different prints, including many that depicted the liberation of the Tibetan people. Traveling exhibitions of Sichuan prints had been well received, as was a book of reproductions, Sichuan banhua xuanji .[193] Propaganda activities had been continuous since 1957, with monthly exhibitions of propaganda prints on the street. The Sichuan printmakers also contributed to the beautification of people's lives by publishing, in 1959 and 1960, decorated stationery and matchbox covers. The print group of the Chongqing branch was particularly praised for its excellent combination of art and politics.[194]

It is not immediately clear why Sichuan should have developed and supported such an active print movement, particularly when dogma of the period proclaimed guohua the national art form, but the reason appears to rest in large part in Li Shaoyan's leadership.[195] Li began his career as an artist upon going to Yan'an in 1938.[196] After learning the woodcut technique, he was assigned as a secretary to General He Long of the 120th Division of the Eighth Route Army, a support unit that traveled all over northern China.

Li's work was mainly clerical until He Long asked him to make a set of prints documenting their dangerous journeys in 1940 and 1941. Li consulted a Lu Xun publication of Soviet prints to teach himself how to compose such illustrations. Many of his pictures for this project are quite beautifully carved and organized, though the influence of the Soviet models is strong. The completed series, entitled The 120th Division (Eighth Route Army) in Northern China , of which we saw one example in chapter 2 (fig. 39), was exhibited in Yan'an in 1941.


He continued to work as a woodcut artist in the 1940s, making portraits of leaders and illustrations while art director for the Jin-Sui Daily (Jin-Sui ribao ), the Communist newspaper for parts of Shanxi and Inner Mongolia. He served as leader of the art work group at North China United University and later as director of the art section of New China Daily (Xinhua ribao ) in Chongqing.[197]

After participating in the liberation of Sichuan by He Long's army, Li Shaoyan remained in the province as an administrator. He eventually rose to a high position in the provincial propaganda department[198] and became chairman of the local branch of the CAA, which was founded in 1954.[199] Many of the artists who went to work at the new CAA branch were transferred with Li Shaoyan from the art section of the New China Daily , where they had worked under him.[200] As in other regions, then, the core of the Chongqing CAA branch had a background in CCP propaganda publications; in addition, the artists had apparently absorbed Li Shaoyan's commitment to making wood-block prints, a feature that stamped the branch henceforth.

Li Shaoyan's prints of the early 1950s depict Tibetans in the same Russian print style he had employed for the 120th Division series.[201] By the end of the decade, though, he was concentrating on more boldly conceived illustrations.[202] One of his most charming prints is the somewhat atypical Old Street, New Look of 1958, an uncharacteristically apolitical image at first glance (fig. 90).[203] The viewer looks down a cobblestone street lined with unevenly tiled stucco houses. A timeless mood is conveyed by the old-fashioned architecture, the only exceptions being two almost inconspicuous modern details: a telephone pole and two distant steamships on the Yangzi River. What is really new, however, is that the narrow lane appears to be completely roofed with bamboo poles from which drying string hangs. The striking sight is clearly the result of communal effort, probably that of housewives who have opened a neighborhood factory.

Several other woodblock artists found themselves in Sichuan as part of military propaganda activities. Li Huanmin, a young veteran of the Communist army in northern China,[204] attended the cadre training class at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1950 and 1951. After completing the course he was sent to the south to help liberate areas not yet under Communist control. Assigned to work under Li Shaoyan in the art section of the New China Daily , in 1952 he began underground propaganda work for the Communist conquest of Tibet. He reportedly learned to speak Tibetan and to dance Tibetan dances, and claims to feel a great attraction to the Tibetan people.[205] He indeed became a specialist in the depiction of Tibetan life, usually focusing on images of women at work. One charming image is his Tibetan Girl of 1959 (plate 6). This work, a nostalgic portrait of a youngster who had peeped into his tent after the Tibetan uprising of 1959, recalled his early days in Tibet, when only children dared to come near the Communist cadres.


Image not available

Figure 90
Li Shaoyan, Old Street, New Look,
1958, polychromatic woodblock print,
24.2 cm × 38.3 cm, collection of the
Chinese Artists Association, Sichuan


Image not available

Figure 91
Li Huanmin, Weaving a Rug, 1952,
woodblock print, 27.5 cm × 19 cm.

Much of Li's work shows the strong influence of the Western-oriented curriculum at CAFA. As we have seen, specialized training in media such as the woodcut was not part of the pre-1953 CAFA curriculum. Although Li Huanmin undoubtedly was introduced to the genre while in the army in the late 1940s, the young artist turned his attention back to woodcuts only after arriving in Sichuan. By 1952 he had begun making woodblock images of Tibetans at work. Weaving a Rug of that year displays a great interest in the technical possibilities of the medium, as the artist explores textural contrasts between


Image not available

Figure 92
Li Huanmin, Golden Road, 1963, polychromatic
woodblock print, 54.3 cm ×
49 cm, collection of the Chinese
Artists Association, Sichuan Branch.

fiber, wood, and foliage (fig. 91). While the theme of the picture is human labor, the figures occupy a comparatively small part of the composition and do not engage in dramatic gestures; Li had not yet absorbed the heroic aesthetic of mid-1950s socialist realism.[206] His later work, such as Golden Road of 1963 (fig. 92), places figures in a much more dramatic and central position, an


indication that even the most remote parts of the Chinese art world had learned about up-to-date Soviet art.

A CAFA-trained artist of a later generation arrived in Sichuan in 1958. Xu Kuang had studied at the privately run Shanghai Tao Xingzhi Academy of Arts, a school for gifted children, between 1951 and 1954. In 1954 he was successful in admission examinations to the CAFA middle school, where he gained a firm grounding in socialist realist theory, in Soviet-style drawing, and in oil painting. A number of his classmates at the CAFA middle school were admitted to the college upon graduation. During the 1957-1958 movement, however, Xu Kuang was identified as a rightist and sent to work in Sichuan.

Once he arrived in Sichuan, the leadership apparently valued his talent sufficiently to encourage his art rather than punish his adolescent political errors, and by 1960 he was honored nationally as a "progressive worker." An early print, his 1959 Awaiting the Ferry , depicts four students at the wharf (fig. 93). As is typical of academically trained artists from the mid-fifties onward, his figures are large and dramatically posed, conceived to maximize psychological contrasts. A powerfully muscled standing youth waits with hands on hips and face turned to search the distant waters. A seated girl crosses her arms in a more resigned gesture of impatience. Two other girls happily read, as though oblivious to the passage of time. Large, theatrical figures are typical of Soviet art of the period, but the young printmaker has Sinicized the image somewhat, minimizing shadows on faces and adopting a palette based largely on inklike shades of gray. Although Xu Kuang was probably too young to influence the established printmakers of the local CAA branch, it is interesting to observe traces of the heroic academy style appearing in their works during subsequent years.

Wu Fan, the only Sichuan native in the group, contributed a rather different approach. He was trained at the National Hangzhou Arts Academy between 1944 and 1948, the first two years of which the academy was actually in wartime exile in his native Chongqing. Enrolled in the guohua major until the school returned to Hangzhou, he subsequently switched to the Western painting major. The prewar academy in Hangzhou, as we have seen, encouraged experimentation and individuality; all that changed only in the 1950s, when the curriculum became much more circumscribed.

Wu returned to Chongqing after graduation to work as a middle school art teacher. According to Wang Zhaowen, Wu had an early interest in communism. He was immediately given a cultural position by the Communist government in Chongqing, and in 1950 he began to work as an editor for the Chongqing Municipal Federation of Art and Literary Circles. In 1956 he was transferred to the Chongqing branch of the Chinese Artists Association, where he was affiliated with the print group.[207]

Most of his published prints date to the period after 1956; in fact, it


Image not available

Figure 93
Xu Kuang, Awaiting the Ferry, 1959,
polychromatic woodblock print,
40.3 cm × 33 cm.

appears that his emergence as a printmaker was the result of the artistic opportunities afforded by his new position. The distinguishing feature of his early prints is their great variety, probably an indication of both personal exploration and political zeal. They proceed from an up-to-date Soviet-style "girl-and-tractor" picture, in which the viewer looks up at the heroine as though from a rabbit's-eye view, to a series of sympathetic studies of young working women, mainly dining hall workers and bus ticket vendors, to sweet images of peasant children at play and work.[208] His stylistic breakthrough occurred around 1957, a result of the national emphasis on indigenous styles. He began experimenting with Chinese water-based ink and pigments (shuiyin ) rather than with the more commonly used European-style oil-based printing ink. A 1957 effort, Planting Season , depicts peasants planting rice shoots on a green hilltop


Image not available

Figure 94
Wu Fan, Planting Season, 1957, polychromatic
woodblock print, 35.2 cm ×
16 cm, collection of the artist.

(fig. 94). Pale ink gives the impression of a spring drizzle obscuring distant mountains. The work has the flavor of a guohua painting, an effect created, in part, by carefully varying the tones of diluted ink applied to the block. The accidental quality of the technique thus makes each print vary slightly from every other.

Wu Fan's best-known work is Dandelion , executed in 1959 (fig. 95).[209] A peasant girl, presumably sent by her family or commune to gather grass, has put down her empty basket and hoe to play with a dandelion. The piece won first prize at an exhibition in Leipzig and may be the most frequently reproduced of all Chinese prints. Most of Wu Fan's colleagues, including Li Shaoyan and Li Huanmin, attempted prints in the shuiyin technique in 1958 or 1959, and even Xu Kuang sought shuiyin effects in some editions of his oil print Awaiting the Ferry . Although Wu Fan made several standard socialist works, his lyrical shuiyin prints define his personal style, one in which drama is removed from his subjects and replaced by an introspective calm.

Ellen Laing has observed that the calligraphic lines of the carving and the simple color scheme of Dandelion recall Qing-dynasty books and stationery, as does the shuiyin technique itself.[210] These characteristics run through Wu Fan's later prints, even those that differ most obviously from traditional compositions and themes. His Small Bus Station of 1964 depicts a pretty young ticket seller from a long-distance bus taking a drink as she waits for passengers


Image not available

Figure 95
Wu Fan, Dandelion, 1959, polychromatic
woodblock print, 54.6 cm × 36.5
cm, collection of the Chinese Artists
Association, Sichuan Branch.


Image not available

Figure 96
Wu Fan, A Small Bus Station, 1964,
polychromatic woodblock print,
34.6 cm × 16.3 cm, collection of the

to board (fig. 96). As in his earlier prints, black and gray are the predominant tonalities, but this print also includes touches of the bright red that characterizes art of the Cultural Revolution era. The theme is similar to those of Wu's earlier prints—the small pleasures of the laboring life—but he has focused the composition in a more heroic manner by emphasizing the diagonal lines of recession that encircle his figure. By 1964, a more uniform revolutionary style was enforced nationwide, as we will explore further.

Sichuan prints between 1949 and the Cultural Revolution thus run the gamut from the Yan'an-style woodcuts of Li Shaoyan and Niu Wen, to the Soviet-inspired academic propaganda prints of Li Huanmin and Xu Kuang, to the more evocative pictures of the Hangzhou-trained individualist Wu Fan. Although Sichuan prints are stylistically diverse within permitted limits, they do share common themes. Tibetan subjects may be most distinctive, but scenes of everyday life in the region, be they images of mountain agriculture or life on


the River, all touch on local concerns. In 1960, Li Shaoyan and Wu Fan were named to the directorate of the national Chinese Artists Association (appendix 2). The success of the group was based on three factors: the energetic leadership of a well-connected leader, Li Shaoyan; strong provincial support; and a core group of skilled artists. Without the conjunction of these factors it is unlikely that any individual would have emerged to prominence.

The Prints of the Great Northern Wastes

The woodblock print movement of Heilongjiang shares several characteristics with other regional art. Its rise to national fame was made possible by strong support from local authorities, by favorable attention from national arts administrators, and by the political circumstances associated with the Great Leap Forward. The works themselves are filled with local color, both literally and figuratively. What is unique about the Heilongjiang printmakers is their youth and the circumstances of their artistic activity, for they constitute an extreme example of transplanted artists developing a new regional style.

In March 1958, one hundred thousand demobilized soldiers were sent to the virgin forests of China's northeastern border, an area that came to be known as Beidahuang, the Great Northern Wasteland. The primary purposes of this relocation were to solve the soldiers' employment problems and to promote agricultural development.[211] In keeping with the mandate of the Great Leap Forward, it was claimed in a 1960 slogan that the Great Northern Wasteland had been converted into the Great Northern Granary (Beidahuang, beidacang ) in only three years.[212] Beyond these economic goals, some settlements were envisioned as contributing to national defense and to social stability.[213] Increasing tension with the Soviet Union was of course the primary military concern behind moving settlers into the border areas. As for social stability, that reference pertained not only to issues of employment but also to the rightists who were sent to work alongside the soldiers in Beidahuang.[214]

Organization of the demobilized soldiers lay in the hands of the local agricultural reclamation bureau, which retained many aspects of its military origins. Soon after arriving in Heilongjiang, the regional authorities made inquiries of their superiors at the Agricultural Reclamation Ministry in Beijing about initiation and administration of cultural activities. Permission was granted to organize personnel for the purpose of publicizing the production and construction projects in Beidahuang. By the following year, almost five hundred people had been assigned to various art, drama, film, and cultural work teams, an organizational structure modeled on that of military districts. From the beginning, Beidahuang printmakers received strong support from the highest levels of regional government.[215]

In late 1958, the leading arts administrator of the region was Zhang


Zuoliang (b. 1927), a Shandong native. Zhang had joined the Eighth Route Army in 1944 and subsequently worked for the military as a propagandist. In 1952 he was appointed an art editor of Beijing's Jiefangjun huabao (Liberation Army Pictorial).[216] Zhang volunteered to move to the border region in early 1958; immediately upon his arrival in Heilongjiang that March he was assigned to organize publications and propaganda in the area.

The most important artist in the border region was the young printmaker Chao Mei (b. 1931), who had recently been transferred to Heilongjiang from Harbin. Though originally sent to do farm labor, upon Zhang Zuoliang's request in late 1958 Chao was assigned to the newly established Beidahuang Pictorial Publishing House. Chao Mei, also a Shandong native, had grown up in Nanjing. He joined the People's Liberation Army in 1949 and, like Zhang, worked in art propaganda. During the 1950s he was an art cadre at the Harbin Military Engineering Academy.[217] After their relocation to Heilongjiang the two young men oversaw an active print movement. Indeed, prints by Zhang Zuoliang and Chao Mei came to represent the new territory.[218]

In September 1958 it was decided to publish two new propaganda periodicals, Beidahuang Literature and Arts (Beidahuang wenyi ) and Beidahuang Pictorial (Beidahuang huabao ), which, moreover, would boast reproductions of original prints on their covers. The earliest such images were collaborative works, most frequently designed by Zhang Zuoliang and executed by Chao Mei.[219] Their standard format was a dramatic steppe or forest landscape altered in some way by human activity. Beidahuang Literature and Arts first appeared in November 1958,[220] and Beidahuang Pictorial , a glossy publication modeled on Beijing's China Pictorial and originally intended for national and possibly international distribution,[221] in July of the following year; both were under Zhang's direction. The latter, however, ceased publication after one issue, probably because of the region's economic difficulties.

Chao Mei's Beidahuang prints were grabbed up for publication in national magazines soon after he began making them. His Sea of Grain , for instance, which depicts wheat fields being harvested by tractor, was reproduced in the April 1959 issue of Banhua (Prints ),[222] and his Golden Sea was selected for the August issue.[223]Golden Sea depicts two figures wearing striped knit shirts, the informal uniform of the Chinese navy, standing in front of a vast wheat field. The theme of both works is the agricultural success of the demobilized troops. Golden Sea was reproduced in a 1959 anthology intended to record the best prints of new China's first decade.[224] Thus the Beidahuang printmakers were deemed historically significant by the national art establishment within the first year of their activity.

In September 1959, the regional authorities decided to devote more financial resources to art for the purpose of mounting an exhibition. Administration of the project was assigned to the Beidahuang Pictorial Publishing House, with


Zhang Zuoliang as director and Chao Mei as vice-director. Zhang Zuoliang began to assemble artists from among the soldiers and other immigrants who had been assigned to work in the fields;[225] individuals whose talent came to his attention were removed from the agricultural labor force, fed and housed by the local government, and assigned to make art. Even amateur artists, such as the young oil painter Hao Boyi (b. 1938), were given the opportunity to develop their talents as printmakers. Such local bureaucratic support for artists was undoubtedly an important element in the high productivity, high standards, and critical success of the group.

Works by the Heilongjiang printmakers appeared in the northeastern regional exhibition held in Harbin in September 1959. The exhibition was attended by Hua Junwu, chief of the national CAA secretariat, and the Beidahuang artists received favorable critical attention in Meishu .[226] Hua Junwu came forward as a strong advocate of the group and, in his role as chief of the art and literature section of the People's Daily , was responsible for much of their favorable publicity.[227] The exhibition opened at the National Art Gallery in Beijing the following April. In October 1959, prints by Zhang Zuoliang, Chao Mei, and their colleague Xu Leng were exhibited at the Fourth National Print Exhibition, the first time Beidahuang art had appeared in a national show. The Second National Military Exhibition of February 1960 and the National Art Exhibition of June 1960 included works by Zhang, Chao, and other Beidahuang printmakers. As evidence of their rising status, Zhang and Chao served as delegates to the Third National People's Congress in July.

Beidahuang suffered great natural calamities that severely diminished harvests in the fall of 1960. Zheng Kangxing, a high-ranking propaganda official at the time, recalled in 1988 that the weather reduced the Great Northern Wasteland to true desolation.[228] Despite local criticism, however, party authorities continued to provide financial support for artists and other cultural workers throughout the famine and near economic collapse of 1959-1961.[229]

During the latter part of 1960 and most of 1961, the printmakers were sent to live in Harbin, where they were assigned to decorate the Eastern Mansions, a hotel, with prints. This support presumably gave them adequate nourishment and time to complete works exhibited in the Second Northeastern Provinces Art Exhibition, held in October, and prepare for their greatest national triumph. The exhibition "Artworks from Beidahuang," which opened at the National Art Gallery on November 12, 1960, was cosponsored by the Chinese Artists Association and the local government, the Peony River Reclamation District. A national symposium was held in conjunction with the exhibition.[230] The next summer a second exhibition under the same sponsorship was held at the National Art Gallery.[231] An anthology of Beidahuang prints was published in 1962,[232] and the group remained active and nationally visible until 1966.


Image not available

Figure 97
Chao Mei, Black Soil Steppe, 1960,
polychromatic woodblock print,
36.2 cm × 26.4 cm.

Chao Mei was the group's most influential artist, both because of the national reputation he developed and because many other Heilongjiang artists emulated his style. A typical example of his work is Black Soil Steppe of 1960 (fig. 97). Here the artist adopted a very low viewpoint, as though he were lying on the ground, in order to accentuate the dramatic expanse of earth and sky before him. The thick, tangled grasses and wildflowers in the foreground are juxtaposed against the dark gray earth of the newly tilled soil. Above them has been rendered a deep blue early-morning sky. The visual appeal of the work comes from the vastness and beauty of the natural environment, especially the chromatic and textural contrasts between the purple, white, and deep green steppe grasses and the rich black soil from which they grow. The political message of the image is that human labor, particularly labor aided by mechanization, is praiseworthy: the beauty of the deep black soil would remain invisible if the land had not been tilled; such glorious sights would remain unseen if the land had not been settled.


Image not available

Figure 98
Valentyn Lytvynenko, Ode to Hunting,
linoleum print, 37 cm × 47 cm.

Chao Mei's work of the late 1950s and early 1960s is highly reminiscent of contemporary Soviet art. The similarities between the landscapes of Soviet Asia and northeastern China make such stylistic affinities natural, even in the absence of political factors. Yet in addition, both the USSR and China encouraged or mandated settlement of their border areas by citizens from the nation's heartland.[233] The Siberian settlers and the Heilongjiang farmers thus embodied many experiential and political parallels that made Soviet art an obvious reference for Beidahuang artists.

One of many possible Russian counterparts to the prints of the Beidahuang artists, and particularly of Chao Mei, was published in a 1959 issue of Banhua .[234]Ode to Hunting , by a Soviet artist who visited China in late 1958 and early 1959, is a romantic image of small human figures camping in a lonely forest (fig. 98). Against the evening sky appear in silhouette a pair of migrating geese and bare tree branches. The drama of the dusk is accentuated by the reflection of sky and trees in a foreground pond. The work is pervaded by a


lonely calm in the face of the wild winter landscape. Compositions in which the loneliness and beauty of the natural scenery envelop the human figures are fundamental to many Beidahuang prints as well. A second element that Chao Mei shares with Soviet artists is his low point of view. An extreme example of this device may be seen in Zhan Jianjun's Five Heroes of Mount Langya (fig. 73). A 1961 oil by V. N. Basov, Greetings, Earth , depicts a cosmonaut standing in an early spring wheat field.[235] The viewer, as though lying on the ground, sees a low horizon and a very tall human figure. This perspective device increases the drama of the landscape scene by making foreground elements seem larger and the distant elements farther away.

The Beidahuang prints were funded by authorities who justified their production largely on the basis of their propaganda function. Pointing out the beauties of the new environment and the significance of their work might, it was felt, improve the settlers' morale. Indeed, such propaganda was believed to provide spiritual sustenance for the farmers. A second aspect of Beidahuang propaganda was aimed at a national and even international audience. The purported agricultural successes of the northeastern resettlement attested to the value of the Great Leap Forward, and the romanticized view of farm work conveyed by Chao's beautiful landscapes occasionally lured young people from other parts of China to migrate to Beidahuang.[236]

In 1962 the Chinese Artists Association sent Chao Mei and several other Beidahuang artists on a sketching trip to Xinjiang (Chinese Turkestan). The results of their journey were exhibited in Beijing the next year and were part of a nationwide propaganda campaign to resettle Han Chinese in this predominantly Muslim border area.

One of Chao's best-known prints, Apricot Orchard (fig. 99), was based on his Xinjiang experiences. For this print, in contrast to Black Soil Steppe , he adopted a greatly elevated point of view, so that no horizon line is visible. Instead, the female fruit pickers and their donkeys are completely ringed with heavily laden apricot branches. Colors and textures are simplified for dramatic effect. The yellow soil from which the trees grow is contrasted with the black shadows under them. Densely textured foliage and fruit emerge into the sunlight from the flat shadows. The exoticism of the inhabitants is suggested by their long veils, but the small scale of the figures prevents them from appearing threateningly foreign. While the subject of the picture is not only agricultural abundance but also backbreaking labor, the visual beauty of the picture negates all hardship. Here, Chao Mei's work would seem to combine revolutionary realism with revolutionary romanticism in yet another way.

The factors that lay behind the rise to national prominence of the Beidahuang printmakers range from international politics to personal ambition. Settlement of Heilongjiang occurred in the context of deteriorating Sino-Soviet


Image not available

Figure 99
Chao Mei, Apricot Orchard, 1962,
polychromatic woodblock print,
58.5 cm × 43 cm.

relations, including border disagreements, the grandiose economic schemes of the Great Leap Forward, and the exile of intellectuals marked as "rightists" in the ideological campaigns of 1957 and 1958. The strong tradition of cultural activity as a part of military propaganda within the People's Liberation Army opened the door to developing woodblock print artists. As in other provinces and locales, emphasis on regional artistic expression led to support of the artists by local authorities and recognition by national arts leaders.

Prints of the Beidahuang artists appeared on the national stage primarily because local and national leaders encouraged the production of propaganda. Their ideological approach was fitting to the Great Leap era, when their movement first emerged on the national scene. The romantic appeal of Chao Mei's landscapes, however, was suitable to a less ideological era as well; this stylistic trait permitted his work to maintain some measure of popularity, even when its political value had receded.


The Xi'an School of Guohua Painting

A second major regional school of guohua to appear during the early 1960s was centered in Xi'an and was often referred to by Chinese critics as the Chang'an group, from the Tang-dynasty appellation for the city. The Xi'an school ultimately transcended the regionalism of the Nanjing painters to produce at least one remarkable individualist, Shi Lu. Unlike the Nanjing school, which emerged against a background of high-level patronage of known talent, this group of painters seems to have come to national attention primarily through the intensive efforts of Shi Lu, the new chairman of the local branch of the Chinese Artists Association. Whereas Fu Baoshi's reproduction albums bear prefaces by Guo Moruo, Shi Lu's are introduced by a much less influential figure, the critic and CAA official Wang Zhaowen, who in 1983 admitted that his contacts with the artist had been professional, sporadic, and relatively recent.[237] Shi Lu's emergence in the late 1950s, then, seems to have occurred without the benefit of influential pre-1949 political or social contacts. It seems, in short, to have been the emphasis on professionalism and quality mandated by the 1961 reevaluation of cultural policies that gave the Xi'an artists their opportunity.

In Nanjing, the primary art administrators were the older, well-established guohua artist Fu Baoshi and the young, ambitious military man Ya Ming. This pairing of experience and revolutionary fervor was important in Xi'an as well, but there it was differently constituted. The senior artist in Xi'an, who, like Fu Baoshi, played the role of artistic mentor and model to younger artists, was Zhao Wangyun. Like Fu, he was an early practitioner of the new guohua , depicting contemporary society by means of his sketches from life. A marked difference between the situations in Nanjing and Xi'an was that Zhao Wangyun was purged in the anti-rightist campaign, leaving the younger Shi Lu as the dominant administrator on the local art scene.

Zhao Wangyun was, between 1954 and 1957, chairman of the Xi'an Branch of the Chinese Artists Association[238] and a director of the national CAA. Many Xi'an artists, including Fang Jizhong and Huang Zhou, had studied with him, were recruited by him, or had worked alongside him in the Chinese Painting Research Society. In spite of his post-1957 invisibility, his stylistic influence remained strong among the other artists in Xi'an.

Zhao, the largely self-taught son of a poor family, had become famous in the 1930s for his guohua sketches of rural life.[239] After his work had been serialized in Beijing's major newspaper, Dagongbao , he was approached by the warlord Feng Yuxiang, who proposed a collaboration in which Feng would provide poems to accompany Zhao's guohua sketches. The results appeared in 1934 in a book entitled Zhao Wangyun saishang xiesheng ji (Zhao Wangyun:


Sketches from the Border).[240] The two men collaborated on similar projects until about 1940, when the journal they published, Resistance Pictorial (Kangzhan huakan ), was shut down by the Nationalist government. Zhao's work appeared in the 1937 national art exhibition.

In 1943 an exhibition of sketches Zhao had made in travels around northwestern China was held in Chengdu. Zhou Enlai purchased one piece, and Zhao presented him with a second as a gift. Guo Moruo wrote a poem in praise of Zhao's innovative style, which he termed "neither Chinese nor Western, but created by the heart."[241] Six years later Zhao was arrested by Nationalist authorities in Xi'an because the painting he gave Zhou Enlai had been seized during a raid on a Communist office.

Zhao remained incarcerated for over two months, until the Communists took Xi'an in May 1949. Upon his release from jail he reportedly urged his painting students to join the Communist army. Zhao was sent by the regional military government as a delegate to the 1949 Congress of Literary and Arts Workers in Beijing. When the Northwest Art Workers Association was founded in 1950, he was chosen vice-director; his job assignment was to direct the regional Cultural Relics Office.[242] For the next several years he devoted himself to museum administration and archeological work. Between 1950 and 1953 he was responsible for establishing the new Chinese government's control over the ancient Buddhist cave temples near Dunhuang, Gansu; for organizing the Northwest Historical Museum, forerunner of the current Shaanxi Provincial Museum in Xi'an; and for organizing the excavation and display of artifacts from the neolithic village at Banpo, near Xi'an.

Zhao's applications to join the Communist party were not accepted, but on party instructions he engaged in United Front activities, joining the Democratic Alliance in 1952. With the greater formalization of artistic activity following the Second Congress of Literary and Arts Workers of 1953, Zhao resumed painting and organized a Chinese painting research society. He was elevated to the position of chairman of the Xi'an branch of the CAA and became a standing director of the national CAA. He was selected as vice-chief of the provincial Cultural Bureau in 1955.[243] His work was exhibited in the national guohua exhibitions of 1953 and 1956. He and Shi Lu were honored by a government-funded trip to Egypt in 1956, which resulted in the exhibition and publication of the two artists' travel sketches.[224]

The following year, Zhao was ousted from his positions for extreme right-ism; according to a former colleague, he was classed only as an "internal rightist," which presumably protected him from some of the public humiliation suffered by Jiang Feng and others. Although he continued to participate in some artistic activities, he had no administrative influence and remained under a political cloud until shortly before his death. Shi Lu, chief of the Northwest


Pictorial magazine and a fellow vice-chairman of the Xi'an branch of the Chinese Artists Association, assumed Zhao's titles and by the conclusion of the Anti-Rightist campaign had emerged as the spokesman for Xi'an artists.

Shi Lu was the runaway son of a wealthy landowning family in Sichuan. He had received an excellent traditional education, including training in Chinese painting at an academy run by his elder brother. His youthful inclination to participate in the anti-Japanese resistance coincided with an unwelcome arrangement of marriage by his family. He consequently left home, assumed the name by which he is now known, and became involved in Communist propaganda activities in various parts of China's north and northwest, especially Shaanxi. He began making woodcuts in the mid-1940s.[245] His acquaintance with the critic Wang Zhaowen, who subsequently became, in effect, his sponsor, writing various articles explaining or praising his work, dates to a series of lectures Wang delivered in the early 1940s to the art group of the Northwest Cultural Work Team, which Shi Lu headed.

After the liberation of Xi'an, Shi Lu, like Zhao Wangyun, was sent as a delegate to the First Congress of Literary and Art Workers. He exhibited several prints in the First National Art Exhibition, which had been prepared to coincide with the congress. Over the next several years he made trips to China's northwestern border regions, during which he took the opportunity to sketch. He also wrote poetry and screenplays. With the growing emphasis on specialization by 1953, Shi Lu gave up printmaking and returned to the traditional Chinese media. His efforts to develop a new and politically useful form of guohua were rewarded by national recognition for his Beyond the Great Wall , completed in 1954 (fig. 53).

Shi Lu's rendering of the human figure, which we first saw in figure 43, remained awkward, hackneyed, or even bizarre throughout most of his career. This weakness mars Beyond the Great Wall , in which the figures gesture emphatically and somewhat indecorously, as they might in a Flemish painting.[246] Nevertheless, the concepts behind it were extremely important to the Chinese art world. The critical recognition the painting received was probably based more on the artist's goals than on his success in attaining them. As might be expected, the subject matter of Beyond the Great Wall is politically appropriate. Minority tribesmen react with joy at the sound of a train roaring toward them on tracks cut through the crumbling Great Wall. The picture thus propagandizes for success in bridging the physical and psychological boundaries dividing the Han people from the national minorities.

In style and format the work attempts a new form of internationalism. It is a landscape painting executed on Chinese paper, with Chinese pigments, but it is large and horizontal, meant to be displayed like a Western easel painting. Even the most traditional elements of the painting, the mountains, are not ex-


ecuted in traditional Chinese style. Shi Lu did not rely on conceptualized, conventionalized cun , or ink texture strokes, for modeling the physical relief, but used ink in a very empirical way. In the mid-1950s, Shi Lu clearly sought a new, more realistic way of painting.

Zhao Wangyun and Shi Lu's colleague He Haixia views the Egyptian trip of 1956 as a turning point for both artists. The two spent an extended period of time sketching together, an experience that produced profound mutual artistic influences. Their travel sketches were exhibited in Beijing in the same year. Some of Shi Lu's sketches are lyrical landscapes that may foreshadow his later success in that genre. Though executed in the traditional media of ink and color on Chinese paper, other sketches resemble Western watercolors more than traditional Chinese paintings,[247] a trait they share with the works of Li Keran and Zhang Ding during this period.

After Shi Lu succeeded to the chairmanship of the local CAA branch in 1958,[248] he came to national prominence as an administrator, a theorist, and a painter. Among Shaanxi artists, he served as spokesman for the Great Leap Forward; on the national scene, he was quoted as an art authority. A symposium held in the fall of 1959, in tune with Zhou Enlai's May 3 speech, investigated ways to raise cultural standards among artists. The group, which included Wang Zhaowen, Fu Baoshi, Ye Qianyu, Hua Junwu, Wu Zuoren, and Shi Lu, exhorted the young to develop their cultural level by reading more books and learning to carve seals, write calligraphy, and compose poetry.[249]

Shi Lu's report on the achievements of Shaanxi artists during the Great Leap Forward exemplifies the artistic line of the period yet foreshadows his later independence.[250] First, he reiterates such standard cultural doctrines as praise for the thought of Chairman Mao, emphasis on the primacy of politics in art, rejection of truth as the highest standard of art,[251] and repudiation of forms of realism associated with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European capitalism. Shi Lu's conclusion is that such erroneous forms should be replaced by Mao's combination of revolutionary romanticism and revolutionary realism. Much of this dogma may of course be found in literary theory of the post-1957 period and, as D. W. Fokkema has shown, is an implicit rejection of Soviet literary doctrines.[252]

Having thoroughly digested contemporary cultural theories, Shi Lu applied them to art. He praised new trends in art during the Great Leap Forward, including an emphasis on the contemporaneity (shidaixing ) of painting's subject matter. According to Shi Lu, depictions of actual life during the Great Leap Forward and revolutionary history paintings exemplified new trends. Classical art forms were to be continued and reformed. Four particularly important facets of art during the period were, in his view, the steadily rising standards of political thought, the nationalization of art forms, the popularization of art,


and the strengthening of local color in art. In keeping with the high-level retreats from Soviet influence, Shi Lu saw these traits as evidence of the independence and maturity of China's socialist art.

National forms and local color are particularly important developmentally both to Shi Lu's own painting and to the work of artists under his direction in Xi'an. Another issue that he addresses is the distinction between genre or style (huazhong or yangshi ) and subject matter (ticai ). Within the genres of figure painting, landscape painting, and bird-and-flower painting, Shi Lu said, the artist may depict various different kinds of subjects—thus implying that none of the traditional genres is intrinsically superior to others for modern purposes. In so stating, he makes his opposition to the emphasis on figure painting so prominent in critical literature of the early 1950s fairly clear.

Shi Lu's best-known works of the Great Leap period are his Fighting in Northern Shaanxi (plate 3) and Watering Horses at the Yan River ,[253] both painted in 1959. The former, as we have seen, was painted for the new Museum of Revolutionary History, while the latter was commissioned for the Shaanxi hall of the new Great Hall of the People. Although these two paintings made Shi Lu a star, it was not until the cultural atmosphere eased in mid-1961 that the contributions of the Xi'an artists were acknowledged as forming a uniquely creative regional school. Furthermore, as Shi Lu's own paintings became more individualistic, his theoretical defense of his art became less compromising. While he remained central to the regional school, he ultimately developed a distinctive individual approach to art.

The Chinese painting research studio of the Xi'an branch of the CAA flourished during the Great Leap Forward. Its library and facilities were the envy of Beijing artists, an indication that it enjoyed substantial financial support from local authorities. In 1961, the group held an exhibition of their "studies" (xizuo ) in Beijing. Many of the pictures were completed works of art, but attention was brought to their experimental character by the group's disinclination to call them "paintings" or "creations." This exhibition was a turning point, for it marked official recognition that a regional guohua school existed in Xi'an.

A symposium chaired by Wang Zhaowen, and attended by Xi'an artists Shi Lu, Fang Jizhong, Li Zisheng, He Haixia, and Kang Shiyao, brought further attention to the group.[254] (Although paintings by the rightist Zhao Wangyun were displayed, he did not attend the conference.) Wang Zhaowen praised the group for its regional characteristics. Other CAA officials and Beijing painters mentioned their attention to the national tradition, their lively intellectual atmosphere, their study of poetry and other arts, and their close involvement with rural life.

What other artists found most noteworthy, however, were the strange new techniques the artists were using. Color was applied sparsely, yet it appeared


rich. More important, pigment was used to texture the landscape or describe waves in water, thus breaking a taboo in traditional landscape painting. In older painting, the foundation strokes used to frame the landscape and to model the mountains, as well as the traditional texture strokes, cun , which gave form and volume to the mountains, were usually executed in ink. As a 1959 painting by the Shanghai artist Wu Hufan (plate 9) demonstrates, color might be added to a landscape only when it was almost complete. Ye Qianyu compared Shi Lu's innovative use of earth-toned pigments to the work of the Nanjing painter Song Wenzhi, who applied green pigment instead of ink textures to his Sichuan landscapes. Several Shi Lu paintings of 1960 and 1961 exemplify this technical innovation, including On the Road to Nanniwan (fig. 100), Going Upstream at Yumen (fig. 103), and Autumn Harvest .[255] In all, strokes of an earthy red-brown pigment have been substituted for some of the ink strokes that would normally outline and model the forms.

Critics of the exhibition were generally approving, though the unanimity they expressed in response to the Nanjing exhibition of 1961 was lacking. Some painters, such as Ye Qianyu, praised the boldness of the Xi'an painters but continued to criticize their wildness, disorder, and shallow technical foundation. Furthermore, several artists believed that although a regional style was evident, the artists did not present sufficiently varied individual styles. Indeed, mutual influence was so strong during this period that motifs such as tangled branches, techniques such as colored cun, and general compositional types are difficult to attribute to a single artist.

The Xi'an painters included artists of varied backgrounds. He Haixia, who displayed an extremely conservative landscape in the 1937 National Exhibition,[256] was a pupil of the brilliant painter and forger Zhang Daqian, who fled China after liberation. He Haixia, in fact, freely admits to having worked as a forger himself,[257] a claim that only reaffirms the strength of his traditional training. Zhao Wangyun's early work, in contrast, concentrated on figure painting in a sketchy and abbreviated style. Shi Lu, as we have seen, attempted to make socialist realist pictures using the traditional media. He was the ranking party bureaucrat in the group and, by virtue of his administrative function, might seem to have brought the least to their artistic goals. He Haixia recalls, on the contrary, that Shi Lu contributed a great deal, supervising their work closely and even supplying his own compositions to artists who found themselves unable to fulfill official thematic requirements. In interviews, however, some younger Xi'an artists present a different view, suggesting that Shi Lu plagiarized the compositions of his colleagues. Whatever the truth of the matter, Shi Lu's surviving work supports the view that he was an important participant in the Xi'an stylistic breakthrough; and although commonalities of style among artists in the group make clear that the collaborative development of the new style was a complex process, it appears that Shi Lu, in


Image not available

Figure 100
Shi Lu, On the Road to Nanniwan,
ca. 1960, ink and color on paper, 67 cm ×
67 cm, Chinese National Art Gallery.

equal parts artist and bureaucrat, was the driving force behind the new Xi'an painting.

Two striking compositional types emerged in the work of Xi'an painters during this period. In one, exemplified by Shi Lu's On the Road to Nanniwan (fig. 100), mountains covered with autumnal trees fill the surface of the picture. The trees have a ragged, unkempt, natural appearance. Shi Lu's potentially rather bleak image is enlivened by the red pigment used to describe cliffs and foliage and by the purposeful file of soldiers making their way through the


Image not available

Figure 101
Zhao Wangyun, Returning Herder in an
Autumnal Forest, 1961, ink and color
on paper, 46.8 cm × 69 cm, Chinese
National Art Gallery.

landscape. This landscape style is indeed wild and disordered, as Ye Qianyu suggested, but such qualities should be considered virtues rather than flaws, for they give a sense that the forces of nature permeate the living landscape. A similar feeling is conveyed by the best ancient paintings from the same region of China. In Shi Lu's painting one detects, further, the psychological presence of the artist. His originality of vision renders technical questions secondary.

While Shi Lu's version of this style and compositional type, first published in 1961, is particularly successful, it is possible that he did not invent it, since it also appears in the work of Zhao Wangyun and Fang Jizhong. Zhao Wangyun's similarly composed landscape, Returning Herder in an Autumnal Forest (fig. 101), however, completely lacks the determined optimism of Shi Lu's painting; in fact, it would be fair to say that it lacks the officially praised virtue of revolutionary romanticism. The picture, even more wild and chaotic than


Image not available

Figure 102
He Haixia, Yumen Gorge on the Yellow
River, 1959, guohua, ink and color on

Image not available

Figure 103
Shi Lu, Going Upstream at Yumen,
1961, ink and color on paper.

On the Road to Nanniwan , is quite desolate. A single human figure walks across a clearing toward broken, leafless trees. Shi Lu and Zhao Wangyun share a somewhat unsystematic, individualistic use of the brush. Indeed, the tangled tree branches seen in Zhao's work became a characteristic feature of much Xi'an work. Only He Haixia completely eschewed this textural chaos.

A second compositional type characteristic of the Xi'an artists was one developed to describe the cliffs of the Yellow River gorges. He Haixia, who


worked in the Municipal Sanitation Bureau from 1951 to 1956, was hired by the Xi'an branch of the CAA in 1956.[258] Three years later, in 1959, he painted an image of the Yumen Gorge in which rowboats struggle against the river's mighty current (fig. 102). The artist looks down on his scene from high above, emphasizing the drama of the human confrontation with nature. His composition is very tidily rendered, with all the trees, rocks, and texture strokes bounded by the contours of the cliffs. Although he tries to minimize his references to old painting, he instinctively adopts foliage forms associated with the seventeenth-century master Shitao. This work, typical of He Haixia's painting of the period, displays greater technical discipline than that of Shi Lu or Zhao Wangyun.

Shi Lu himself tried the same composition two years later (fig. 103). His work is more dramatic than He Haixia's precisely because of his tenuous technical control. The edges of his forms—the boat, the cliff, and the stone path on which the boat pullers trudge—all bleed insubstantially into the paper, much as the river itself appears to do. The artist's precarious technique lends a measure of drama to the scene by equating human constructions and solid landscape forms with the wild water. He adopts a lower viewpoint than did He Haixia, so that the viewer, closer to the struggle, feels greater empathy with the struggling boatmen. He Haixia believes that Shi Lu had the most acute sense of observation of all the Xi'an artists, a theory that this work would support.

Despite occasional subtle differences of hand, the early innovations in Xi'an painting appear to have been communal rather than individual in origin. The group's works went on tour in 1962, which gave Shi Lu, Zhao Wangyun, Li Zisheng, Fang Jizhong, and the Beijing painter Li Qi an opportunity to travel to Nanjing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou. They viewed paintings at the Shanghai Museum, an event that He Haixia considers the second turning point in Shi Lu's painting. An album by the late-Qing bird-and-flower painter Xugu was on display, and Shi Lu immediately recognized an affinity between the earlier master's technique and his own aesthetic explorations (figs. 104 and 105). Xugu's work, which typically depicts fish, small animals, vegetables, trees, and flowers, is constructed of dry, sharp outlines and rich washes of color. His angled brush stops and starts many times in one stroke, energizing his line and his pictorial surface. There is in his work a sense of barely controlled linear chaos. Colors are mixed in unusual ways, with green and tan washes bleeding together, or ink and rusty red pigment overlapping to compose a form. Shi Lu absorbed this style and during the next two decades made it his own.

During a long illness in 1963, Shi Lu composed an illustrated treatise on painting, most of which was destroyed when the Red Guard raided his home in 1966 and 1967. Three chapters of the unpublished manuscript, however, were hidden by a young art student, Ling Hubiao, who later collaborated with


Image not available

Figure 104
Xugu, Squirrel, 1895, album leaf, ink
and color on paper, Shanghai Museum
of Art.

Shi Lu to publish them. In the chapter on brush and ink, Shi Lu writes o Xugu's painting:

I look at a Xugu painting of a plum [tree], and its angles are all squared off. Why? He took their uprightness, constancy, and righteousness as his brush intention, absorbed their snow-weighted and ice-sealed manner as his brush principle, borrowed the patterns of their crossing fissures and grids as his brush method, and attained the beauty of their spirit consonance and life motion as his brush flavor. Thus we recognize that brush and ink are the host and guest, weaving a painting's threads of life.
If a painting has brush and ink, its ideas are alive; without brush and ink, its thoughts are dead. If a painting possesses my thought, it has my brush and ink, if it lacks my thought, it will be a slave of ancient men's


Image not available

Figure 105
Shi Lu, Spring Shoots, 1973, album leaf, ink
and color on paper, 35-3 cm × 45.8 cm.

and nature's brushwork.... Thought is the inspiration for brush and ink. If you rely on living ideas to do it, one [method] will produce ten thousand variations. If you rely on dead [methods] to do it, ten thousand will be the same.[259]

Shi Lu's manuscript makes clear that his revolution in art had departed the realm of gentle regionalism and now demanded an imaginative individualism. Distortion or abstraction of form was justifiable for expressive purposes. His call for self-expression evokes not Mao or Stalin, but the two iconoclasts who


lie behind his pseudonym: the seventeenth-century painter Shitao and the early-twentieth-century writer Lu Xun.

As it later became clear, lack of individualism was not a problem from which Shi Lu suffered. Even at the 1961 conference, ostensibly called to seek suggestions for the improvement of Shaanxi painting, he felt obliged to defend stylistic characteristics that others believed to be faults. Wildness, in his view, was the antithesis of scholarly elegance, and was preferable.[260]

This view was not universally appreciated, and by 1963 Shi Lu's work was mocked by some critics as "wild, weird, chaotic, and black."[261] Shi Lu responded to this apparent insult sarcastically, making "wild, weird, chaotic, and black" a kind of personal motto. He wrote in a 1963 poem:

People may scold my wildness, but I'm even wilder.
Collecting the ordinary, I make marvelous pictures.
People rebuke my weirdness, how weird am I!
Disdaining to be a slave, I think for myself.
People say I'm chaotic, but I'm not chaotic—
The method that has no method is the strictest method.
People mock my blackness, but I'm not too black.
If black will startle the mind, I can move the soul.
"Wild, weird, chaotic, black"—not worth discussion.
You have a tongue, I have a heart and mind.
Life gives me new ideas, and I paint its spirit.[262]

With his 1963 illness Shi Lu entered a period of personal and artistic development that was crucial to his painting but filled with psychological suffering. A scandal about a love affair made him a target of the leftist political campaigns launched in 1963. Beyond the personal turmoil it may have caused, this weakness threatened his leadership position in both the party and the art community. He sought to make an artistic comeback in 1964 with his monumental Ferry to the East , prepared for the National Military Exhibition. In this work Shi Lu sought to demonstrate his newly invented brush techniques, which involved building human forms from angular strokes of black or pink-orange paint.[263] When the painting was reviewed by CAA leaders Hua Junwu and Cai Ruohong, however, they failed to appreciate his abstraction of the figure. Cai Ruohong reportedly made the tactless, if aesthetically justifiable, comment that Shi Lu had skinned all the people he painted. The disappointment of his failure to satisfy the official critics, combined with personal and physical problems, is believed by one colleague to have been the first step on a difficult psychological journey. On the way, Shi Lu produced his most original paintings; but by its end, he was freed from the constraints of party policy by madness.[264]


The Artist as Individual, 1961-1962

Previous sections have described one of the most important phenomena of the period 1958-1964, the development of regional schools of art under CAA sponsorship. Equally interesting, especially from a qualitative standpoint, was the brief burgeoning of individualism and pluralism in the early 1960s. In this section we will turn briefly to the careers of three guohua painters, Li Keran, Lu Yanshao, and Wu Hufan, and to short-lived official efforts to encourage individual styles in the native media. This activity peaked in about 1962; we will conclude by describing its suppression in the middle of the decade.

The new trends in artistic practice emerged in a comparatively liberal political and bureaucratic atmosphere. The Eight Articles on Literature and Art, released in 1962, confirmed the cultural policies of 1961 and 1962. In March, Foreign Minister Chen Yi officially "uncapped" the intellectuals who wore "capitalist class hats." Although young rightists such as Yuan Yunsheng and Zhu Naizheng remained in Jilin, Qinghai, and other distant places, they were no longer considered criminals. (However, when one CAFA party member allowed to return to Beijing attempted to overturn his case, he soon found himself sent back to Heilongjiang.)[265]

In May 1962, the CAA and Ministry of Culture held an exhibition in commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of Mao's Yan'an Talks. It took the form of a retrospective of Chinese art produced between 1942 and 1962, and even included some non-Communist works from the 1940s. While focusing primarily on art in Communist-controlled areas, the 1,133 works presented an unusually objective survey of every artistic movement of the period.[266] Among works in the national exhibition were Wang Shikuo's drawing Bloody Clothes (fig. 74), Yan Wenliang's Turner-like Evening Traffic on the Huangpu River , a Wu Hufan Bamboo , and Liu Haisu's Green Jade Gorge , in the style of Shitao. The painting that may best exemplify the feeling of the time was a Fauvist landscape, Strange Boulders by Hu Yichuan, a Communist printmaker who had returned to an oil painting style practiced in the Hangzhou and Shanghai of his youth.[267] In April 1963, a retrospective of the painting of Lin Fengmian was held, an event politically justifiable only on the grounds of Lin's gently nationalistic aims in art.[268]

The editorial policy of the CAA journal Meishu reflected the liberalization of 1962. As early as January, the magazine devoted a large number of color plates to reproducing contemporary still lifes and landscape paintings in Western media. The February issue reproduced still lifes, flower paintings, and landscape paintings in oil from the preliberation period. These included Wei Tianlin's White Peonies of 1938, Lü Sibai's Fish on a Blue Plate of 1943, Li Ruinian's 1944 landscape Sha'ping , Chang Shuhong's 1945 still life Thunder , Dong Xiwen's Kazak Herdswoman of 1948 (fig. 34), and Ai Zhongxin's Melt-


ing Snow, Forbidden City of 1947 (fig. 59). Dong Xiwen published an article on color in which he discussed the contributions of Monet to a scientific use of color. He commented favorably on the individual styles of various European artists, including Van Gogh. Other themes he discussed were color and class feeling, color and the spirit of the age, color and regional characteristics, and color and national customs. These, then, were the themes that might justify an expansion of artistic activity.[269] In another essay, Wu Guanzhong, then a professor at the Beijing Arts College, discussed his rather modern landscape oil paintings.[270] The March issue presented landscapes by Lin Fengmian, He Tianjian, Shi Lu, and Qin Zhongwen. In April, Li Shusheng published a short history of oil painters of the May Fourth era.[271] The editorial effort seems to have aimed at raising standards and promoting variety by publicizing the best of twentieth-century Chinese art, regardless of the artists' political circumstances.

The combination of nationalistic support for guohua , which we discussed in preceding sections, and the new liberalization permitted Chinese landscape painters to develop and flourish between 1958 and 1965. It was in this exciting atmosphere that a range of artistic personalities, including the innovator Li Keran, the traditionalists Wu Hufan and Lu Yanshao, and the notorious individualist Shi Lu, emerged. In our preceding section we saw how Shi Lu pushed the boundaries of Communist art theory. Let us look briefly at less extreme developments in guohua .

Li Keran

The painting and career of CAFA guohua professor Li Keran underwent particularly noteworthy development during the period between the Anti-Rightist campaign and the Cultural Revolution. In chapter 3 we looked at Li Keran's 1954 initiation of the practice of sketching guohua landscapes from life. He spent eight months in 1956 on similar sketching journeys.[272] The year 1957 was particularly significant for him. He was fifty years old, he traveled abroad for the first time, his teacher Qi Baishi died, and the Anti-Rightist campaign seriously damaged the institution at which he taught. As we have seen, Li's testimony was used to condemn Jiang Feng. The confrontational public stance that Li assumed in the 1957 campaign differed from his usual approach to collegial relations, in which he generally minded his own business and made few enemies. Although his bitter condemnations of Jiang Feng, who had supported Li's artistic experiments, may have been forced, the artistic approach he described does not seem insincere. Li Keran rarely engaged in such high-visibility politics in subsequent years, devoting as much effort as the Communist party would allow to his quest for a new way to paint the Chinese landscape.

The CAA held a one-man exhibition of Li's landscape sketches in Beijing during the PRC's tenth anniversary celebrations in 1959. The event may have


been conceived as a response to Zhou Enlai's April and May talks, which expressed support for landscape painting and announced postponement of the national exhibition. Li's paintings subsequently traveled to seven other cities; the exhibition and a book of reproductions published the following year made Li Keran nationally famous. His theoretical writings were also published in People's Daily ,[273] and a film was made about his painting.

Despite his growing fame, the work he exhibited in 1959 was uneven in quality, merely foreshadowing but not attaining his mature style.[274] Some of the sketches are descriptive and linear, rather like the work Zhang Ding had exhibited five years before.[275] Other more personal works, however, reveal his increasing interest in the effects of light. His compositions go beyond what the eye can see, deemphasizing accurate spatial relationships and landscape details in pursuit of new compositional principles. In such works, light is rendered by contrasting blank, white paper with heavy washes of dark ink. Li experiments with various new ways of texturing mountains, but in the most successful efforts his texture strokes are all but obscured by black washes. An innovative composition that appeared in this period was a panoramic, almost maplike rendering of a misty river town, Morning Mist in a River City (fig. 106).[276] A curved white stripe of road is flanked by simplified black-and-white dwellings. Beyond them recedes a gray wash of mist. The intense tonal contrasts give life to his study of optical effects.

Beginning in 1961, Li was privileged to spend part of each winter at Conghua in the southern province of Guangdong and part of his summer at the Beidaihe mountain resort near Beijing. He painted prolifically, and his personal style grew more pronounced. Rich washes of gray and black ink came to dominate his mountain textures, the intense contrasts of black ink against small pale areas of paper forming the basis of his compositional structure. Many of his paintings from this period are flatter than his earlier work, but they are pervaded with light and consistently well organized.

Li's student Du Zhesen divides Li Keran's mature work into two groups. The first is typified by his pale, panoramic view of Guilin, painted in 1962 (fig. 107).[277] Li Keran experimented tirelessly with this composition, in which a strip of white river flanked by two rows of simplified rural dwellings divides a misty landscape. This composition is related to his earlier and more naturalistic Morning Mist in a River City (fig. 106), but in an increasingly abstract and imaginative way owing to his constant reworking of it over the years. The second landscape type is exemplified by his 1963 Ten Thousand Crimson Hills , a mountainscape constructed of dark washes (plate 7). As in a Song-dynasty painting, a massive peak serves as a looming screenlike backdrop to a tumbling, white waterfall. A mountain village of whitewashed houses, however, has a new luminosity. What is unique about Li's new style is that his landscape is constructed less of the overlapping outlined forms of old paintings, than of subtle axes of illumination that emerge from insubstantial washes.


Image not available

Figure 106
Li Keran, Morning Mist in a River City,
1959, guohua.


Image not available

Figure 107
Li Keran, Rain on the Li River, 1962, guohua.


Li was an exceptional figure in the Chinese art world of his time. He maneuvered his way through Communist theories of art and largely succeeded in bringing forth a new, modern, yet individualistic form of painting. The erratic political and cultural policies of Maoist China threatened the personal and artistic integrity of every Chinese citizen. Li Keran's painting is evidence that, without challenging the Communist party, he managed for the most part to preserve his artistic integrity. With the exception of his nianhua of the early fifties, Li Keran pursued his artistic goals consistently, evolving from his descriptive ink sketches of the fifties to his increasingly abstract and self-expressive paintings of the 1960s. For Li Keran, as for Shi Lu, the decision to pursue national forms of art led, in an inevitable way, to a retreat from realism. In the dreamlike quality of his later works, he expresses native concepts in new forms.

Traditional Artists: Lu Yanshao and Wu Hufan

The thriving state of guohua may also be observed in the institutes of Chinese painting. Lu Yanshao, whom we mentioned earlier as a newly retrained lianhuanhua artist, was given a position at the Shanghai Institute of Chinese Painting when it was organized in 1956. Because he bargained for a higher living stipend than he was originally offered, he was declared a rightist in 1957 and demoted to a menial library job.[278] In 1962, after rightists were "uncapped," he painted a hundred-leaf landscape album inspired by the poems of Du Fu (plate 8). It was seized by the Red Guard in 1966 or 1967, and about half the album was never recovered. Each carefully composed leaf in the surviving group has a slightly different composition, though all are clearly influenced by Shitao. In the leaf reproduced here, Lu made tidy innovations in the forms of his texture strokes, his tree arrangements, and his compositions. This enormous effort may indicate the artist's exhilaration at being freed from the social stigma of rightism and released from the demands of socialist realist figure painting by the new cultural policies. Although Lu's early works remain rare, this album is far superior in quality to known works of the 1940s and may offer evidence of his subsequent artistic development.

Wu Hufan was a rather different artist. Born of a wealthy, cultured, and high-ranking family in Suzhou, he was famous before liberation as a collector, connoisseur, and painter.[279] He was close to Ye Gongzhuo and Huang Yanpei,[280] two prominent cultural figures with Communist sympathies, and on their assurances decided to remain in Shanghai after liberation. The first few years, during which he kicked an opium habit, divested himself of much of his wealth, and underwent thought reform, were difficult. Largely unemployed, he lived by selling off his art collection. Mao Zedong and other government lead-


ers knew of his painting activity, though Mao's opinions of it may never be known. A friend presented one of Wu's fan paintings to Mao in the early fifties, to which Mao responded by sending Wu a coat and five hundred yuan cash. Mao received a set of Wu's published poetry in 1953, through the intervention of Ye Gongzhuo, and sent Wu a set of his poems in return. Such exchanges might be cited as evidence of Mao's appreciation for his work. It is equally probable, however, that they bespoke a party policy, later relaxed, that prohibited party officials from accepting gifts or bribes.

Although ignored by critics, Wu's works were exhibited in the national exhibitions of the 1950s. During the Hundred Flowers liberalization of 1956, one painting was reproduced in Meishu (fig. 63).[281] As has been mentioned, the State Council approved the creation of an Institute of Chinese Painting in 1956. Originally intended to include artists from six provinces and Shanghai, the institute was under the organizational supervision of the Shanghai propaganda chief Lai Shaoqi. Ye Gongzhuo suggested that Wu be named director, but rivals lobbied against him on the grounds that he was from a landholding, bureaucratic family. He eventually became an ordinary institute painter. During the Anti-Rightist campaign his background made him an easy target; the fact that he had accepted Chairman Mao's payment for the fan painting, moreover, was considered a serious ideological problem. Nevertheless, for reasons that remain unclear, his name was removed from the list of rightists by high-ranking organizers of the campaign, even though his close friend Ye Gongzhuo, his son, and many of his students were condemned.

The situation had improved by 1959, when Wu painted his Twin Pines and Layered Green (plate 9). A traditional ink landscape was made more appealing to modern viewers by the addition of green and blue washes and red dots of foliage. Wu's delicate brush techniques are the result of a lifetime of studying ancient masters, particularly the "Four Wangs" of the early Qing period. His landscape is subtle, delicate, tightly structured, and entirely imaginary. Wu Hufan's work remained largely untouched by Communist aesthetic theories during the first fifteen years of the PRC.

Institute painters had to produce paintings from time to time, and Wu Hufan's Celebrate the Success of Our Atomic Bomb Explosion of 1965 (fig. 108) probably fulfilled such an obligation. This second painting, which, like Twin Pines , remains in the institute collection today, makes quite clear the thematic shift required of artists in the mid-1960s. The composition is based on magazine photos of the detonation, which was considered a great technical triumph in 1965, its negative implications subsumed by nationalistic fervor. As incongruous as it seems, this painting of the mushroom cloud is one of the most beautiful demonstrations of brushwork to be found during the period. Executed with casual, lively strokes and subtly varied ink tones, the ominous


Image not available

Figure 108
Wu Hufan, Celebrate the Success of Our
Atomic Bomb Explosion, 1965, hanging
scroll, ink and color on paper, Shanghai
Institute of Chinese Painting.


subject matter unwittingly tells of a destructive shift in art policy and marks the end of the guohua revival.

The artist's motivation in creating such a bizarre image may never be known. It has been exhibited and published as a straightforward example of his patriotic art.[282] His student and friend C.C. Wang, however, considers it unlikely that he would paint such a thing without being pressured to do so. One of Wu's younger colleagues confirms this opinion, describing the picture as the result of his irritation at ceaseless demands by party officials to politicize his art. Finally, to quiet the cadres, he agreed to paint an atomic bomb.[283] A story widespread in Shanghai supports this view of Wu's relationship with political personnel. According to this possibly apocryphal tale, when Wu was urged to strive for an art that was both Communist (hong ) and professional (zhuan ), he responded by painting a red brick (hongzhuan ). If Wu Hufan's atomic bomb was intended ironically, though, the subtlety was lost on those who judged the work.

Wu Hufan was a target of the Cultural Revolution, which was launched the year after he painted the atomic bomb blast. His art collection was not destroyed, as so many were, but was taken to the Institute of Chinese Painting, where it was carefully catalogued by young artists.[284] Much of it is now in the Shanghai Museum. The artist himself was not so lucky. He suffered a physical collapse in 1968 and died by suicide in the hospital.

Young Artists

The primary function of the new institutes of Chinese painting was to support old guohua artists so that the tradition would not die out. To this end, five students were assigned to the Shanghai Institute of Chinese Painting in 1960, with three more added in 1963. At the time, the institute encompassed a range of styles and approaches: the director was Feng Zikai, best known for his idiosyncratic cartoons;[285] the vice-directors were traditionalists, the landscapist He Tianjian and the bird-and-flower painter Wang Geyi; and the xieyi bird-and-flower painter Tang Yun and the modern figure painter Cheng Shifa oversaw practical aspects of artistic activity. The students, who were as young as sixteen, each received an assignment to study with an old master—among them Wu Hufan, He Tianjian, Fan Shaoyun, Cheng Shifa, and Tang Yun. In Shanghai, the traditional master-apprentice system was taken very seriously; a formal ceremony at the beginning of the apprenticeship was attended by officials of the local culture bureau. As part of their professional training students did errands and other household chores. They also learned to write classical essays and play the zither. Meanwhile, the institute's collection of old paintings was available for copying, and teachers who had personal painting collections lent works for study as well.


Unfortunately, the experiment largely failed owing to the renewal of political controls on art in late 1963. The classical curriculum was criticized and students were sent to study at the Shanghai Art College. With the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, most of the institute's young painters became Red Guard,[286] mandated by Chairman Mao to destroy the traditions they had studied.

A similar training effort was made at the Beijing Chinese Painting Institute, beginning in 1962, but with even less satisfactory results.[287] After Qi Baishi died, the institute received no new director. Cui Zifan, a Communist soldier who had worked as a hospital administrator, was the party bureaucrat in charge. Although he had actually studied with Qi Baishi, the fact that he painted was not widely known, even to institute artists, until many years later. Most young artists considered the institute no more than a welfare agency for unemployable old painters.

Zhou Sicong, who graduated from the CAFA middle school and CAFA guohua department, was assigned in 1963 to study with a master who painted female beauties in the traditional outline style. Her nine years of study at CAFA left her extremely well trained in the new socialist guohua figure painting, and she confesses that she was not very receptive to her career change. In 1964, all the young artists were sent to the countryside; thus their brief traditional training came to an end.[288] The Beijing Chinese Painting Institute was expanded to include oil painting, printmaking, sculpture, and other Western specialties, which substantially diluted the traditional component of the institute's activity.[289] Its name was changed to Beijing Painting Institute, presumably to reflect the expansion of its role.

The Conflicts of 1963-1965

From a purely artistic point of view, the early 1960s constitute the high point of the first three decades of the People's Republic of China. We have seen the flourishing of regional schools of art, the accomplishments of a few of the many active guohua painters and illustrators, the continued support for Sovietstyle oil paintings, and the revival of art education. The year 1962 may have appeared to be the beginning of a new era of cultural liberalism; unfortunately, Mao set about reversing the party's course almost immediately.

The economic decentralization of previous years had led to corruption in some areas controlled by local cadres. Once the famine of 1959-1961 had ended, high party leaders agreed that such dishonesty must be curbed. Unfortunately, ideological differences between Liu Shaoqi and Mao Zedong about proper methods of solving the problem caused cataclysmic political conflicts. A


key point of contention was whether China's difficulties were to be blamed on the economic policies of Mao and the Great Leap Forward or on insufficient revolutionary indoctrination of the masses.

Many leaders of the CCP agreed with Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping that the problems were primarily economic and administrative. In their view, relatively laissez-faire cultural policies were not harmful; indeed, if they inspired good morale, they might even be beneficial. For the Maoists, including Kang Sheng and Mao's wife, Jiang Qing, such cultural policies were by contrast the very core of the problem, which was an ideological or spiritual one. Administrative errors, this faction felt, could only be the result of waning revolutionary zeal. Needless to say, artists, like writers, stood unwittingly at the center of this fatal political conflict.

The first anticorruption political movement, usually referred to by artists as the "Four Cleanups," was launched in 1963. Liu Shaoqi, Mao's designated successor, believed that problems with party cadres should be dealt with secretly, within the party, to avoid demoralizing the public. To Mao, however, it was imperative that corrupt cadres be censured in mass actions.[290] The early stages of the movement were conducted in Liu's way, by secret investigations. Probably most troubling to Mao was the fact that inquiries were strictly controlled by the party bureaucracy to limit personal and politically inspired attacks.[291]

The art world was racked by the same conflicts that ravaged the higher reaches of government. For serious artists, 1961 and 1962 were the most productive years of their postliberation careers, and sentiment in favor of continued freedom of expression remained strong. However, the leftward ideological swing of the Socialist Education Movement soon affected first the criticism of art, and then its organization and practice.

One indication of the coming storm may be found in an article published by the art historian Yan Lichuan in August 1963. Entitled "A Discussion of 'Wild, Weird, Chaotic, and Black,'" it defended the general practice of landscape painting and bird-and-flower painting in socialist China but criticized the specific innovations of Li Keran and Shi Lu as elitist. Yan mentioned Pan Tianshou and Fu Baoshi favorably; he also acknowledged that Li Keran and Shi Lu had overcome the conventionalization of the traditional landscape genre.[292] Nonetheless, he largely affirmed negative opinions of the two artists' work—as reflected in the satirical description of Li Keran's 1959 exhibition by some viewers as "This Land So Black" (Jiangshan ruci duohei ), a play on a poetic line from Mao that served as the title for Guan Shanyue and Fu Baoshi's "This Land So Rich in Beauty" (Jiangshan ruci duojiao ; fig. 71).

Shi Lu's work, as we saw, had previously been labeled "wild, weird, chaotic, and black." Yan Lichuan agreed with those who criticized Shi Lu's painting as hard to understand; it was, he said, neither traditional painting nor ortho-


dox revolutionary art, and it was an unsuitable influence on younger artists. At best, it was a transitional phase in the development of new forms of art.

Yan then explicated the four terms used to castigate the artist's work and character. "Wild" meant technically immature; "weird" suggested abnormal artistic or living patterns; "chaotic" meant undisciplined composition and brushwork, as well as lack of rhythm; and "black" referred to lack of variety in ink and color, which resulted in poorly conceived relationships between emptiness and substance. Blackness, while it appears to be a purely stylistic concept in this discussion, also had political implications, as a contrast to the redness of communism. While such usages grew increasingly common in the subsequent Cultural Revolution period, it is entirely probable that the author fully intended these unflattering resonances. In conclusion, Yan Lichuan asserted that this style obstructed a law of traditional Chinese realism—that spirit be transmitted through form—and failed to win appreciation by the masses.

Of Li Keran's paintings, especially Spring Dawn in Jiangnan and Mist and Clouds on the Li River ,[293] Yan noted that although Li's ink was not really black, his work had a monotonous ink tonality. Yan warned that Li Keran's and Shi Lu's work, because it was difficult to understand, threatened to create a new double standard for art. In traditional China, the difference in taste between the scholar-official class and the masses had been characterized as "elegance" versus "vulgarity." The new phenomenon, one of "refined" (wen ) versus "crude" or "wild" (ye ) leanings, represented a similar split in standards. Yan's implication was that the masses preferred refinement, whereas only a small number of artists and critics appreciated wildness. The new aesthetic split was between the general public and art world extremists.

A similar attitude is evident in a feature article devoted to viewer comments on Lin Fengmian's April exhibition. None of those quoted were art professionals. Most of the group enjoyed the exhibition but found it flawed politically. Among other problems, Lin's landscapes were felt to be "unhealthy," and his figures were not likable. His scenes of modern life were ugly. A scientist suggested that Mr. Lin participate in more activities in society. A soldier thought that the beauty of Lin's landscapes inspired escapist feelings, clearly a bad thing in the eyes of a military man. Another writer found the paintings gloomy, better suited to the preliberation era. A student did not like the paintings and asserted that peasants would not like them either. In the end, the article deemed the exhibition unhealthy and aimed at a petty bourgeois audience.[294]

Within China's various art institutions, many artists recall being criticized in 1963. We have mentioned attacks on high-ranking party figures such as Shi Lu and on students of the Shanghai Institute of Chinese Painting. At CAFA, Chen Pei called a hasty school meeting during the Lin Fengmian exhibition


to criticize the paintings and their admirers. A printmaking student was astounded to hear the party secretary repeat verbatim a favorable comment the boy had made only that morning to a stranger who struck up a conversation in the Chinese National Art Gallery. When asked by his fellow spectator, who turned out to be a Ministry of Culture spy, what he thought of Lin Fengmian's painting, the student replied that it "struck a chord." Chen Pei, obviously speaking on orders from the ministry, compared Lin Fengmian's painting to a Japanese delicacy, raw blowfish, warning that it might appear delicious, but in fact it was highly toxic.[295]

CAFA's recovery from the traumas of the 1957-1962 disasters was not complete when the party administration attacked it yet again. First, the hardline director of the Lu Xun Academy of Art in Shenyang was made a vice-director of CAFA in 1963,[296] , perhaps a hint of policy changes to come. Then, in what seems to have been a nationwide move to recentralize higher education, the Beijing Arts College, which had been operated by the city of Beijing since 1956, was disbanded and its faculty and staff divided between CAFA and CAAC.[297]

Mao's economic policies had been discredited by the famines, and with the liberalization of art and literature he lost control of culture as well. Both personally and through his wife, Jiang Qing, he began striking out at those who opposed him. His initial, unsuccessful efforts to regain control, taken in 1963, may lie behind isolated attacks against artists in that year. Zhou Yang and other officials of the Ministry of Culture failed to broaden the cultural campaigns he proposed.[298]

At his insistence, a cultural rectification campaign was launched in August 1964.[299] Western writers depict the rectification as a half-hearted affair, conducted by foot-dragging bureaucrats, that ultimately forced Mao into the excesses of the Cultural Revolution.[300] While later Red Guard condemnations accused the cultural authorities of opposing Mao's "red line," all evidence points in fact to a strong leftward shift in the art world by 1964. Cai Ruohong, Hua Junwu, and other leaders who had promoted diversification during the period we have just discussed tried valiantly to steer the bureaucracy along the new, more centralized course Mao demanded. Numerous regional exhibitions were held throughout 1965. If works reproduced in Meishu are typical, the exhibited works were largely socialist realist figure paintings. One notable effort was made by a group of guohua painters, including Zhang Anzhi, Song Wen-zhi, Bai Xueshi, and Chen Dayu, who were dispatched to the south by Cai Ruohong to paint pictures of Mao's family home and other scenes from his life.[301]

CAFA historians do not view the campaigns of 1964 and 1965 as halfhearted, but as a calculated prelude to the Cultural Revolution.[302] Indeed, CAFA artists widely accept that their institution was chosen by Jiang Qing as a


test site for the mass mobilization of students against the party leadership that took place nationwide in 1966 and 1967. Former students likewise refer to the events of 1964 and 1965 as a small Cultural Revolution.[303]

During this period, the director of the central party school in Beijing, Yang Xianzhen, had spoken at the CAFA middle school on his philosophical views. When Yang's views were attacked by young party members in July 1964, CAFA party secretary Chen Pei is reported to have said, "The venerable Yang is, after all, a Central Committee member." Ding Jingwen, the middle school director, allegedly suppressed the middle school radicals who wished to join the anti-Yang campaign. As ambitious young party members, led by a Soviettrained oil painting instructor, joined the attacks on Yang, some faculty and students at CAFA submitted a criticism of Chen Pei to Kang Sheng. According to a chronology prepared by the Red Guard in 1967, Kang Sheng responded to the letter by sending an investigation team to the school. On October 25, Jiang Qing was dispatched by Mao to meet three "revolutionary instructors"; she allegedly told them, "Chairman Mao supports your views." Kang Sheng promised to report suppression of the middle school radicals to the highest authorities. On October 26, he announced that a work team would be sent to mobilize the masses and to begin the testimony and struggle against those responsible.[304]

Students had been informed that they were to move to the countryside near Xingtai, Hebei, in the fall of 1964 to implement the rural Four Cleanups campaign. As they prepared to depart, it was suddenly announced that the movement had been postponed; instead they were to attend a meeting on campus. The meeting was conducted by a work team of high officials, representing three administrative worlds. Song Shuo, deputy director of Beijing's municipal university department,[305] Lin Mohan, vice-minister of culture, and Wu Jihan, of the Central Propaganda Department, seated themselves at the head table. Chen Pei, the highest-ranking administrator at the academy, was relegated to the front row of the spectators' seating. The focus of the meeting was an attack on "false socialist education," presumably that practiced during the preceding year. Chen Pei was the scapegoat for the academy's deviations, allegedly caused by right opportunism and evidenced by adoption of the Eight Character Directive, the Sixty Articles on Universities, and the Eight Articles on Literature and Art. The studio system was cited as a specific manifestation of "right opportunism." Following Mao's emphasis on mass mobilization, all normal academic and political activity was stopped. Students were urged to "bring out their knives" and attack the party committee and others responsible for the academy's faults. They were told to write big-character posters and to provide notes and other evidence that could be used against teachers and administrators. Dong Xiwen, Ai Zhongxin, and Hou Yimin, all men of bourgeois family background, were only a few of the teachers who were punished by exile to


the countryside. In many departments, prominent students were selected as scapegoats as well. Guang Jun, for example, was subjected to a mass criticism session in which every member of his graduating class was required to chastise him by turn. His studio mate Jiang Tiefeng was similarly criticized, as was the oil painting student Yao Zhonghua.[306] Guang and Jiang were excluded from the class graduation exhibition. CAFA was labeled a "black dyeing vat," which implied that the young were turned away from revolutionary ideals during the course of their education.[307] According to a Red Guard report, Zhou Yang attempted to protect Yang Xianzhen and Chen Pei but was overruled by Kang Sheng.[308]

The mass criticisms of the Socialist Education Movement lasted from November 1964 to August 1965, utterly disrupting normal activity at the academy. One former student recalls that criticisms took place daily.[309] Quoting an unspecified document, the Red Guard report states, "The Central Propaganda Department conducted, at CAFA, the first test site for the Four Cleanups in the national arts academies and schools, for the purpose of gaining experience to lead the nation."[310]

This movement marked the end of CAFA's brief golden age. Chen Pei was replaced by an administrator from outside the academy. Some young instructors, motivated by Maoist zeal or factional opportunism, mounted particularly enthusiastic attacks on college administrators and colleagues. An issue that became a focus of great debate was the appropriateness of using nude models to teach life drawing. Those who "brought out their knives" attacked this and other curricular practices throughout the latter part of 1964. One victim of the campaign relates that his classmates did not speak to him for months.

The Red Guard claimed that the movement at CAFA was controlled by the Liu Shaoqi-Deng Xiaoping faction, its purpose being to suppress "the revolutionary masses."[311] It suppressed many other people as well, however, and may have been intended as a demonstration to Mao and Kang Sheng that their leftist policies were indeed being implemented.

By the following year, criticism of higher-party authorities was prohibited and social relations between students became less strained. In the spring of 1965 Deng Xiaoping observed, "Some people just want to be famous by criticizing others."[312] Although the graduation exhibition was held as usual in 1965, it is clear from the subject matter of student works that politics had strongly reasserted itself. A lyrical print by a Li Hua student, for example, depicted the People's Liberation Army helping the Viet Cong (fig. 109).

In 1965, the battle over the question of drawing from nude models even drew a response from Mao Zedong, who stated on July 18 that the evils of the practice were worth the positive results.[313] The Ministry of Culture apparently found the nude model issue compelling, for a formal directive issued late in 1965 banned their classroom use.[314] Once prohibited by "leftists," nude


Image not available

Figure 109
Gerald Zhixing Young, Warriors of the
People (The War in the South), 1965,
hand-colored woodblock print, collection
of the artist.

models became a political rather than a solely aesthetic or moral question. The issue retains some of its political sensitivity twenty-five years later.

The spring proscriptions against further attacks on the authorities did not result in peace at CAFA; instead a new movement arose against the college Maoists who had initiated the original campaign. By the time the academy finally repaired to the countryside, the small college was bitterly divided, the factions generally split into those who supported the mild liberalization of previous years, on the one side, and the radical Maoists, on the other. Most


difficult to sense from a mere chronology was the hostility felt by victims of each succeeding campaign toward those who had come forth to attack. With friendships and collegial relationships betrayed in the name of Chairman Mao, the academy's artistic and personal atmosphere was poisoned.

Students and teachers spent most of the next year and a half in the countryside working in the Four Cleanups campaign against rural corruption. Former students describe their primary activities during this time as auditing the accounts of local cadres and investigating any discrepancies they discovered. One artist recalls his team's diligent but unsuccessful effort to find out what happened to a missing commune pig.[315] Art would not emerge from this political shadow, which became the dark night of the Cultural Revolution, for over a decade.

This chapter has taken us through some of the most interesting artistic trends of the three decades we have studied. The privileged status of oil painting declined somewhat amid the nationalistic fervor that accompanied the Great Leap Forward and the Sino-Soviet split. Nevertheless, the intensive emulation of Russian and Soviet oil painting techniques that had marked the early and mid-1950s did, by the early 1960s, yield technically proficient history paintings aimed at a Chinese audience. Most significant, however, was the critical and bureaucratic support for regionalistic and, within limits, even personal styles of guohua painting and woodblock printmaking. Although the chaos of the Cultural Revolution mowed down these movements, in most cases their roots remained to sprout another day.


The Cultural Revolution

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which took place between 1966 and 1976,[1] is referred to by many as the "ten lost years." For artists such as Ye Qianyu, who was beaten severely by his students and then jailed for nine years, such a formulation would be entirely appropriate. For those such as Lin Fengmian, who kept his work out of Red Guard hands by scrubbing it to pulp on a washboard,[2] even more than one decade of creative activity was lost. The physical and psychological violence inflicted by some Red Guard students on their teachers, their party leaders, and on each other has, understandably, produced a revulsion against any activity associated with the Cultural Revolution. Older artists in particular associate the artistic images of the Cultural Revolution very directly with the torture they suffered. For most young and middleaged artists, however, the ten "lost years" included a good deal of painting, even if it was not what we might consider high art.

With the ouster of Mao's successor, Hua Guofeng, in 1979 the CCP took a clear stand against the policies of the Cultural Revolution. The official analysis of the Cultural Revolution by party historians is extremely negative, an opinion that most Western observers share. Zhang Shaoxia and Li Xiaoshan, for example, begin their discussion of Cultural Revolution art with quotations from a 1981 party document: "History has proved that the Cultural Revolution was erroneously launched by the leadership, was used by a counterrevolutionary group, and was an internal disturbance that brought severe suffering to the nation and to the people of all its nationalities."[3]

Although most people agree with this political line, such strong condemnations have made it awkward for artists to discuss work they produced during that period or to consider, except privately, its relationship to the art of preceding and succeeding periods. Even for those who were very active, the decade is often described as a "big blank." Many paintings made during the


period have been destroyed, either iconoclastically or pragmatically—that is, by recycling the canvas for new paintings or for scrap. Other works have been returned to artists from the public collections in which they once were held. One monumental image of Chairman Mao in swimming garb survives in the studio of an art professor and in 1986 was in excellent condition, except for a thick layer of dust (plate 10). The artists volunteered that they had kept the painting only because they planned to reuse the canvas and large wooden stretcher.

Another example is probably more typical. Because the artist lived in a city far from the museum that owned his painting, the work was unstretched and rolled up for return to him, thus cracking the paint. The artist, who remains proud of the fame he enjoyed during the Cultural Revolution, was nevertheless reluctant to keep the canvas in the studio he shared with several colleagues. In 1986, therefore, he stored it in the only available place: rolled up under the bed in his small apartment.

Connoisseurs would be unlikely to lament the disappearance of stereotyped Cultural Revolution pictures with the same sorrow they might bring to the loss of Lin Fengmian's oeuvre. Nevertheless, since modern scholarship calls for evaluating the period on the basis of its documents rather than simply eradicating the record, it is to be hoped that some of these paintings will survive. Although the post-Mao destruction of Cultural Revolution art has succeeded in achieving a "ten-year gap" in the history of Chinese painting, thus making literal a concept that was in part figurative, the Cultural Revolution did influence the development of Chinese art in important ways. For one thing, it revived the strongly antitraditional approach to Chinese painting that had flourished in the early 1950s and successfully indoctrinated an entire generation of artists in a narrowly defined Maoist mode of art. For another, its rejection of professionalism in science and economics pushed many ambitious young people into the arts. Finally, its populist emphasis expanded the practice of official painting to regions of China that had previously produced little art. Government cultural and personnel policies thus produced an artistic pool of unprecedented breadth and talent. Unfortunately, this increase in the quantity of promising artists was accompanied by a marked reduction in the number of permissible styles and subjects. By 1974, a new and uniform official style was clearly recognizable.

The political content of Cultural Revolution art, most of which promoted Cultural Revolution policies, has been largely condemned since 1979. It is important to note that the rejection of such works in post-Mao China was initially based on thematic rather than aesthetic or stylistic grounds. Most Cultural Revolution art was in fact directly descended from academic painting of the 1950s and early 1960s, and, as we shall see, the best of it was painted by academically trained artists. These pictures, for better or worse, must be seen


as part of the continuous development of painting in the PRC. They had their sources in earlier art; they left a profound legacy to the art of the 1980s.

In short, the Cultural Revolution provided the artistic training for the third generation of Chinese artists, young painters who emerged in the early 1970s through the official exhibition network and who remain active as official artists and art professors. For most of them, traditional Chinese painting, with its poetry and its lofty ideals, was an art practiced by artists of the past; the art of the present was representational and was founded in the artist's human experiences and practical concerns. We will describe the environment in which these young artists flourished before concluding the book with a discussion of their absorption by the post-Mao art academy system.

Artists were particularly prolific during two periods of the Cultural Revolution. The first burst of activity accompanied the Red Guard movement of 1966 through 1968, which destroyed the Communist party apparatus and dismantled the educational system. The outlines of early Cultural Revolution artistic activity seem like a parody of the land reform and thought reform movements of the late 1940s and early 1950s, for in both eras zealous young revolutionaries attacked those who held power under the old society. As in the land reform movement, unauthorized violence against individuals was widespread and targets were chosen somewhat capriciously.[4] Even artistic activity paralleled that of the early postliberation period, for it was almost completely limited to propaganda of an ephemeral nature. The second period of artistic activity celebrated the rebuilding of the party between 1970 and 1976.[5]

Political Background: The Birth of the Red Guard Movement

The political history of the Cultural Revolution may be more complex than that of any other period in recent Chinese history, but a schematic summary will help understand how and why art was made during this time.[6] Most historians agree that the movement was launched by Mao Zedong with the goal of removing his rivals in the party. Because he came to view his chosen successor, Chairman Liu Shaoqi, as an opponent, yet was unable to rally support for his purge within the Communist party, he mobilized millions of students to simply destroy the party apparatus. His goals were not known to most of his supporters in 1966; moreover, his failure to control the activity he set in motion led to massive human suffering and loss of life that were irrelevant to those goals.[7]

A Red Guard chronology published in 1967 lists several important events leading up to the Cultural Revolution.[8] In February 1966, Jiang Qing held a conference on military arts and literature at which praise for the thought


of Chairman Mao was the dominant theme. In particular, she singled out the Rent Collection Courtyard , a life-size sculptural installation made at the Sichuan Academy of Arts, as a model for the art world.[9] Jiang Qing's critical stance was justified, according to the Red Guard version, by the approval of workers, peasants, and soldiers. The proceedings of the meeting were issued in April as the call for a "Cultural Revolution." Peng Zhen, the Beijing mayor, prepared a document in February that dealt with the proper implementation of the Cultural Revolution.[10] In response to his suggestions, the FLAC began a campaign against Soviet revisionist art, academic art, and the capitalist trends in art research. Mao nevertheless criticized Peng's efforts as inadequate, and Peng's document was attacked for derailing Maoist policies.

On May 16, the Politburo, at Mao Zedong's command, issued a paper referred to as the May 16 Circular. It criticized Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping for "having let all of the ox-demons and snake-spirits out of their cages," for "stuffing up our newspapers, broadcasts, periodicals, books, textbooks, performances, works of literature, and art, films, plays, operas, art, music, dance, and so forth," and for refusing to accept the leadership of the proletariat.[11] Four high Communist party officials were dismissed: army chief of staff Luo Ruiqing, Beijing mayor Peng Zhen, director of the CCP Propaganda Department Lu Dingyi, and director of the CCP Central Committee Office Yang Shangkun.[12] Staffing shifts were made throughout the propaganda apparatus so that major newspapers became more responsive to Mao's wishes. A new Cultural Revolution Small Group (CRSG) was appointed directly under the Standing Committee of the Politburo to direct the movement—which, at this point, was official.

According to the Red Guard chronology, the principal art administrators reacted to the news with alarm. Wang Zicheng, a Ministry of Culture administrator, and Hua Junwu, of the Chinese Artists Association, rushed back to Beijing from Xingtai, Hebei, where they were engaged in work for the Four Cleanups campaign. Cai Ruohong reportedly began making lists of "good artworks" as defense against expected attacks on the Ministry of Culture and CAA.[13] The Red Guard journal reported with glee the chaos that broke out on the Meishu editorial board in the wake of the May 16 Circular.[14]

On May 25, 1966, radical students at Beijing University posted big-character posters denouncing the school's president for suppressing student political discussion. Most students initially supported the president, but a week later Mao Zedong praised the contents of one of the posters. On June 1, Mao approved national broadcast of the text of the big-character poster.[15] By this act, as the Red Guard viewed matters, he personally launched the Cultural Revolution.[16] Zhou Yang and Lin Mohan, deputy directors of the party Propaganda Department and Ministry of Culture, were openly attacked soon after.[17]


With Mao's support thus withdrawn, most college party committees collapsed. Student activists, garbed in faded army uniforms, marched from school to school demonstrating against academic administrators. Wide leather belts with heavy buckles, a standard part of the costume (see plate 10 and fig. 136), were used by some students as weapons against those who failed to cooperate. The Standing Committee of the Politburo dispatched work teams to prevent anarchy on campuses. One prominent work team member was Wang Guangmei, Liu Shaoqi's wife, who participated in efforts to organize students for orderly criticism of specified cadres. This moderation was soon criticized as obstructionist by Mao's allies. Student activists involved in this early stage of the Cultural Revolution and who cooperated with the work teams were often sons and daughters of high officials, later referred to by the derogatory term "royalists."[18] Neither the work teams nor the students understood who was Mao's real target in the early months of the campaign. As Mao and his close supporters sought to unseat the parents of such student activists, they instigated other students to attack the work teams, thus causing the first major factional split among the student activists.

By mid-June, all schools were closed. On June 4, some middle school students at Qinghua University wrote a big-character poster with the slogan "Rebellion is justified!" By late July, Mao had removed the work teams from the universities, and the students took charge. The name "Red Guard" was recognized by Mao on August 1 as the name for student activists who supported him.[19]

A meeting of Maoist members of the CCP Central Committee in early August set forth guidelines on the goals of the Red Guard movement. The Red Guard were mandated, first, to overthrow those within the party who took the capitalist road and, second, to uproot and destroy the "four olds"—meaning old ideas, old culture, old customs, and the old habits of the exploiting classes to corrupt the masses.[20] On August 5 Mao himself posted a big-character poster on the door of the room where the Central Committee met, calling on the Red Guard to "Bombard the Headquarters" of his party opponents who exercised "bourgeois dictatorship."[21]

Normal cultural activity in the capital largely ceased as students and teachers organized to support the Red Guard movement. Guo Moruo had made a self-criticism on April 10 in which he declared that all his work should be burned.[22] With attacks on Zhou Yang in late May, the cultural establishment began to crumble. Over the course of the next year, well-known artists were attacked in the press and in their studios. The guohua artist Huang Zhou (see fig. 65), a staff painter of the military museum, was severely criticized, first in Liberation Army Daily and then in People's Daily .[23] This vicious attack had two reasons: he gave private painting lessons to one of Liu Shaoqi's children,[24] and he was close to Deng Tuo, an early target of the movement.[25] The mag-


nitude of the movement precludes listing all artists who were victimized.[26] In general, all those who reached adulthood before 1949 had "historical problems" that made them targets. In January 1967, when the Communist bureaucracy was overthrown nationwide, Cai Ruohong and Hua Junwu were targeted for attack and the Chinese Artists Association was "smashed."[27]

Red Guard Artists, 1966-1968: The Overthrow of the Establishment

Political histories of the Red Guard movement rarely mention Red Guard from the art academies, for their small numbers and generally pacific attitudes had little influence on the movement as a whole. Art histories, similarly, are unlikely to mention Red Guard art, for it was, by definition, unofficial and was produced and publicized in chaotic circumstances. In any event, most young artists devoted more energy to political activities than to art of any kind. Nevertheless, academic artists, including Red Guard art students, proved crucial in establishing the visual images of the Cultural Revolution.[28] For example, two contending Red Guard groups from the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts, called, respectively, East Is Red and Jinggang Mountain, seized control of the huge billboards at the northeast and northwest corners of Tiananmen Square. Their competition was played out in the design and execution of huge painted images, which became models for billboards nationwide.[29]

During the spring in which the Cultural Revolution was launched, college students and many teachers from CAFA were laboring in the countryside as part of the rural Four Cleanups campaign. The middle school students and their teachers, who had remained on campus, avidly joined the movement. They threw themselves into painting murals, cartoons, and posters in support of Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution, the most important functions of young professional artists during the first three years of the Cultural Revolution. Among the activities in which they later participated was preparation of a Red Guard exhibition that included propaganda pictures and confiscated property.[30]

In late May, CAFA college students were ordered back to campus. Soon thereafter, in the earliest days of the movement on campus, the Mao Zedong Thought Red Guard was formed, a student group that counted the oil painter Ge Pengren and the guohua painter Deng Lin (a daughter of Deng Xiaoping) among its officers.[31]

The split between the pro-work team and anti-work team students mentioned above was only the first issue that factionalized the Red Guard. The next step came in July 1966 with the "matched couplet debate."[32] According to scholars of Chinese politics, the crisis began when a group of middle school


students at the Beijing Aeronautical Institute posted a slogan in the form of matched couplets reading: "If the father's a hero, the son's a real man; if the father's a counterrevolutionary, the son's a bastard."[33] The slogan, which sought to make class distinctions hereditary, spread throughout the city, provoking controversy and antagonism within the Red Guard movement. Red Guard students in the colleges of music, drama, and art had particularly intense reactions to the slogan, for many of them came from "bad" class backgrounds. A Beijing artist recalls that Red Guard from revolutionary families began marching, demonstrating, and chanting the slogan. He remembers with particular indignation how the mob would apprehend any fellow Red Guard at will and require him or her to state loudly his class background. Students from ill-favored backgrounds, such as the children of bourgeois intellectuals, organized antislogan groups. More demonstrations in favor of the slogan were held, and a formal debate between advocates and opponents of the concept took place on August 6,[34] the day after Mao Zedong wrote his big-character poster calling upon Red Guard to "Bombard the Headquarters."

According to one former Red Guard, CAFA was occupied for three days by middle school students from all over Beijing who came to observe or participate in a debate at the Beijing Conservatory.[35] Some children of high officials, including Deng Xiaoping's artist daughter, publicly opposed the slogan. Siblings and friends found themselves bitterly divided. Heavily outnumbered CAFA Red Guard opposed the slogan with great vigor but were nonetheless defeated.[36] As proslogan students eventually prevailed nationwide, aspiring Red Guard from bad backgrounds were required to denounce their parents. A Hong Kong newspaper reported in November that students from the "seven black categories" were expelled from schools in Canton by the Red Guard unless they condemned their families.[37] For most of the subsequent decade, a person's class background was considered hereditary and determined access to employment and education.

Mao Zedong and the reorganized CCP leadership received Red Guard who traveled to Beijing from all over the nation on eight occasions. between August 18 and December 1966. It has been estimated that the total number of Red Guard assembled at Tiananmen Square in the course of these receptions was between ten and thirteen million.[38] CAFA faculty and students hastened to participate in these patriotic events; as a result, Mao's meetings with the Red Guard became a favorite subject for young artists. An anonymous oil painting, Chairman Mao's Heart Beats as One with the Hearts of the Revolutionary Masses (fig. 110), published in 1968, was prepared for one of the Red Guard art exhibitions held in 1967.[39] Mao, dressed in a military uniform, strides across a stone bridge in front of the old palace to shake the hands of his young supporters on Tiananmen Square. The demonstrators are a carefully varied group of student Red Guard, workers, and soldiers of both sexes. Be-


hind Mao are key Cultural Revolution leaders: Lin Biao, Chen Boda, Jiang Qing, Kang Sheng, and Zhou Enlai. All but Kang and Zhou are garbed in military uniforms, emphasizing Mao's reliance on the army to maintain order after his purge of the CCP.

The authors of this painting are believed to have been a group of teachers and young students from CAFA—including one Soviet-trained artist and one taught by Xu Beihong—who worked collectively.[40] Because the socialist realist style encouraged by Jiang Qing and other Cultural Revolution leaders requires more technical skill than most Red Guard had, and because the paintings in major exhibitions tended to be extraordinarily large, collaboration in the planning and execution of the compositions was common. If Mao were to be the focus of the picture, as he usually was, it was especially important that his face be executed as skillfully as possible. In many cases, then, an experienced oil painter—normally a teacher—would be sought to help with this crucial part of the picture.

In Chairman Mao's Heart Beats as One , the artist who executed the face of Mao Zedong was a painter capable of both subtle effects of chiaroscuro and representational accuracy. The hand responsible for depicting the students at the right, by contrast, was far less skilled. The images of Chen Boda, the plump bespectacled figure, Jiang Qing, Lin Biao, Kang Sheng, and Zhou Enlai are technically superior to those of the Red Guard opposite them, but still weaker than the rendering of Mao. The image of Zhou Enlai, who stands prominently in the painting's foreground, is the least well rendered of the government officials. Thus, at least three different hands may be discerned in the execution of this picture, a situation typical of the collaboration encouraged by the communistic ideals of the Cultural Revolution. Another group of CAFA professors, including Hou Yimin and Jin Shangyi, were required to paint a more polished version of this composition for the 1972 National Exhibition (fig. 111).

The precise course of development of the Red Guard movement among art students in Beijing remains unclear, but former Red Guard from CAFA agree on the major events of the 1966-1967 period, namely: the 1966 smashing of the plaster casts used in drawing instruction; the Black Painting Exhibition of 1966 and the beating of old professors; the bloodlines debate of 1966; the factional battles and hostage taking of 1967; and the "Long Live the Victory of Chairman Mao's Revolutionary Line" Exhibition of October 1967. Although some CAFA Red Guard were in the crowd that watched the torching of the British embassy in August 1967,[41] most considered it a minor event.

Early in the 1966 frenzy of student activism, sometime around August 25, "revolutionary students and teachers of the Central Academy of Fine Arts" conducted a dramatic symbolic event: the smashing of the instructional plaster statues.[42] An integral part of the CAFA curriculum, as of European academies


Image not available

Figure 110
Anonymous, Chairman Mao's Heart
Beats as One with the Hearts of the
Revolutionary Masses, ca. 1967, oil

on which that curriculum was based, was the rendering in pencil or charcoal of plaster casts of famous European and Asian sculptures. Now, however, declaring that the academy's collection of plasters, which included reproductions of such works as Michelangelo's David , the Venus de Milo , and the Apollo Belvedere , represented the "four olds," CAFA Red Guard ritually destroyed the pieces with axes and shovels. They then threw the remnants onto a bonfire, parading around it in a victory celebration. Since completion of the ambitious undertaking required a great deal of physical exertion, the art students were assisted by students from the physical education department of Beijing Normal University.

One of the most appalling events of the early Cultural Revolution period involved violence against people as well as property. In order to smash "the power-holding faction," a black painting exhibition was held at CAFA by the ' Red Army group of the CAFA middle school, a group composed chiefly of radicalized sons and daughters of high-cadre families. Works of art, including paintings by Dong Xiwen, were stripped from the academy gallery for castigation. At least four faculty members, Ye Qianyu, Luo Gongliu, Li Kuchan, and Huang Yongyu, were beaten with belts and belt buckles by Red Guard students and faculty. Witnesses and participants in this dreadful spectacle still recall vividly the conduct of each victim as he was publicly tortured. After being physically humiliated, most old artists and administrators were incarcerated in


Image not available

Figure 111
Hou Yimin, Deng Shu, Jin Shangyi, Zhan
Jianjun, Luo Gongliu, Yuan Hao, and
Yang Lin'gui, We Must Implement the
Proletarian Cultural Revolution to the
Finish, 1972, oil on canvas.

makeshift prisons on campus, referred to as ox-pens, since the prisoners were called, in Mao's terms, ox-demons and snake-spirits.

The CAFA Red Guard, like those in other institutions, formed themselves into small activist groups that coordinated revolutionary activities. One artist in Shanghai maintains that all members of his work unit were Red Guard, unless they received the label of ox-demon or snake-spirit. This high level of participation appears to have been the case in Beijing arts units, as well, though some young people, particularly early Red Guard activists and others who withdrew after their parents fell victim to the campaign, declined to take part.[43] In practice, the movement pitted young artists against their older teachers.

In the fall of 1966, Red Guard were encouraged to make "Long Marches," in emulation of the earlier travels of the Red Army.[44] Most Red Guard from CAFA went to the countryside, including Yan'an, known as "the sacred spot of the revolution." One typical group of young artists went to Datong during the winter of 1966-1967 to make propaganda paintings for a memorial to coal miners who died during the Japanese occupation. While the students were away, workers at the college guarded their captives in the ox-pens. Art students from other parts of China camped out in Beijing art institutions while the usual occupants were absent.


In January and February 1967, the "National Assembly of Red Art Rebels" met in the National Art Gallery in Beijing to attack "the seventeen years of the black line in literature and art" and to struggle against the capitalist roaders in the art world.[45] The "rebels" included students and young artists affiliated with art and film academies, the CAA, and institutes of Chinese painting; they had traveled to Beijing from all over the nation. The Ministry of Culture auditorium, the National Art Gallery, and the CAFA auditorium were converted into "national liaison stations" for Red Guard affiliated with arts institutions. One important function of such stations was to arrange shelter for fellow radicals from out of town. According to one former Red Guard leader, his group was granted $3,000 RMB by the Ministry of Culture, which can have been no more than a hollow shell by this time, to fund their criticism meetings and to publish a set of propaganda posters.[46] If that indeed occurred, "rebellion" in the art world had taken on an "official" face.

The primary targets of the rebels' campaign were the national CAA leaders Hua Junwu, Cai Ruohong, and Wang Zhaowen, although academy leaders Liu Kaiqu and Zhang Ding were presented for criticism as well. (A participant who traveled from Kunming to Beijing to attend the conference recalls that the seriousness of the event was marred by the cartoonist Hua Junwu's presentation. He was required to stand for criticism before the audience with an example of his politically erroneous art held above his head. His cartoon was so funny that the audience began to titter and was unable to generate the necessary indignation at his alleged crimes.) On the second day of the meeting, the rebels confiscated the official seal of the CAA. This traditional Chinese gesture of seizing power had the practical effect of preventing deposed CAA officials from issuing any official documents or correspondence. On January 19, the Ministry of Culture was seized by a group called the Revolutionary Rebel Joint Committee.[47]

By February 15, 1967, a Red Guard art periodical had been founded in distant Kunming. Qianjunbang (The One-Ton Cudgel; fig. 112) was a single-sheet poster issued by the Yunnan Red Art Rebels Liaison Station, which occupied the local CAA branch, and cost five Chinese cents. According to one contributor, it was one of the earliest publications for Red Guard of the art world and was avidly read by artists all over China. The provincial branch of the FLAC was not actually abolished, though it changed both its function, which now was to issue Red Guard propaganda, and its name, which became Revolutionary Rebel Corps. The new propaganda publications, not surprisingly, bypassed regular pre—Cultural Revolution dissemination procedures. Rather than working with a publisher, the Red Guard artists simply took their artwork to the printing factory, which produced it at cost, as an act of patriotism. The Red Guard then distributed their product nationally.

Several of the artists who emerged in Yunnan were trained at CAFA. One


Image not available

Figure 112
The One-Ton Cudgel (Qianjunbang),
broadsheer, no. 1, Feb. 15, 1967, published
by the Yunnan Red Art Rebels
Liaison Station, collection of Sun Jingbo.

of them, Sun Jingbo, a graduate of the CAFA middle school, produced a poster in 1967 to promote the slogan "Struggle with words, not with weapons" (fig. 113). The fierce expression on his figure's face is typical of Red Guard propaganda and was probably influenced by theatrical conventions of Jiang Qing's model operas. Otherwise, the charcoal rendering of a well-muscled female figure with arm extended is a testimony to his academic training in anatomy, perspective, and Soviet-style rendering. Similarly, an exhibition poster announcing a "Proletarian Cultural Revolution Painting Exhibition" in commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Mao's Yan'an Talks has been attributed to Jiang Tiefeng, a 1964 graduate of the CAFA printmaking department (fig. 114).

In June 1967, the CAFA Red Guard began publishing a monthly magazine called Art Storm (Meishu fenglei ).[48] Although the editorial offices were on the CAFA campus, the periodical was in fact a joint effort of Red Guard groups


Image not available

Figure 113
Sun Jingbo, "Struggle with words, not
with weapons," 1967, poster, published
by the Studio of the Yunnan FLAC
United Struggle Team and Yunnan Red
Art Rebels Liaison Station, collection of
the artist.

from most Beijing art institutions. The sponsoring organizations were the Great United Congress of CAFA Classes and Departments; the Red [Guard] Congress Central Academy of Fine Arts Prairie Fire Armed Struggle Team;[49] the Red [Guard] Congress Central Academy of Arts and Crafts East Is Red Commune; the Middle School Red [Guard] Congress CAFA Middle School


Image not available

Figure 114
Jiang Tiefeng, "Proletarian Cultural
Revolution Painting Exhibition," 1967,
poster, collection of Sun Jingbo.

Antirevisionist Brigade; the CAA Red Rebel Group; the Museum of Chinese Revolutionary History Revolutionary Rebel United Committee; the Chinese National Art Gallery Red Rebel Group; the Chinese Art Research Center Cultural Revolution Delegates Small Group; the Beijing Painting Institute Mao Zedong Thought Armed Struggle Group Revolutionary Committee; the People's Art Press Red Small Soldiers Armed Struggle Corps; the People's Art Press Prairie Fire; and the CAFA Sculpture Creation Studio Ten Thousand


Mountains Red Corps.[50] Many of these units were dominated by CAFA students or graduates.

The first issue of Art Storm reported on a June 6 conference entitled "Cut Off Liu Shaoqi's Black Hand in the Art World—Thoroughly Eliminate the Poisonous Weeds Erected as Steles and Biographies for Liu Shaoqi." Art and culture leaders were brought to the Museum of Revolutionary History for face-to-face attacks before delegates of the labor congress (gongdaihui ), military, and art world revolutionary rebels. Those who appeared—Qi Yanming, Xu Pingyu, Wang Yeqiu, Cai Ruohong, Hua Junwu, Shao Yu, Li Zhaobing, Xu Binru, and Chen Pei—were held responsible for the production and publication of "dog portraits" of Liu Shaoqi.[51]

The remainder of the June issue was devoted to castigating art in which portraits of Liu Shaoqi appeared. In one heinous example, it was found that 172,077 copies of Hou Yimin's oil painting Liu Shaoqi and the Anyuan Coal Miners (fig. 78) had been published by People's Art Press between 1962 and 1965.[52] Hou Yimin, notably, was considered by Xu Binru, director of the Museum of Revolutionary History, to be an expert in painting the "Liu-demon." Other targets included the Hangzhou professor and Maksimov student Wang Dewei, who had exhibited a handsome painting of Liu Shaoqi in the forest talking to lumbermen in the 1964-1965 national exhibitions;[53] and the CAFA professor Li Qi, who had painted a guohua portrait of Liu. In a pattern we observed during the anti-Jiang Feng campaign, the erroneous art produced between 1961 and 1965 was blamed both on its artists and on politicians, in this case Deng Xiaoping, Lu Dingyi, and Zhou Yang.[54]

On May 23, 1967, after a year of destruction, the Cultural Revolution Small Group announced the establishment of a literature and arts group under the direction of Jiang Qing. Other members of the group included Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Qi Benyu. Liu Jucheng was to direct artistic activity. May also featured an exhibition of paintings by the Proletarian Cultural Revolution Red Painting Guard at the former Rongbaozhai Gallery. It was sponsored by various other Red Guard art groups from the publishing industry, including publishers of the periodical Art War Gazette (Meishu zhanbao ).[55] Another exhibition, called "Long Live the Victory of Mao Zedong Thought Revolutionary Painting" and prepared by eighty rebel units, was held at the Chinese National Art Gallery on May 28, 1967, in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Yan'an Talks. A meeting of almost a thousand people was held in conjunction with the exhibition, at which former art leaders, including Cai Ruohong and Hua Junwu, were once again attacked and humiliated.[56]

In June, the Red Guard Congress CAFA Prairie Fire Great Criticism Brigade began a campaign against artists who had worked in Chongqing during World War II, allegedly in collaboration with Liu Shaoqi. Their leader was


said to have been former culture Minister Xia Yan, and they included the prominent artists, critics, and cultural figures Zhang Ding, Ye Qianyu, Huang Miaozi, Zhang Guangyu, Zhang Zhengyu, Hu Kao, Yu Feng, Ai Qing, and Ding Cong.[57]

The following issue of Art Storm included an attack on the Beijing Chinese Painting Institute for being a royal painting academy run by Deng Xiaoping and Liu Shaoqi. Liu was attacked for the mild comments he had made in support of guohua during the Hundred Flowers campaign (see above, p. 180). The Red Guard asserted that Mao and Zhou Enlai had intended the institute to paint socialist realist pictures but that the Propaganda Department and Beijing municipal government had led it astray. The original leadership, significantly, included no party members, and two of the four directors were rightists. The director of the Beijing Cultural Bureau had apparently claimed that the Chinese Painting Institute was rather like a Culture and History Hall (Wenshiguan ) and need not be so politically activist.[58] Emphasizing those circumstances, its director, Cui Zifan, had, according to the Red Guard, devoted himself to raising birds. The institute was always deserted, with only a few doves strutting about, like an old temple. Even worse, the Red Guard asserted, was that many of its artists had held exhibitions and published one-man albums during the famine years.[59] As in the Anti-Rightist campaign, the facts may have been accurate, but their interpretations were somewhat hysterical.

Between June 10 and 12, 1967, a "ten thousand person meeting" was held at the Beijing Workers Stadium under the auspices of the literature and arts group of the CRSG. Chen Boda, Qi Benyu, revolutionary groups from art units, and one of the Rent Collection Courtyard artists delivered speeches. Lu Dingyi, Zhou Yang, Xia Yan, and others were presented for "struggle" by the masses.[60] On July 1, seven or eight hundred people met in the CAFA auditorium to "struggle" (attack) Cai Ruohong. Hua Junwu received similar treatment on July 10 and 11; Zhou Yang and Lin Mohan appeared on July 23 and 24.[61] It was announced on July 21, 1967, that a new cultural administration, probably intended to assume the functions of the old Ministry of Culture, would be formed under the CRSG literature and arts group. None of the leaders of this new administration's art section were artists we have mentioned before. On August 2, Zhou Yang was "struggled" once again in the CAFA auditorium by this new organization.[62] Most old artists lived under guard and were prohibited from painting during these years.

A new school directorate, called the Preparatory Group for the CAFA Revolutionary Committee, was announced by the literature and arts group of the CRSG on August 3, with Chen Bo, a leftist former administrator, put in charge.[63] The new group, however, failed to restore order; instead the Red Guard factions fought to gain control of the school Revolutionary Committee.[64]


At the same time that power was being successfully wrested from former arts leaders, Red Guard art groups began struggling internally. In 1967, despite efforts by Zhou Enlai and others to prevent such divisions, Red Guard throughout Beijing split into several antipathetic groups.[65] A primary reason for the rifts was power struggles over control of the Red Guard Congress and the new Beijing Revolutionary Committee.[66] Such tensions appeared in the art world, as elsewhere, as early as the Red Guard seizure of the CAA in January.[67] The most decisive splits in Beijing were between the Sky faction, named for the Red Flag group of the Beijing Aeronautical Institute, and the Earth faction, named for the East Is Red group of the Geology Institute. By June 1967, the Earth faction had won control of the Red Guard Congress.

Most schools in Beijing divided internally along similar lines. According to CAFA historians, the CAFA Red Guard decisively split in May 1967.[68] Each side aligned itself with one of the two predominant factions in Beijing, and both groups engaged in even more extreme behavior than had already been displayed. Hong Yung Lee has found the Earth faction students in Beijing to be, in general, children of less prestigious class backgrounds, more politically radical, and more closely linked to Jiang Qing and the Cultural Revolution Small Group. The Sky faction students were from better—that is, more revolutionary—class backgrounds, were more moderate politically, and tended to be sympathetic to Zhou Enlai's administrative methods.[69] Ideological differences between the two groups in the art world, if they existed, are difficult to assess. No trace of them is evident, at least to the foreign reader, in Art Storm , which was aligned with the Earth faction. Participants in a May 18 symposium to commemorate Mao's Yan'an Talks included Red Guard from twelve units, including factory workers, clerks, the Great United Congress of CAFA Classes and Departments, the Red Guard Congress CAFA Prairie Fire, and the East Is Red group of the Geology Institute. It was, thus, likewise an activity of the Earth faction. Former Red Guard artists tend to agree that the factions in each art institution had their own dynamics and were based in part on personal friendships and animosities.

As in other institutions, "class background" played some role in factional alignments within CAFA. Some of the Revolutionary Alliance/Red Flag Red Guard, which was aligned with the Sky faction, were sons and daughters of revolutionary martyrs, cadres, or soldiers or were of peasant or worker stock. Some Prairie Fire Red Guard, aligned with the Earth faction, were children of intellectuals or of bourgeois stock. Revolutionary Alliance/Red Flag members were more likely than Prairie Fire Red Guard to be prominent party members.

On the whole, however, the factional divisions within the art academy seem to have corresponded less with family background than with social factors, such as studio assignments and friendships. The Revolutionary Alliance/ Red Flag faction at CAFA, for example, was dominated by young faculty


trained in the Soviet Union, assigned to the Soviet-style oil painting studio (Studio Two), or trained in Luo Gongliu's oil painting class between 1960 and 1963. Most were party members with considerable experience in previous movements and born of good revolutionary stock. One Revolutionary Alliance/Red Flag organizer had been instrumental in the Maoist criticisms at CAFA in the fall of 1964 and was a focus of factional animosity. Former Red Guard have described this group, in late 1950s parlance, as the group that was both red and professional. Many CAFA middle school students, especially children of revolutionary cadres, allied themselves with this group.

The opposing faction at CAFA, the Prairie Fire group, was dominated by young oil painting instructors from Studio Three, the national-style studio. The group seems to have been less well unified than the Revolutionary Alliance/Red Flag group, and to have evolved in opposition to the other faction rather than as a result of any compelling affinity among group members. It reportedly included some graduates of Maksimov's class and many of the school's undergraduate students. A former Prairie Fire Red Guard describes his group as consisting of technically skilled artists with few personal political ambitions. Although it was difficult to remain unaligned, lest one be victimized by both factions, one former student has estimated that, as the conflicts grew more dangerous, as many as a third of the art students dropped out of the movement altogether.

Whether the differences were ideological, class-based, or personal, the factional split was important, in some cases leading to bloodshed.[70] Activists of both stripes believed that they were on the correct side of the power struggle. Each faction sought to attract attention by doing a better job implementing the decrees of Chairman Mao, and intense competition developed as to which Red Guard faction would be assigned to handle a particular "case." For example, it was reported in the press that the Red Flag unit from the Peking Foreign Languages Institute, a group aligned with the Earth faction, broke into the Foreign Ministry on about May 16, 1967, after having been passed over by Zhou Enlai in their bid to conduct the official criticism of former head of state Liu Shaoqi.[71]

As factional loyalties solidified by 1967, non-CAFA representatives from the Sky or Earth factions sought to participate in criticizing victims. In some instances a work of art or even a person to be criticized would be seized and hidden from the opposing faction. Opposing Red Guard groups at CAFA occupied the two largest buildings on campus as forts. Rocks were catapulted back and forth across the athletic field. The Prairie Fire group held the threestory art gallery, which was strategically located at the edge of campus. The Revolutionary Alliance/Red Flag group set up their headquarters in the twostory library in the center of campus. Battles and hostage taking of Red Guard from opposing factions became serious. One notorious incident in the conflict


was the capture by Prairie Fire partisans of the oil painting instructor Wen Lipeng, a graduate of Luo Gongliu's class and the son of the poetmartyr Wen Yiduo. He was eventually freed by Revolutionary Alliance/Red Flag partisans, who believe they saved his life from the Earth faction Red Guard.[72]

Older faculty continued to be physically and mentally abused throughout the first year and a half of the Cultural Revolution. As we have seen, CAFA party committee member and oil painting instructor Hou Yimin, initially sympathetic to the Prairie Fire group, eventually became a Red Guard target himself. Not only did he paint the disgraced Liu Shaoqi and the Anyuan Coal Miners for the Museum of Revolutionary History, but he also had a "landlord" family background and he liked to collect antiques. He was reportedly hung by his arms and beaten; his Soviet-trained wife, Deng Shu, suffered a heart attack when she was assaulted. Wang Shikuo endured torture at the hands of Red Guard hoping to force a confession of espionage; his wife was dragged down two flights of stairs by her hair.[73] The desire to forget the "ten lost years" by most of those involved is completely understandable.

Red Guard Art

The Central Academy of Fine Arts succeeded in attracting national attention for its propaganda work at the height of the movement. A People's Daily report of February 23, 1967, records that "rebel artists" of CAFA had drawn propaganda pictures based on Mao's quotations, "a new event in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and a great initiative of the fine arts circle."[74] The following day a foreign reporter described lines of workers at post offices and other public institutions waiting to purchase a "news sheet caricaturing thirty-nine targets of the Cultural Revolution."[75] This poster fits the description of an elaborate cartoon designed by Weng Rulan, an advanced undergraduate in the CAFA guohua department.[76] The version reproduced here (fig. 115) bears the title "A Crowd of Clowns" and was issued by a transitory Red Guard group, the Preparatory Office for the Struggle Peng [Zhen], Lu [Dingyi], Luo [Ruiqing], and Yang [Shangkun]'s Counterrevolutionary Revisionist Group.[77] At the time the poster was made, this organization occupied offices in the municipal government complex,[78] a situation no doubt resulting from the January overthrow of the city government.

According to the artist, the poster depicts the first thirty-nine high-ranking targets of the Cultural Revolution in the order they were purged from government. The figures are caricatured so as to reflect their personal quirks and political position. The artist, whose father was a professor of history, established her iconography by discussing the purged leaders with her father's friends,


most of whom were idly passing time at home after having been purged themselves. They were able to supply colorful anecdotes that helped the young artist understand the significance of the purges, and gave her hints about the bestknown foibles of individual leaders.

One of the many ironies of the Cultural Revolution is that the young people used by Mao for his own political ends were products of the very system they overthrew. Weng Rulan, for example, was at the time a twenty-two-year-old Beijing native educated in New China. Her father was a specialist in the Yuan dynasty who taught at Beijing Normal University, and her mother taught at the National Minorities Institute. Weng Rulan was recognized for her artistic talent as a child; when she was eleven her work was included in an exhibition of children's art sent to Yugoslavia and published in China.[79] In 1956, at the age of twelve, she was accepted at the CAFA middle school, the most prestigious of the nation's specialized art boarding schools.

During Weng Rulan's six years in the middle school, she pursued a curriculum that included regular high school classes but emphasized technical training in art. Many of her teachers were the best graduates of the CAFA college and graduate programs. Her middle school class was part of a short-lived experiment in full implementation of Soviet arts education, for it admitted students directly from elementary school. The administration, however, found that the young students presented special difficulties that the staff could not handle and the following year reluctantly returned to a shorter four-year course. Otherwise, the fundamental curriculum remained largely the same until the Cultural Revolution.[80]

A younger artist who studied at the middle school from 1963 to 1968 remembers the curriculum as follows. In the first two years, the course work was roughly evenly divided between art courses and regular academic work.[81] By the third year, the balance had shifted so that art occupied about 75 percent of class time. Specialized subjects such as calligraphy, oil painting, and Chinese painting were taught according to a daily rotation. Drawing and watercolor painting, which in turn required a solid understanding of form and color, constituted the core of the students' technical training. Instruction in drawing followed the Chistiakov system, proceeding from the depiction of geometric objects in space, such as spheres, cubes, and cones, to drawing plaster casts of famous sculptures, and finally to rendering the human form. At mandatory evening study halls the students usually practiced their drawing, sometimes posing for one another.[82] According to the former director, at least 90 percent of the graduates went on to college, presumably at an art school.

Weng Rulan graduated from the CAFA middle school in 1962. Examinations for admission to CAFA were not conducted in that year, but faculty from the college personally selected students they wished to see enter the five-year CAFA college program. Weng was chosen as a student by Ye Qianyu, chair-


Image not available

Figure 115
Weng Rulan, "A Crowd of Clowns,"
1967, poster, detail (opposite),
collection of the artist.

man of the guohua department, and thus became a guohua figure painter. Much of Ye Qianyu's work is very linear, and Weng became a specialist in the outline style.

By the time the Cultural Revolution began in 1966, Weng had completed four years of her five-year guohua major, had undergone ten years of professional art training at CAFA, and was thoroughly steeped in the principles and history of Communist art. The complex composition and amusing caricatures of "A Crowd of Clowns" are very much a product of that careful training. In her cartoon can clearly be seen the legacy of her teacher's style (fig. 48), whose figures include slightly squared shoulders and knees and lively variations in line width, a stylistic heritage she did not reject even though Ye Qianyu was an early target of the Red Guard.

The composition of "A Crowd of Clowns" has many possible models within the academy. One that comes immediately to mind is a nianhua by


Hong Bo, former party secretary of CAFA, which was well known after its publication in the catalogue for the 1949 national exhibition (fig. 7). Twentyfive north Chinese peasants and Communist cadres parade across Hong Bo's picture in celebration of heroes of the civil war. They are arranged in a serpentine fashion, so as to leave space for each figure. Members of the varied group travel by foot, horse cart, and horseback, are garbed in peasant style or blue cotton work clothes, and carry slogan-emblazoned banners, drums, folk trumpets, and cymbals.

Just as preliberation woodcuts reworked the established iconographic forms of folk art to help Mao Zedong in propaganda battles of the 1940s, so Weng Rulan manipulated icons of early Communist art to attack the CCP's ousted leaders on Mao's behalf. The first of the thirty-nine figures in "A Crowd of Clowns" is Lu Dingyi, director of the CCP Propaganda Department and minister of culture. \ beats a broken drum that emits noises such as "dogmatism," "pragmatism," and "simplification." Wu Han, Liao Mosha, and Deng Tuo, who had been attacked for criticizing Mao in their writings, follow. Deposed viceminister of culture Xia Yan blows a trumpet that sounds "The 30s"; he stands alongside Zhou Yang, whose own trumpet urges "The Wang Ming Line" Literature of National Defense," and "Oppose Lu Xun." Each figure is labeled and satirized. The playwright Tian Han wears a Peking opera robe, the collar of which is embroidered with the word "antiparty." General Luo Ruiqing, whose leg is in a cast, is carried in a basket. (Luo broke his leg the previous year in an unsuccessful suicide leap from a building.)[83]

Wang Guangmei, Liu Shaoqi's wife, rides a bicycle in the high heels, sheath dress, and jewelry for which the Red Guard ridiculed her.[84] A book, The Sayings of Chairman Liu , rests on the front of her bicycle, and a pile of hats on the rear. The hats are labeled "counterrevolutionary, true rightist," "false leftist," "antiparty type," and so forth. Marshall He Long stands behind her, depicted with exaggerated emphasis on his hairy chest, arms, and mustache. He wears Peking opera flags on his back that bear the "If the father's a hero" slogan, and thus is portrayed as a 'supporter of the "bloodlines" Red Guard group. Following in sedan chairs are Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping, and their supporters. Deng plays bridge with cards that read "king" and "work teams."

The ridicule of purged party leaders had a venerable history by the time Weng made her poster. Her work, in fact, treats her subject much more mildly than some humorless cartoons of 1955, which portray the disgraced Hu Feng as a thoroughly evil tiger or villain. Nevertheless, "A Crowd of Clowns" makes a statement relevant to Red Guard factionalism as well as to high-level politics. Trailing behind the last purged leader are a ragged line of small figures carrying the tattered flags of rival rebel groups: West Guard, East Guard, United


Action Committee (UAC), Red Flag Army, and so forth.[85] These groups were all associated with the slogan "If the father's a hero, the son's a real man; if the father's a counterrevolutionary, the son's a bastard." The flags on He Long's back that bear this slogan are thus an intentional irony, for his son was a UAC leader.[86] In this way the young Red Guard activist was attacked with what amounted to his own slogan, for once his venerable father had been condemned, he had no choice but to assume the bastard label himself. According to Gao Gao and Yan Jiaqi, the conflict between the UAC, a group composed largely of children of high officials, and other Red Guard groups, who had overthrown these same officials, reached its height on about May 29, 1967, at anniversary celebrations for the founding of the Red Guard.[87]

Not only was Weng Rulan's placard made available to workers in Beijing, but it was also posted throughout the city's diplomatic district. It was even mailed to foreign purchasers of Chinese books and periodicals, the source of the version reproduced here. Such wide distribution marked a great publicity victory for the Red Guard faction with which the artist was affiliated.

Many of the published works from the early years of the Cultural Revolution were painted for one of the many Red Guard-organized exhibitions. Some former Red Guard artists have even suggested that the organization of Beijing exhibitions was factionalized, with specific Red Guard groups taking charge of each. The idea seems reasonable in light of the extreme animosity that developed between the groups, though most former Red Guard claim that loyalty to Chairman Mao outweighed factional attachments. For important exhibitions, then, competing factions might cooperate. The important May 28 exhibition at the Chinese National Art Gallery opened during the worst struggles for control of the Red Guard Congress, but no traces of the factional conflict appear in Art Storm .

The Red Guard, inspired by the cult of Mao Zedong and guided by Jiang Qing, set out to construct a new pictorial history for the People's Republic of China, one that dramatized Mao's revolutionary role and minimized that of most other Communist leaders. A publication of the period asserts: "It is Chairman Mao who points the correct direction for the revolutionary literary and art workers. It is Comrade Jiang Qing, courageous standard-bearer of the great Cultural Revolution, who persists along Chairman Mao's revolutionary line in literature and art and leads the proletarian revolutionaries in these fields in creating model revolutionary productions for the stage."[88]

One well-publicized exhibition of the period was "Long Live the Victory of Chairman Mao's Revolutionary Line," which opened at the Chinese National Art Gallery on October 1, 1967, and subsequently toured the nation. Sixteen hundred works were exhibited, of which 60 percent were by workers, peasants, and soldiers.[89] Presumably, then, 40 percent of the works were by professionals. Chairman Mao' s Heart Beats as One with the Hearts of the Rev-


olutionary Masses (fig. 110), an oil painting prepared for this exhibition, is believed to have been painted primarily by CAFA faculty and students aligned with the Revolutionary Alliance/Red Flag group.

An event that proved unexpectedly significant for artists nationwide was "Mao Zedong's Thought Illuminates the Anyuan Worker's Movement" (Mao Zedong sixiang guanghui zhaoliang Anyuan gongren geming yundong ), a didactic exhibition that opened in October 1967 and for which the Cultural Revolution icon Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan was painted (fig. 116).[91] The exhibition was organized at the Museum of Revolutionary History by the national labor union. Most of the historical displays were prepared by professors of party history and students from People's University and Beijing University. A small group of artists was invited to prepare paintings of the seven journeys Chairman Mao made to Anyuan. These artists have been associated with the Sky faction of CAFA and CAAC by participants and observers sympathetic to that group.

The political purpose of this activity was more explicit than in the preceding exhibition, for the show was part of an intensified campaign to discredit Liu Shaoqi. As Art Storm indicated some months earlier, the purge of Mao's chosen successor meant that history paintings such as Dong Xiwen's Founding of the Nation , with its prominent image of Liu Shaoqi, and Hou Yimin's Liu Shaoqi and the Anyuan Coal Miners were inappropriate for display. The exhibition in fact sought to redefine the iconography of China's revolutionary history by replacing Liu with Mao as the primary organizer of the important 1922 coal miners' strike.

Many of the most enthusiastic Red Guard were not yet mature artists, and the tasks they set themselves were sometimes quite difficult. Yet because most of the works were collaborative, in the collective spirit of the time, assistance from professionals was usually available. In many cases, an older, more experienced artist would advise a Red Guard artist. The vast majority of works published during this period, like Weng Rulan's placard and the posters by Sun Jingbo and Jiang Tiefeng, did not even bear the artists' names. Personal reputation was considered unimportant in the idealistic fervor of the time.

One remarkable exception to the convention of anonymity was Liu Chunhua's oil painting Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan (fig. 116). Liu Chunhua, a college student at the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts, had graduated from the Lu Xun Academy of Art middle school in Shenyang. Although not trained as an oil painting specialist, he was thoroughly schooled in the fundamentals of drafting and color and had received some recognition for his pencil drawing while still in middle school. He was assigned to prepare one of the seven portraits of Mao for the historical exhibition, depicting the young Mao's earliest visit to Anyuan in 1921.

The paintings for the exhibition were created in a collective studio set up


in the museum. A fellow participant has described with some sympathy Liu's intense anxiety as the exhibition date drew close and he remained unsatisfied with his image. Indeed, he was still working in the gallery when the exhibition opened, and later complained that spectators stepped on his palette. It is widely rumored that Liu's work was collaborative, having been heavily retouched by older artists, especially one Soviet-trained professor. The alleged ghost-painter, who was then working in the museum on a mural project organized by the State Council, emphatically denies such stories, pointing out that Liu's middle school art training was completely adequate to his task. And in fact, although the young artist received a great deal of advice from fellow artists and exhibition organizers, the painting was entirely executed by his hand.[92]

The painting's pedigree would not inspire such interest if it were not for the official response it received. Jiang Qing saw a photograph of the work in 1967 as part of an application to publish it. She requested that a viewing be held at Zhongnanhai, after which she decided it was a suitable model for Cultural Revolution art. The following year, People's Daily distributed a color reproduction nationwide. Parades and festivals were organized to commemorate the publication, with pretty girls in new blue overalls dancing in front of multiple reproductions of the picture.[93] By the fall of 1968 it was institutionalized as a model painting and copied by aspiring artists throughout China. Interestingly, very few artists outside the artist's Red Guard faction and the rather small group then employed on projects in the historical museum recall seeing the painting at the time it was first exhibited. With the publicity blitz of 1968, however, almost every Chinese with even the remotest interest in art became aware of Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan .[94] The artist believes that nine hundred million copies were eventually printed.[95]

Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan appears to express the young artist's veneration for Chairman Mao. At any rate, it became a useful contribution to his cult, for it possesses clear devotional appeal. The radiant, youthful Mao Zedong stands contemplatively on a mountain path, looking as though his destination was St. Peter's Pearly Gates rather than a coal mine. Indeed, the classically schooled artist claims to have taken his inspiration from a Raphael Madonna. The practical business of revising the standard historical account by replacing Liu Shaoqi with Mao Zedong as the mastermind of the famous strike might present difficulties even if the young artist believed, as he did, in the ideological accuracy of the newly simplified history. This work avoids concrete problems concerning who did what when by severing the genre of history painting from its mundane ties to an identifiable physical setting. It doesn't matter where Mao is or what he is doing, for the transcendent nobility of his cause and character are clear.

A more immediate source for the composition than Raphael might have been contemporary Chinese oil painting in the Soviet manner. The artist Jin


Image not available

Figure 116
Liu Chunhua, Chairman Mao Goes to
Anyuan, ca. 1967, oil on canvas.

Shangyi had earlier adapted the portrait genre to the demands of history painting with his Mao Zedong at the December Conference of 1961 (fig. 75), in which Mao appears against a plain red background. His Long March of 1964 similarly portrayed Mao against an extremely generalized landscape ground.[96]Long March was widely exhibited and studied by young artists until, on the eve of the Cultural Revolution, it was criticized and suppressed for its inadequately bright colors. In the spring of 1966, Jin completed another portrait, Chairman Mao at Lu Shan (fig. 117),[97] commissioned for an exhibition in Albania. The work was widely reproduced and copied during the early years of


Image not available

Figure 117
Jin Shangyi, Chairman Mao at Lu Shah,
1966, oil on canvas.

the Cultural Revolution. As in Liu's work, Mao is depicted alone, against a panoramic landscape. Thus, although Liu Chunhua's composition and concept may have sources in European and Soviet art, they are most closely related to those of such well-known Chinese artists as Jin Shangyi.

Although Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan was affirmed by Cultural Revolution authorities as an icon of the new art, its links to earlier academic art stand out more than do its innovations. Features of Liu's work that became characteristic of Cultural Revolution art include Mao's exaggerated eyebrows, his smooth face, and the artificially arranged clouds, which allow nature to


echo Mao's movements.[98] Yet all these may be found in earlier art. Characters in Railroad Guerrillas (fig. 47), for example, have similar fierce eyebrows, Jin Shangyi's portraits have equally smooth surfaces, and The Founding of the Nation has kindred artificial cloud formations. As Zhang Shaoxia and Li Xiaoshan note, it is a rather ordinary picture,[99] though fairly successful for a student work.

By the end of the Cultural Revolution, it had become conventional to speak of portraits and pictures of Chairman Mao in religious terms, as though they actually embodied a god. Zhang and Li refer sarcastically to Liu Chunhua's picture as a "divine image" (baoxiang ). An elderly in-law of mine was severely criticized for having lined a chicken cage with a newspaper image of Chairman Mao.[100] To remove a formal portrait from the wall was referred to as "inviting the portrait of Chairman Mao to descend."[101] The festivities surrounding publication of Liu Chunhua's painting in 1968 appeared to deify the image of Chairman Mao, that is, to treat it as though it were inhabited by the divinity himself. In one of the many ironies of artistic life in China, Wu Guanzhong, a French-trained professor at the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts, was required to "improve" his art and ideology by copying Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan , a work painted by one of his students.[102]

As Maurice Meisner has observed, by 1968 the cult of Mao had shifted from the iconoclasm of the Red Guard movement, here exemplified by the work of Weng Rulan, to the production of icons.[103] Liu Chunhua's Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan , so prominently published in the second half of 1968, was the most important pictorial manifestation of this trend.

The nature of art exhibitions in the capital reveals a similar development. According to Red Guard recollections, in 1967 there was an exhibition called "The Accomplishments of the Military Struggles of the Red Guard" (Hong-weibing zhandou chengji zhanlan ). The subjects of the displays included Red Guard ransacking people's homes, Red Guard criticizing and humiliating people for political incorrectness, and Red Guard expressing solidarity with the third world, including pictures of Red Guard with Africans and people of other nations. Other exhibitions were held to criticize specific government leaders. By early 1968, when a show referred to as the "Red Sun" Exhibition was held at the Chinese National Art Gallery, the subject had shifted decisively to heroic moments in the biography of Chairman Mao.[104]

Labor Reform

The chaos of 1967 and 1968, which threatened the nation with civil war, led to a crackdown against activism. The art world Red Guard had split decisively


over the leadership of the newly formed revolutionary committees. In July 1968, Mao personally asked Red Guard groups to disband. Those that failed to comply with his request were soon crushed by the army. On July 28, 1968, armed strife at CAFA was finally ended by a work team of soldiers and workers who were sent to occupy the academy. The factionalism was by that time irreversible.[105] The campus remained under military control until the mid-1970s.

The earlier street battles were soon attributed to an antigovernment plot organized by the shadowy May 16 Corps. Red Guard activists, including some artists from CAFA and CAAC, were arrested, detained, and investigated on the pretext of May 16 partisanship.[106] With this turn of affairs, young artists were, like their teachers, prevented from painting. In 1968 and 1969, all high school graduates were sent to labor in the countryside.

By March 1969, the CAFA middle school students were assigned to a labor camp in Yuxian, northern Hebei, not far from the Beijing suburbs. They worked a five-and-a-half-day week, but most found that they could spend at least part of one day painting. The soldiers who ran their camp did not understand art; even so, they had not been instructed to prohibit it. Within the constraints of their rural isolation, therefore, the art students were relatively free. One high school student describes this time as the greatest artistic freedom he had ever experienced, for there were no teachers to prohibit his experiments in forbidden styles.[107] Nevertheless, this was private art, for the former Red Guard were now largely excluded from public discourse.

Some older artists also found the disorganized late 1960s and early 1970s a time for private art. The Shanghai guohua painter and administrator Cheng Shifa, for example, painted a beautiful landscape album in his long hours at home before he was sent to labor camp (fig. 118). The pictures were small, so that they could be hidden quickly if someone came to his door. Indeed, the remarkable development of Cheng's work during this period appears to be a result of his forced idleness. Such art was an art for personal appreciation, painted secretly and, beyond its size limitations, without thought of bureaucratic constraints and standards. It has been recognized as one of the artist's best works.[108]

On May 9, 1970, Zhou Enlai ordered art and literature workers to military camps in the countryside. Although some CAFA faculty members, such as Ye Qianyu, remained imprisoned in Beijing, most CAFA professors and staff members were sent on May 20 to two villages in Cixian, Hebei, where they were rigorously supervised by the 1584th Army and were not permitted to paint. They were also prohibited from speaking to local peasants, who therefore came to believe that the artists were convicts. Students had been sent the preceding year to a similar camp at Zhangjiakou. A skeletal staff under Zhang Qiren's direction was left to watch over the empty campus.[109] If Beijing artists


Image not available

Figure 118
Cheng Shifa, Views from Diancong
Mountain, "Leaning Pine Tree," album
leaf, ink and color on paper, 24. 1 cm ×
17.7 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

were typical, most professional artists were thus removed from the art world. One wonders who was expected to create the icons of the new age.

The problems that the central government had brought upon itself, including the partial destruction of the very framework of government, returned the art establishment to a relatively primitive stage. Indeed, the art world of the late 1960s resembles in some ways that of the period immediately following the Communist victory. Were it not for the seriousness of the Cultural Revolution's effects on individual lives, one might even view it as a parody of the


1949 revolution. The old art establishment and its bureaucratic structures were pushed aside. Artistic activity, as in the early liberation period, was often organized on an ad hoc basis, and was devoted entirely to propaganda. Most artists spent their time in thought reform and had little leisure to paint. Soon, however, special commissions and directives from above gave the politically privileged an opportunity to emerge.

Moreover, as had been the case in the early 1950s, disorganization yielded flexibility. As long as a young artist could avoid being singled out for political condemnation, many opportunities for artistic activity and recognition were available, particularly in regional centers. In the late 1960s, for example, there was a nationwide movement to build shrines to Chairman Mao. Oil painters were sought to create hagiographic images for the new historical museums, which were constructed on the sites of Mao's important biographical moments.[110] Eventually the movement was expanded to include revolutionary martyrs, including the Canadian physician Norman Bethune,[111] who had perished while helping Chinese Communist troops.[112] Artists known to be capable of such work would be "borrowed" from their own work unit, which was usually at labor in the countryside, and given food and housing for the duration of the project. While most such works were displayed and published anonymously, the identities of the creators of successful paintings were well known within the art community.

Gradually, governmental structures were reestablished to fulfill the functions of those that had been destroyed. Many newly appointed officials were young. In Hangzhou, Zhang Yongsheng, a student in the printmaking department of the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts, had organized the largest rebel faction of Red Guard in the province. On this basis, he became the vice-director of the Zhejiang Provincial Revolutionary Committee and the director of the Revolutionary Committee of ZAFA. In these roles, he held a high position in the new provincial government and became de facto director of the academy. He met Jiang Qing in 1968, which resulted in collaboration between the school and the central Cultural Revolution authorities, as we will discuss further in the next section.[113]

The Shanghai Art World

There were profound regional differences in arts administration during the unsettled period before 1971. In Shanghai, propaganda publications and newspapers dominated artistic activity. When the Shanghai Art College was closed in 1965, the students were transferred to the Handicrafts Institute, administered by the Bureau of Light Industry. The Oil Painting and Sculpture Studio


(OPSS), similar to the institution Jiang Feng's supporters had demanded in 1957, was established as the new work unit for the school's faculty and graduates. The studio, like all other institutions, divided into Red Guard and ox-demons/snake-spirits in 1966. Young artists, like their colleagues in Beijing, painted posters, murals, portraits of Chairman Mao, and large compositions for Red Guard exhibitions. As part of the free travel available to the Red Guard in 1966, many journeyed to Beijing to see Chairman Mao and around the country to exchange accounts of their experiences.[114]

Older artists, like those in Beijing, were persecuted. One of the three primary Red Guard targets in the Shanghai art world was the Catholic sculptor Zhang Chongren, then working at OPSS, who received a severe beating.[115] Red Guard from the studio also participated in or observed attacks on the Shanghai Chinese Painting Institute, which had supplied guohua instructors for the Shanghai Art School. The militants forced the reclusive prewar director of the Hangzhou academy, Lin Fengmian, whose painting technique was considered unusual, to paint in front of a public audience. Although the event was organized to humiliate Lin, one former Red Guard artist confesses to somewhat opportunistic and unrevolutionary motives: he was intensely curious about the old man's painting methods.[116] The third focus of Red Guard persecution was another prominent art educator, painter, and rightist, Liu Haisu.

As in Beijing, artists from the Oil Painting and Sculpture Studio who were not in prison were sent, by 1969, to labor at the May Seventh Cadre School, as their labor camp in the Shanghai suburbs was called.[117] They stayed in the suburbs for most of the period 1969-1971, but the majority of artists found opportunities to visit the city. With the administrative structure somewhat streamlined by the collapse of the art bureaucracy, the studio came under the administration of the Art Creation Office of the city's Propaganda Small Group, organizations that had replaced the municipal branch of the Chinese Artists Association and the Municipal Propaganda Bureau, respectively.[118]

Although art periodicals had ceased publication, the major Shanghai newspapers, which were also administered by the Propaganda Small Group, continued to function. Some young artists used their trips to town to cultivate editors at the newspapers. Before long, the papers began to seek revolutionary paintings for reproduction in their pages. In 1969, for example, a young amateur named Xu Chunzhong was commissioned to paint a gouache illustration in black and white for an important article in Jiefang ribao (Liberation Daily ) about the heroic death of a Shanghai student, Jin Xunhua, who had been sent to labor in Heilongjiang. Jin died while attempting to prevent timber from being swept away in a flood. Whereas it might have been more appropriate to launch an occupational safety campaign, instead it was considered highly desirable that the Shanghai-born Jin be depicted as a martyr by another Shanghai-born rusticated youth. Xu was assisted in his task by a young profes-


sional artist from the OPSS, Chen Yifei, and the work was published under the pseudonym Yi Zhong (fig. 119). According to Chen Yifei's colleagues, it was decided by top Cultural Revolution administrators to promote Jin Xunhua as a national model of selfless sacrifice. The newspaper's former art editor recalled in 1990 that the aim of Zhang Chunqiao, who controlled the paper (and who was later castigated as one of the Gang of Four), was to create a second model painting to compete with Liu Chunhua's Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan . After Yao Wenyuan, another Cultural Revolution leader, saw the new Shanghai image printed in Jiefang ribao , he took the unusual step of publishing a color reproduction of it in Hongqi (Red Flag ), a national ideology magazine. For this purpose, the black-and-white image was tinted by the publisher. The two artists later recreated it in oil for publication as a poster (the form reproduced here), which ensured them a measure of celebrity in artistic and party circles.

Shanghai artists believe that promotion of the work had a strong element of local chauvinism and that Shanghai authorities hoped to create a national model similar to Beijing's Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan . In fact, although the image never attained the status of Liu Chunhua's iconic portrait, it was one of the best-known works of the new revolutionary martyr genre. In this recon-stitution of an old formula, the heroes were urban youths who had sacrificed their lives for the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Artists in Shanghai frequently refer to recognition of this sort as an artist's "political capital," which might be used to protect him in future political movements and to promote his career. A similar work was published soon after by Liu Borong, a Shanghai student who had been sent to farm in Jiangxi. He obtained a commission on one of his home leaves to depict eleven students who were killed while cultivating tea in Anhui. The artist's "political capital" subsequently garnered him an appointment as a professional artist in the People's Liberation Army.[119] He was very active in exhibitions of the 1970s.

The two Shanghai newspapers, Wenhuibao and Jiefang ribao , similarly competed for official recognition with increasingly ambitious commissions. Artists were "borrowed" from the May Seventh Cadre School campus and housed for about a year in the newspaper facilities while they completed revolutionary commissions. Wenhuibao conceived the idea of an "oil painting revolution," which meant that artists would create paintings based on scenes from Jiang Qing's model operas. About ten artists were recruited for the model opera series;[120] three were graduates of the Shanghai Art College, four more were young professors at the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts,[121] and two were amateurs. Their works were originally intended to be collaborative, but the artists soon discovered that the results of a ten-man collaboration were inevitably poor. They then divided the work, each artist painting in a mutually agreed-upon style. Eventually, it became possible for one artist to receive credit


Image not available

Figure 119
Yi Zhong (Chen Yifei and Xu Chun-
zhong), "Chairman Mao's Red Guard
Study the Model Revolutionary Youth,
Comrade Jin Xunhua," 1969, poster.


for a piece, as occurred with Red Detachment of Women , painted by the Soviet-trained Quan Shanshi.

Art staffers of Jiefang ribao similarly commissioned a series of images based on Jiang Qing's favorite piano concerto, Yellow River . Artists in this group also included graduates and students from the Shanghai Art College. Participants are explicit about their goals during the period: they aimed to please the leadership. For art, that leadership was controlled by Jiang Qing and her extremist allies. Unfortunately for the Yellow River artists, the timing of their project's conclusion found the leadership preoccupied with other artistic activities, and the series failed to receive much critical notice, even with its

1973 exhibition at the Chinese National Art Gallery in Beijing.[122] Although these works have had little lasting significance, they were extremely important as cultural propaganda in their time, for they were among the very few officially sanctioned paintings produced between 1967 and 1971. They provided evidence, such as it was, that the Cultural Revolution had not eradicated pictorial art completely.

Reconstruction of the National Bureaucracy

The Ministry of Culture, the Central Propaganda Department, and the Chinese Artists Association, the party and government organizations responsible for art before 1966, were abolished by the Cultural Revolution. By about 1970, their functions were assumed by a culture group under the State Council. Jiang Qing, as director of this group, was the highest authority on cultural matters. Art activities were directed by Wang Mantian, one of the ten directors of the cultural group. Wang, who is reported to have killed herself when Jiang Qing was arrested in 1976, remains a shadowy figure. She is believed to have been a relative of Wang Hairong, who served for many years as Mao's English interpreter, and to have studied art at the Lu Xun Academy of Art in Yan'an.[123] She served before the Cultural Revolution as a member of the Tianjin Municipal Party Committee.

In 1970, as the reconstruction of government began, plans for national exhibitions were made. Artists recall that works for a national military exhibition were prepared in Wuhan during the summer and fall of 1971. For this purpose, professional artists and curators were summoned to the city. Plans were somewhat disrupted by the mysterious disappearance of Mao's successor, Lin Biao, on September 13, 1971, although painters were not told the reason for sudden orders to cease work on his portraits.[124] Much later, China's citizens learned the official story: his plane had crashed as he attempted to flee to the Soviet Union.


At about the same time, Wang Mantian began planning for a 1972 exhibition to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of Mao's Yan'an Talks. Perhaps influenced by Jiang Qing's favorable reception of Zhang Yongsheng, the ZAFA Red Guard who had risen to great political heights,[125] she held a meeting at the Zhejiang academy to discuss procedures for organizing the exhibition. A young oil painting instructor, Gao Jingde, came to her attention. Soon after, Wang began assembling an administrative team to structure the show. She transferred Gao Jingde, along with a man from the Shanghai publishing industry and a naval administrator, to Beijing as administrators. By 1971 the Shanghai man had departed, and Gao was promoted to direct a newly established art group, which reported directly to Wang Mantian and the culture group of the State Council. Assistants, most of whom were young graduates of CAFA, were assigned to work with Gao.

Gao Jingde visited all provinces and major art institutions in the country with the goal of assembling an unprecedented national exhibition to promote the thought of Chairman Mao. Although worker-peasant-soldier art remained extremely important, Gao sought high technical standards, in contrast to the spontaneous and disorganized artistic activity of the 1966-1970 period. A 1960 graduate of the oil painting department of ZAFA, Gao had attended lectures taught by the visiting Soviet artist A.A. Myl'nikov and was an enthusiast of Soviet socialist realist oil painting. Jiang Qing's deep aversion to traditional guohua made it natural that an oil painter would be chosen to administer the new art.

That Gao and his assistants were products of the national art academy system strongly affected the direction taken by Chinese painting in the 1970s. The 1972, 1973, and 1974 exhibitions were dominated by a narrowly defined academic style. The oil painting that Gao promoted under orders from Wang Mantian was a synthesis of the Soviet-influenced academic painting of the art colleges and the more restrictive requirements developed by Jiang Qing for the model operas. The guohua that emerged was similarly based on the new guohua figure painting developed in the academies.

A former official has described a very straightforward chain of command in which Gao was empowered by Wang Mantian and the central authorities to organize artistic activities nationwide.[126] Rather than the dual government-party structure that had been developed during the 1950s, in which political give-and-take might affect policy formulations in the art world, the governmental structure of the Cultural Revolution period was decidedly top-down. Gao, in Beijing, issued directives to provincial or municipal authorities, who conveyed and enforced them through cultural offices under their control.

In the period between his 1970 appointment and the jurying of the national exhibition in the spring of 1972, Gao met with local cultural officials throughout China. In most provinces and cities, the old Cultural Bureau still


existed, though sometimes under a new name. The Cultural Bureau was administered by the highest local organ of government, usually the provincial Cultural Revolution Committee. Gao approached each provincial committee to organize submissions for the 1972 exhibition.

His task was initially difficult, because most artists and local art experts were incarcerated or laboring in the fields. To reconstitute the national arts administration, he needed to find capable managers and educate the local authorities. He explained the goals and standards of the forthcoming exhibition and often requested the participation of specific local artists whose work was known to him from earlier periods. In many cases, Gao found that local authorities were unwilling to take responsibility for allowing professional artists to participate, for fear that such lenience might later be punished. Yet if Gao specifically requested the participation of a professional artist, his authority obliged local authorities to comply. Such artists included the guohua figure painter Liu Wenxi in Xi'an, who had been Gao's schoolmate at the Zhejiang academy;[127] Li Shaoyan and Niu Wen in Sichuan; Ya Ming, Qian Songyan, and Song Wenzhi in Nanjing; and Guan Shanyue, Li Xiongcai, and Yang Zhiguang in Guangzhou. Many of these men had been mentioned unfavorably in Red Guard tracts, but no evidence was ever produced to convict them of crimes.

The guidelines Gao established for professional participation specified that artists who had not been formally convicted of crimes should be allowed to paint. On this basis, the many artists who were incarcerated as a result of inconclusive investigations were liberated. Naturally, the situation varied a great deal from region to region depending on the zeal with which the local art world and local officials had assembled political charges against famous artists. A great many artists in Beijing had been formally convicted of political crimes and thus remained banished. In Guangzhou, on the contrary, established artists such as Guan Shanyue and Li Xiongcai were free to participate in the exhibition.

The former Red Guard painter Sun Jingbo, for example, a graduate of the CAFA middle school, was imprisoned for two years on suspicion of "May 16 partisanship." The investigation into his case was concluded in his favor just in time for him to participate in the exhibition. The picture Sun Jingbo painted upon his release from incarceration was A New Axi Song (fig. 120). In this image, minority girls in a remote part of Yunnan happily sing as they transplant their rice sprouts. While the picture appears to be a standard example of socialist realism, Sun recalled that the optimistic tone was entirely genuine, an expression of his happiness at returning to art after his prolonged interrogation. His joyful depiction of the subject matter and local landscape was based on observations made during his daily labor. While the choice of female agricultural laborers was appropriate as a subject, given Jiang Qing's strident


Image not available

Figure 120
Sun Jingbo, A New Axi Song, 1972, oil
on canvas, collection of the artist.

feminism, it is entirely possible that less political motives may have spurred this young artist's interest in pretty girls.

As the preceding account suggests, artists were expected to depict subjects that glorified the Cultural Revolution but that were related to their personal experiences. This trend was not new, for the graduates of Maksimov's class, as we have seen, tended to choose politically appropriate subjects of which they had some personal knowledge as well. Nevertheless, it appears that such guidelines received relatively strict interpretation during the Cultural Revolution.

The greatest number of paintings exhibited under Wang Mantian's administration were executed by amateurs. Many of these artists had been assigned to manual labor as part of a program in operation between 1968 and 1976 to send educated urban youth down to the farms and factories. Most high school graduates left home to work as manual laborers. As opposed to young art cadres like Sun Jingbo or Chen Yifei, who engaged in temporary labor reform, the rusticated urban youth anticipated permanent careers as peasants or factory laborers.

For many of those who had sufficient skill to render the ubiquitous portraits of Chairman Mao, it was clear that painting was less strenuous than


farm labor. When the Cultural Revolution authorities announced in 1971 the forthcoming exhibition to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the Yan'an Talks, some amateurs began avidly painting in their spare time. Apparently, when word was sent out that all units should gather submissions from workers, peasants, and soldiers, it was stressed that works glorifying the patriotic contributions of rusticated urban youth were particularly welcome. The dairy farmer Tang Muli will serve as our first example. For although he qualified for the exhibition because of his rural job, he was a most atypical peasant.

Rusticated Youth and the National Exhibitions

Like many artists in China, the Shanghai-born Tang Muli began painting as a child. From the age of six, Tang attended extracurricular art classes at a local children's palace. Children's palaces, established for the supplemental education of elementary school students, were one component of a system intended to broaden China's cultural activities, followed by youth palaces for middle school students, worker's cultural palaces for industrial and other workers, and cultural halls for the masses in general. They were organized by the municipality—in Tang's case, Shanghai—or by the local urban district. Tang studied for a total of six years in these institutions, first at the local children's palace and then at the youth palace. Most of the children represented in local, national, and international exhibitions of children's art were children's palace students. Tang Muli recalls that one of his watercolors was exhibited in Australia when he was in fifth or sixth grade.[128]

Tang decided during middle school that he wished to become a physicist and began doggedly studying mathematics and English. He dropped his extra-curricular art classes in order to prepare for the difficult college entrance examinations. He sought to enter Qinghua University in Beijing, an appropriate step for a student graduating from Shanghai's most prestigious high school. Unfortunately for his scientific career, the launching of the Cultural Revolution the spring he was scheduled to graduate led to the cancellation of the college entrance examinations.

Tang Muli's father, a prominent film director, was attacked early in the movement. Like many young people, Tang was afraid to return to his family's apartment when his school was closed, for his home had been invaded and ransacked by the Red Guard, who then beat and incarcerated his father. The faculty and staff of his school had largely disbanded, leaving Tang and his classmates unsupervised on campus. They took over the classrooms as living quarters and, for the next year and a half, passed their days in political study,


which included practicing the calligraphy and painting with which they copied the poems of Chairman Mao and rendered pictorial images of his life and work.

In 1968, workers were sent into China's schools to restore order. It was decided that all schools should arrange manual labor in the countryside for their graduates. All over the country, educational institutions, individual administrators, and the students themselves vied to display their loyalty to Chairman Mao by executing the policy as quickly and comprehensively as possible. Tang Muli was sent to work as a laborer on a dairy farm in the Shanghai suburbs, a position that was intended to be permanent.

He worked six days a week shoveling fodder, which had been dumped on the ground by a delivery truck, into a wheel barrow for transport to the barn. At first the aspiring scientist made suggestions for improving the efficiency of the laborious procedure, such as dumping the fodder in more convenient locations. Such ideas, however, were viewed as the product of a lazy and insufficiently Maoist mentality; he soon learned that to be judged a success, he must simply work longer and harder than those old farm hands who were supposed to judge him. The primary goal of his job, namely, was not high productivity, but the reform of his ideology through physical labor. In addition to a full six-day workweek, he, like all farmers, spent four evenings a week in Communist political classes and one Sunday a month on extra labor duty. As political movements came, one after the other, people spent an enormous amount of energy simply trying to understand them in order to avoid being attacked. During this period Tang's only free hours were his three Sundays a month and the two evenings a week when political classes were not held.

Tang's scientific ambitions collapsed with his lifetime assignment as a fodder shoveler, but he began to analyze possible ways to escape the monotony of his daily routine. He ultimately decided that painting would be a good way to enrich his life; moreover, it had some potential as an alternative career. Although he had abandoned his formal art studies some years before, he still retained much of his interest and basic training. Art had two further advantages: it required no state support—pencil and paper was all he needed to begin—and it was relatively unperilous. Tang reasoned that in visual art, unlike literature, it was possible to avoid expression of potentially dangerous personal opinions. And unlike music, which by virtue of its sound was unavoidably public in the communal living standards of the time, art could be practiced with relatively little outside interference.

Every morning and evening Tang worked on his basic technique. He drew still lifes in his dormitory and studied textbooks used at CAFA. He emulated the Russian academic drawings of V.I. Surikov (1848-1916) and analyzed successful contemporary Chinese paintings to extract their technical methods. On Sundays he visited old classmates from the youth palace who had become


professional artists. He heard from them about Cultural Revolution art classes on the correct method of painting portraits of Chairman Mao. From his classmates he learned the new technical requirements: pure red should be used to paint the face, burnt sienna for shading, and yellow ochre for highlights. He was warned that blue and green must never be used on the face and that the paint squeezed on one's palette should be organized in a specific order, with cool colors in the least accessible spot. Mao's face was to be divisible into three equal sections, and his pigmentation to follow the chromatic sequence on a color chart issued for that purpose.

During the next several years, Tang spent most of his spare time making drawings of his own hands and face in order to improve his rendering. In 1971, he submitted his first oil painting, Milk Maid , to be juried for the 1972 national exhibition (fig. 121).[129] The cultural leadership particularly encouraged the exhibition of works by peasant, worker, or soldier artists that related to their jobs. Tang Muli, now a peasant, depicted a healthy dairy farmer surrounded by cows.

Once Tang's artistic talent had been recognized by the acceptance of Milk Maid in the preliminary local exhibition, the Municipal Art Creation Office, the highest art agency in the city, requested that the dairy farm loan Tang out for other art projects. The farm declined on the grounds that his labor was needed. Soon, though, it asked him to replace the weathered billboard inside the farm's entrance with a new portrait of Chairman Mao. He scraped the billboard down to bare metal, then applied a rust-protective primer, and finally, with several assistants, began snapping powdered strings on the surface to create the grid necessary for enlarging the standard photograph of the Great Helmsman.

As Tang Muli grew more comfortable with the scale of such work, he began looking for ways to improve his efficiency. He learned that he could dispense with the time-consuming step of applying the grid if he attached his brush to a long pole and painted freehand. With this innovation he no longer needed to rely on assistants for this basic preparatory step and could begin work more quickly. His unorthodox method was fascinating to the peasants, and he soon began attracting crowds of spectators. The factory next door requested that he paint a new portrait for their billboard; soon other work units in the neighborhood followed their lead. Tang prided himself on painting quickly, normally completing a billboard within a week. He was not paid for his work, but was freed from farm labor and received three free meals a day for the duration of a project. His speed and reliability were appreciated by the meal-providing units. As his reputation spread, he was "borrowed" by all twelve dairy farms in the system, and then by chicken farms and other agricultural units in the same administration. He ultimately spent an entire year painting huge portraits of Chairman Mao, with occasional variations, such as


Image not available

Figure 121
Tang Muli, Milk Maid, 1971, oil on


Image not available

Figure 122.
Tang Muli, Acupuncture Anesthesia,
1972, oil on canvas, 165 cm × 229 cm

enlargements of Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan and other officially recognized model pictures. Tang Muli's chief reward for his painting was respite from backbreaking physical labor and better meals than his small monthly salary allowed him to purchase.

In 1972, Tang was commissioned by the health service to prepare a picture about acupuncture's usefulness as an anesthetic in surgery. The preceding year, a health worker had submitted a painting on this topic for exhibition in the same show Tang Muli had entered with Milk Maid . Although art officials were pleased with acupuncture as a subject, they found the picture to be technically inept. When the hospital was unable to find anyone on its own staff who could do better, guidelines were waived to allow Tang Muli, the dairy farmer, to paint a picture of health workers. The dairy farm objected, again on the grounds that Tang was needed to load fodder. Tang ultimately agreed to paint at the hospital in the evenings, after completing his daily farm work. He usually slept at the hospital and went to the farm early every morning.

The final version, Acupuncture Anesthesia (fig. 122), was a relatively successful product of the "unity of the three." In such collaboration, a worker was


expected to evaluate the correctness of the revolutionary statement, a cadre would speak for the bureaucracy, and a doctor would guarantee professional accuracy. Tang's picture involved at least five decision makers, for the hospital worker who made the first version and Tang Muli himself participated in the discussions as well. Every aspect of the composition was thus approved by the entire group, with Tang, as the artist, simply the mechanism by which the collaborative work came to fruition.

Some issues were very straightforward. The model for the main figure, the nurse, was expected to be the most politically correct worker on the staff rather than the most aesthetically pleasing, and was chosen by the hospital administration. It was decided that the theme would be lung surgery and that the patient would smile to indicate the efficacy of acupuncture as an anesthetic.

Surgical regulations contradicted the standards expected in Cultural Revolution art and made other decisions more difficult. One problem was how to depict the carefully selected model nurse. Artistic conventions required that she smile to show her enjoyment of her work, but hospital regulations decreed that she must wear a surgical mask. It was decided to omit the mask—thus weighting political concerns more heavily than professional ones. Professional regulations presented practical problems as well, for they prohibited the use of sketchpads in the operating room. Tang was given permission to work from photographs, which was normally frowned upon by arts leaders. A similar problem arose over the questions of Mao buttons and political posters, all of which were prohibited as unhygienic in the operating room. Normally, one would not venture out in public without a Mao button pinned to one's jacket and Mao's little red book visible in one's breast pocket. It was suggested that Mao buttons be added to the surgical scrub suits in Tang's painting, for even though scrub suits were not worn in public, the artwork was intended for public display. In the end, however, the group decided to omit the Mao buttons and political slogans from the painting. This victory for professionalism over politics yielded a relatively uncluttered, cool, and precise composition. It was considered very daring by the art world of the time.[130]

Acupuncture Anesthesia was well received when exhibited in Shanghai in the spring of 1972. At this point, the higher authorities succeeded in borrowing Tang from the dairy farm so that he could work full time on a final version to be shown in the national exhibition in the fall of 1972. The process by which this painting came into being was standard for the period. Many works eventually exhibited in the national exhibition involved collaboration not only in applying the paint but also in developing the ideas. The most scrupulous local officials attached the name of a work unit rather than an individual to the painting. The pseudonym Qin Wenmei, for example, was used for many collaborative works produced by artists in Xi'an, Shaanxi.[131]

In 1973, Tang's artistic success led to his transfer from the dairy farm to


another work unit in the agricultural system, the Shanghai Agricultural Exhibition Hall. Although this move allowed him to leave the farm and to assume duties parallel to those of a commercial artist in the West, he was still technically classified as a worker rather than as a cadre, the higher status granted to most professional artists. In this new position he was responsible for making political posters, illustrations, leaflets, and portraits of Chairman Mao. He worked at this job until 1978, when he sat successfully for the graduate oil painting examination at the Central Academy of Fine Arts and became a professional artist.

National Exhibitions of 1972-1975

The 1972 exhibition, the first official exhibition of the Cultural Revolution, was unprecedented in both organization and the nature of the works exhibited. Beginning in 1971, Gao Jingde visited the local art centers twice, first for the difficult task of initiating exhibition submissions and later to survey progress. As a result of his discussions with local leaders, artists were returned from farms and factories to their studios to prepare submissions. Many recall that the revival of official sponsorship for art, restrictive though it was, and the liberation of artists from their years of manual labor led artists to work diligently and even enthusiastically on their paintings. By the time works were shipped to Beijing in March 1972, Gao Jingde was confident that his standards would be met.

A jury of well-known professional artists, including the printmaker Gu Yuan, the illustrator Shao Yu, and the cartoonist Ying Tao, was formed to make the final selection from the large numbers of pictures submitted by provincial authorities. However, the dual mandate of high technical standards and "serving the people" led to an odd combination of professional and amateur works. Despite Gao's efforts to include some professional artists, the Cultural Revolution's emphasis on proletarian art by workers, peasants, and soldiers ensured that most of the successful submissions were by amateurs.

The inherent contradiction between the technically weak but politically correct entries of workers, peasants, and soldiers, on the one hand, and Gao's mandate to seek high standards, on the other, was resolved by forming "painting correction groups." In this system, a prominent young oil painting professional accompanied the paintings submitted by each major geographic region when they were shipped to the capital. When an amateur work that might have interesting subject matter but was poorly painted was criticized by jury members, officials, and other artists, the professional from the artist's own region would "correct" it, simply repainting problematic sections. If the officials


still found the work inadequate, artists from other regions might complete the repainting. Among the professionals selected for this task were the most highly skilled realists of the younger generation. They included, from Beijing, Jin Shangyi, a young oil painting professor at CAFA trained by Maksimov; from Shanghai, Chen Yifei, who had studied at the Shanghai Art College; from Wuhan, Tang Xiaohe, a graduate of the Hubei Art Academy; from Kunming, Sun Jingbo, a graduate of the CAFA middle school; from Guangzhou, Chen Yan'ning, a graduate of the Guangzhou Academy of Arts; from Qinghai, Zhu Naizheng, a talented CAFA graduate; and from Shenyang, Guang Tingbo, from the Lu Xun Academy of Art. Several other Beijing artists were tapped for special assignments. Most of the artists were recalled from labor camps or prison to participate in the exhibition.

It was widely accepted among Cultural Revolution-era artists that images of Mao should be "red, smooth, and luminescent." Many of these conventions were developed during the Red Guard art movement and go beyond any oil painting conventions imported from the Soviet Union. While Soviet socialist realism is still the most evident stylistic source for such compositions, details of color and texture may also be related to the more elegant of preliberation new year's pictures. Cool colors were to be avoided; Mao's flesh should be modeled in red and other warm tones. Conspicuous displays of brushwork should not be seen; Mao's face should be smooth in appearance. The entire composition should be bright, and should be illuminated in such a way as to imply that Mao himself was the primary source of light. If Mao were in the center of a group of people, all surfaces that faced him should appear to be illuminated. In this way, slogans such as "Mao is the sun in our hearts" could be made tangible.

He Kongde's Gutian Meeting (fig. 123), which was prominently hung in the oil painting section of the 1972 exhibition, does not specifically fulfill all the requirements of the "red, smooth, and luminescent" formulation, for the artist, unlike many graduates of Maksimov's class, never abandoned the loose, textural handling of paint common to many Soviet-trained Chinese artists. Nevertheless, he was particularly favored by the art administrators because he combined two important qualities: as a member of the People's Liberation Army, he could be considered a worker-peasant-soldier, but he was, at the same time, a professionally trained history painter. In Gutian Meeting , the artist made few concessions to Cultural Revolution styles: he did not banish cool colors from his palette, modify his rough brushwork, or employ irrational sources of illumination. Even so, the work does not contradict the underlying aesthetic of the Cultural Revolution, for red tonalities dominate, Mao is the most brightly lit figure in the composition, and the oil painting correction group repainted Mao's face so that it is more smoothly rendered than the rest of the painting.


Image not available

Figure 123
He Kongde, Gutian Meeting, 1972, oil
on canvas, 186 cm × 360 cm, Chinese
People's Revolutionary Military

The emphasis on rusticated urban youth, particularly in the 1972 oil painting exhibition, left the final selection of paintings sent to Beijing with comparatively few portraits of Chairman Mao. He Kongde's Gutian Meeting was prominently hung in the main room of the gallery in the 1972 oils show. A monumental work by the young Wuhan artists Tang Xiaohe and Cheng Li depicted Mao Zedong on the occasion of his famous 1966 swim in the Yangzi near Wuhan (plate 10). This theme became a mandatory decoration for all China's swimming pools. Gao Jingde also commissioned another, more explicitly political portrait, We Must Implement the Proletarian Cultural Revolution to the Finish (fig. 111).[132] In the interest of quality and speed, he managed to free a group of professional artists from nearby labor camps—Hou Yimin, Deng Shu, Jin Shangyi, Zhan Jianjun, Luo Gongliu, Yuan Hao, and Yang Lin'gui—to execute this reworking of a Red Guard composition discussed earlier in this chapter (fig. 110). All but one of these artists were trained in the Soviet mode and was a teacher or alumnus of CAFA. The painting lacks the fervor of the original version, but it is far more consistent in technical


quality. A major iconographic change is that the Cultural Revolution leadership has been removed from the composition so that Mao crosses the bridge alone. Zhou Enlai reportedly insisted that his own image be removed from the painting, which may have precipitated the revision. Most artists who participated in the 1972 exhibition testify to their great joy at being allowed to paint, even under such peculiar circumstances.

National exhibitions were conducted annually between 1972 and Mao's death in 1976. In 1973, the national exhibition of serial pictures and guohua was held by the State Council. Organizing the guohua section of the exhibition proved more difficult than the preparatory work for the oil painting show the previous year. First, local authorities generally believed that guohua was part of the "four olds" to be eradicated by the Cultural Revolution. Only after Gao received explicit authorization from Wang Mantian to permit guohua painting was he able to persuade local art circles to submit such works. As was the case with oil painting, a painting correction group was assembled to help prepare the exhibition. It, too, consisted of academically trained guohua painters from each of China's major regions, including: from Hangzhou, Fang Zengxian, a guohua figure painting professor at the Zhejiang academy; from Xi'an, Liu Wenxi, a graduate of the ZAFA guohua figure painting program; from Guangzhou, Wu Qizhong, a graduate of the Guangzhou academy; from Shenyang, Xu Yong, a professor at the Lu Xun academy; and from Beijing, Zhou Sicong, a graduate of the guohua figure painting program of CAFA.[133]

Faulty sections of a work painted in permanent ink on paper could not be overpainted, of course, as they might be in paint on canvas. The correctors were thus required to make new paintings based on the amateurs' compositions. Zhou Sicong, for example, recalls being assigned to fix a painting by a worker in a shoe factory. The amateur artist had attempted to depict the actress of a model opera trying on her new ballet slippers at the factory. The theme was appealing to authorities at all levels: not only did it flatter Jiang Qing and her model operas, but it also documented how the shoe factory was contributing to the Cultural Revolution. Unfortunately, the subject was difficult for an amateur to paint with any semblance of anatomical accuracy. Zhou therefore completely repainted the work, based on the worker's composition, and it was exhibited under the worker's name. The relatively few flower paintings in the exhibition had to fulfill strict iconographic requirements: because Wang Mantian found boulders, the conventional companion for blossoms in Chinese painting, unrevolutionary, their absence from Cultural Revolution guohua paintings is almost total.

The most beautiful guohua exhibited were relatively traditional: Guan Shanyue's plum painting (without rocks) and coastal landscape; and Yangzi River landscapes (with power lines or steel bridges) by the Nanjing painters


Image not available

Figure 124
Shaanxi Municipal Art Creation Group,
The Hearts of Yan'an's Children Turn
Toward Chairman Mao, 1973, ink and
color on paper.

Song Wenzhi and Wei Zixi.[134] Most typical of the period, however, was a collaborative figure painting by the Shaanxi Municipal Art Creation Group entitled The Hearts of Yan'an's Children Turn Toward Chairman Mao (fig. 124). The work bears the unmistakable stylistic traces of Liu Wenxi (b. 1933), a Xi'an artist who had been two classes ahead of Gao Jingde in art school and who served on the painting correction group, even though Liu states that it is largely the work of a little-known painter named Zhou Guangmin (b. 1938).[135] It depicts Mao receiving a group of peasants who have come to the capital from Yan'an. Since Yan'an themes were considered part of the regional


territory of Xi'an artists, the work combines two desirable subjects: a portrait of Chairman Mao and a scene based on the artist's life experience.

Trained in the caimohua socialist realist figure painting program at the East China campus of CAFA, Liu Wenxi went on to develop a personal style more closely related to the crisp nianbua aesthetic than to the xieyi aspirations of Shanghai and Hangzhou guohua painters. His guohua figures are carefully modeled with rich flesh tones and achieve a pronounced three-dimensionality. Such features are evident in figure 124. Moreover, as in Liu's own work, the garments are less heavily shaded than they might be in an oil painting, but are outlined with thick, black lines and have a similar volumetric quality. Although principles of Western perspective dominate the interior setting of figure 124, the background is paler and plainer than it might be in an oil painting. Liu was, in the heyday of this style, one of China's most technically competent socialist realist guohua figure painters, and if this painting does not come from his hand, it certainly shows his influence among Xi'an painters.

In October 1974, a large exhibition at the Chinese National Art Gallery celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the PRC. On this occasion Jiang Qing, then involved in a power struggle with the cancer-stricken Zhou Enlai, stepped up her personal involvement with the visual arts. She personally inspected the gallery before the opening of the exhibition (she did not do so for the 1972 exhibition) and spent most of one night studying the display. Members of the Politburo attended the opening, thereby giving unprecedented political importance to the event.[136]

Shen Jiawei's painting Standing Guard for Our Great Motherland (fig. 125) reportedly won Jiang Qing's enthusiastic approval.[137] Shen was, like Tang Muli, a rusticated urban youth, but because his job was on a military farm in Beidahuang he was considered a soldier. Born in 1949 in Jiaxing, Zhejiang, Shen was one of the four hundred thousand middle school graduates sent in 1968 to farm in Heilongjiang. He was assigned to the second regiment of the fourth division of the Heilongjiang Production and Construction Corps, which had its headquarters in Jiamusi. His farm, with a population of ten or twenty thousand demobilized soldiers, rightists, and rusticated urban youths, was located near the Muleng River in the eastern corner of Heilongjiang, an area of continual border conflicts with the USSR. Among the many young people in Heilongjiang were some who had aspired to enter art academies before the colleges were closed, including about thirty graduates of the CAFA middle school.

With the national leadership's decision to sponsor national art exhibitions, the authorities in Heilongjiang, like those elsewhere, began organizing painters. Hao Boyi, a young oil painter and printmaker who was himself trained by Chao Mei during the first great population influx of the Great Leap Forward,


Image not available

Figure 125
Shen Jiawei, Standing Guard for Our
Great Motherland, 1974, oil on canvas,
collection of the artist.


was assigned to recruit and supervise the young soldier-artists. In 1971, he ordered a select group of young farmers to attend an art creation class in Jiamusi.

Hao Boyi taught printmaking in the Beidahuang style, and at least one of his pupils has gone on to become a professional printmaker.[138] Students who wished to work in other media experimented and taught one another. The program continued for the next five years, with artists dividing their time between art work in Jiamusi and manual labor on their farms. Heilongjiang prints were shown in most major exhibitions of the 1970s, and many were published in Chinese Literature and other magazines for distribution abroad. Shen Jiawei entered the group in 1973 and produced his vision of a heroic border guard during the next year. Because he was singled out by Jiang Qing, Shen Jiawei had an experience similar to that of Liu Chunhua. Rocketed to fame on the basis of his first major painting, he remained a celebrity for two years. After Jiang Qing's arrest, however, his reputation now tarnished, he spent most of the rest of the decade trying to prove to the art world that he really did have some artistic talent.[139]

In 1975, the leading national art magazine of the late Cultural Revolution period, Meishu ziliao (Art Material), published an article in which Shen explained how he had come to create Standing Guard for Our Great Motherland .[140] The overall theme of his painting, he wrote, was suggested by a patriotic song widely heard during the period. In 1973, he participated in a class for amateur artists, where he was given an opportunity to visit the Wusuli River. There he was permitted to climb a watchtower where soldiers were defending the Chinese border against the Soviets. The spectacular natural scenery reinforced the importance of the soldiers' patriotic duty.

Upon his return to the military camp, his sketch of the scene was approved by local authorities, who gave him permission to collect more material during a future visit to the site. His composition was guided further by principles of Chairman Mao, such as: "Our requirement is the unification of politics and art, the unification of contents and form, the unification of revolutionary political contents and the most perfect artistic form," and "The life reflected in artistic and literary works can be and should be loftier, more intense, more concentrated, more typical, and more ideal than ordinary actual life, thus it will be more universal [pubian ]."[141] Shen claims additional inspiration from the study of revolutionary model operas, which emphasized heroic characters. Classmates, further, suggested that one soldier could be made more prominent by placing him against an empty sky. His height was emphasized by lowering the railing and by aligning his head and feet with the lines of architectural recession. This construction was indeed perfectly in keeping with one of Jiang Qing's revolutionary aesthetic principles, known as the "three prominences." As discussed in Meishu ziliao in 1973, the three prominences required that, in


figures, artists emphasize the positive; that, in positive figures, they emphasize the heroic; and that, in heroic characters, they emphasize the central figure.[142]

The official art of the Cultural Revolution was stylistically and thematically uniform. The rather limited taste of Jiang Qing, to whom all art authorities ultimately answered, was the primary reason for this weakness. The standards set by the 1972, 1973, and 1974 exhibitions dominated the Chinese art world until 1979, where we will end our narrative. Artists who mastered the Cultural Revolution style, moreover, found it extremely difficult to shake off in later years. Several oil painters have complained that their eyes were ruined by the red-hued palette they used throughout the decade. Many of the figure paintings and landscape studies painted in the 1980s by professors at CAFA, for example, represent the artists' efforts to retrain themselves to paint colors as they see them.

Some artists, particularly those in pragmatic Shanghai, have confessed that their primary goal in painting was to please the leadership. Tang Muli, a well-educated, thoughtful boy from an artistic family, viewed painting as an art free of the dangers of self-expression; such was the dire intellectual and spiritual state of painting in China in the mid-1970s. The official exhibitions, nevertheless, did demonstrate high levels of technical accomplishment—a fact attributable to the training provided by the national art academies in the 1950s. Gao Jingde was a product of this system, and within the thematic limitations imposed upon him he promoted academic technical standards throughout the nation.

Jiang Qing, apparently unaware that her Cultural Revolution art was actually a form of the academic painting she had earlier castigated, set about reorganizing the national art academies in 1973. On orders from the Culture Group of the State Council, she was appointed director of the newly created May Seventh College of Arts. The art school was to be on the former CAFA campus and to employ some of its professors. A temporary party administrative team was appointed. Zhong Qiuyuan directed the team; Sun Zixi, a teacher at the middle school, was vice-director. Other team members included former administrators Gu Yuan, Zhang Qiren, Wu Biduan, Li Yiran, and Liu Wei.[143]

In November, many art professors returned to a strangely reconstituted institution. The new curriculum was three years in length, students were required to be children of poor workers, peasants, or soldiers, and all instruction was to incorporate manual labor with the practice of art.[144] The first class entered, without examination, in March 1974. Jiang Qing's experiment was later considered a massive failure, although one of the students from that class, Xu Bing, became a star of the late-1980s avant-garde movement. Meanwhile, artistic activity of a very different sort was occurring under the auspices of Zhou Enlai and the Administration of Foreign Trade.


The Black Painting Exhibitions

Zhou Enlai, always sensitive to China's world image, requested in 1971 that the hotels and railway stations defaced by Red Guard slogans and pictures be redecorated.[145] The foreign visitors who were invited to China during the diplomatic thaw of the 1970s were to be shown an elegant, orderly image. The paintings should be in national, contemporary styles. They were to display China's ancient cultural history and artistic standards and to be both simple and bold. For these purposes, landscape painting was not to be considered one of the "four olds."[146] Similar works were to be prepared for export, to earn needed foreign exchange. To this end, talented older artists were to be freed from captivity.

In Shanghai, artists produced almost two thousand such paintings. According to a leading Shanghai arts administrator, Cultural Revolution leaders Wang Hongwen, Zhang Chunqiao, and Yao Wenyuan personally inspected and approved the results.[147] Art organizations nationwide began similar projects. Shi Lu, for example, provided thirty paintings to the Tianjin Foreign Trade Administration for export.[148] Yan Han produced a lovely series of flower prints in the multiblock shuiyin technique for the Beijing Hotel and the International Club (fig. 126).

The following year, 1972, many artists who had been condemned by the Red Guard as counterrevolutionaries were rehabilitated.[149] This liberation, after six or seven years of inactivity, yielded an outpouring of high-quality paintings. Stimulated by the thaw, guohua artists such as Shi Lu and Li Keran painted some of the most beautiful landscapes of their careers. Shi Lu's Mount Hua (fig. 127), depicting a famous site of his region, is a superb example; Li Keran's Landscape of the Pure River Li (fig. 128), painted three years later, is nevertheless typical of a new style that dominated his work of the period. The oil painter Pang Xunqin produced a lovely, rather decorative still life (fig. 129). Tragically, however, the artists once again became the victims of political factionalism. As Zhou Enlai grew ever weaker from cancer, Jiang Qing and her allies sought to position themselves for the succession battle. An ideological campaign against Confucius was launched in late 1973, its real target being Zhou Enlai.

In every part of the cultural world, a nationwide target was selected for the Anti-Confucius campaign, which attacked Western values as well as the ancient Chinese classics.[150] The cinema establishment, for example, singled out an insufficiently flattering documentary about China by the Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni, who had been invited to visit the country in 1972, as an object for virulent attack.[151] Yet Gao Jingde and his assistants failed to find such a target in the art world, which was, after all, under their own direction.


Image not available

Figure 126
Yan Han, Spider Plant, 1972,
polychromatic woodblock print, collection
of the artist.

No convenient foreigner was at hand. According to an anti-Jiang Qing article of 1977, which may have been written by Gao's repentant assistants, in late 1973 Wang Mantian wrote a secret letter to Zhang Chunqiao, Jiang Qing, and Yao Wenyuan reporting on the artistic activity in the fields of foreign trade and foreign affairs.[152] Another knowledgeable source maintains that


Image not available

Figure 127
Shi Lu, Mount Hua, 1972, ink on paper,
courtesy of Cemac Ltd.


Image not available

Figure 128
Li Keran, Landscape of the Pure River
Li, 1975, hanging scroll, ink and color
on paper, 100 cm × 69 cm.


Image not available

Figure 129
Pang Xunqin, Still Life, 1973, oil on
canvas, 61 cm × 50 cm, Chinese National
Art Gallery.


Yao Wenyuan himself supplied the target for the art world.[153] In any event, the art leadership's initial inability to find a target for the Anti-Confucius campaign was overcome, thanks to intervention from higher up.

At an expanded meeting of the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee held on January 2, 1974, Yao attacked a catalogue published by the Shanghai Foreign Trade Administration.[154] The pamphlet, Zhongguohua (Chinese Paintings), contained nonpolitical paintings by Lin Fengmian, Li Keran, Pan Tianshou, Cheng Shifa, Fu Baoshi, Ya Ming, and many other famous guohua painters, as well as some pre-1949 paintings. Yao cited one example as particularly dreadful, a 1973 painting of a rooster entitled Welcoming Spring .[155] The rooster's bulging eyes and upraised tail were, to Yao, clear evidence of its anger—anger directed against the socialist system.

After further investigation, this heinous publication was linked to the interior decoration of the Beijing Hotel and International Club. Wang Mantian gathered many of the works in Beijing for a black painting exhibition and series of criticism meetings held in February and March. The preface to the exhibition stated, "The production of these black paintings received the open encouragement and support of certain people"[156] —an outright attack on Zhou Enlai. The leadership extremists interpreted the paintings in ways that made them appear actively dangerous rather than simply apolitical. Li Kuchan's picture of eight ragged lotus leaves, for example, was attacked as a criticism of Jiang Qing's eight model operas. The movement, once launched, was expanded to included unpublished works. Huang Yongyu was reported to authorities in Nanjing for a painting of a winking owl he gave to his friend Song Wenzhi.[157] His image was interpreted, probably with justification, as a display of dissatisfaction with the regime.[158] It was confiscated and sent to Beijing for the exhibition. As the Black Painting Movement proceeded, the masses were encouraged to express ever more far-fetched criticisms. Yan Han's print of a spider plant (fig. 126), or diaolan (hanging orchid) in Chinese, allegedly accused the Cultural Revolution of "hanging the gentlemen." This bizarre theory was derived from traditional symbolism in which the orchid represented the upright educated gentleman.[159]

The totalitarian means by which Jiang Qing maintained artistic orthodoxy may be seen in Yan Han's experience, which makes sense only if one assumes that Yan had been a subject of investigation for some time. He recalls that one spring day, soldiers from the art academy, of which Jiang Qing was then director, arrived at his door to bustle him off to the academy for a neibu , or restricted, exhibition of black paintings. Two other old artists were present, Li Keran and Wu Zuoren. All three were required to read lengthy confessions, and articles about the traitorous artists were subsequently published in major newspapers.[160]

A former official recalls that he advised Wang Mantian to limit the scope


of the movement.[161] Indeed, he said, an expansion might well reflect on their own leadership if local authorities found black artists among those they had previously exhibited. Local art authorities, however, oblivious to the real target of Yao Wenyuan's attacks, continued to jump on the bandwagon. Although some artists in Shanghai believe that local authorities acted on their own initiative, many of the latter claimed afterward that the late and little-lamented Wang Mantian made them do it.[162] Official accounts report that she sent underlings to eight or nine provinces and cities, including Shanghai, Nanjing, Xi'an, and Ji'nan, to organize their activities.[163]

The Shanghai black painting exhibition was organized by the propaganda department of the Municipal Party Committee soon after the Beijing show. In late February, party authorities attacked the pamphlet Zhongguohua as satisfying the needs of imperialism, revisionism, and counterrevolution. On March 6, the policy of promoting nonpolitical guohua was attacked as fawning for foreign exchange. On March 20, the Shanghai newspapers Jiefang ribao and Wenhuibao began what was to be a two-month assault on the catalogue.[164] It was against this background that the exhibition was held.

The organizers of the neibu exhibition cast their net widely; they included paintings by artists of various ages and specialties, ranging from Zhu Qizhan, Feng Zikai, Lin Fengmian, and Wu Dayu, all elderly artists from the Shanghai Painting Institute (formerly known as the Shanghai Institute of Chinese Painting), to the nineteen-year-old Han Xin, an amateur oil painter who had been reported to the authorities by a cultural palace administrator. In one particularly ironic example, the monumental oil painting project commissioned earlier by Jiefang ribao to win Jiang Qing's favor, the Yellow River series, now backfired. When exhibited in Beijing in 1973, the paintings, disappointingly, had attracted only moderate interest. Now, one of the works, by Xia Baoyuan, a young Shanghai Art School graduate, was ruled to be a black painting, because the faces of the figures were too white, like those of dead people. At the other extreme, the unemployed Ha Ding, who had made his living producing factory paintings for cheap Hong Kong galleries since the forced closing of his private studio, was mortified to have his potboilers publicly exhibited and criticized for their lack of political content.

Guohua painters were particularly vulnerable. Pan Tianshou was attacked posthumously for a painting he had given to a Shanghai official. Chen Dayu's rooster, Welcoming Spring , was displayed prominently near the entrance to the black painting exhibition. An important focus of criticism was Cheng Shifa, for he exemplified everything the movement aimed to destroy. His work was not only apolitical, but it also sold well abroad. Calendar pages from Hong Kong and other reproductions of his paintings in foreign hands covered the walls of the exhibition. At the criticism session, he was attacked for unhealthy inscriptions, for formalistic images, and for catering to foreign buyers. While the


Image not available

Figure 130
Cheng Shifa, Girl and Deer (dedicated to
James Cahill), 1973, ink and color on
paper, James Cahill, Berkeley, California.

sweet picture of a girl playing with a deer that we reproduce (fig. 130) was presumably unknown to his attackers, it is typical of the Cheng Shifa work that Jiang Qing found unhealthy. The painting, which is similar to one published in the infamous Zhongguohua catalogue, was given to an American professor in 1973.

In March, Wang Mantian's representatives arrived in Xi'an to organize a black painting exhibition. According to one report, they found their work much easier than it had been in Beijing, for the Xi'an artists naively wrote inscriptions on all their paintings. Held in late March, the Xi'an exhibition included sixty revisionist and counterrevolutionary paintings by twenty artists. Zhao Wangyun, Shi Lu, He Haixia, and Fang Jizhong were prominent targets. After a criticism meeting in which a thousand people participated, every locality was ordered to continue criticizing black paintings. Newspapers published many articles laying out charges against the counterrevolutionary artists. He Haixia was attacked for a painting called Moonlight at Yanling , which was in-


scribed as having been painted on a trip with Shi Lu and Li Qi. Zhao Wang-yun's paintings were castigated as "black mountains and black streams."

Denunciations of Shi Lu became particularly pronounced once a cache of thirty export paintings was found in Tianjin. A team was immediately organized to investigate him, and the old charges of his leading a "wild, weird, chaotic, and black" school of painting were revived. His feisty poem of 1963 (see p. 296) had been seized by the Red Guard and was now declared by Wang Mantian to be a "Counterrevolutionary Manifesto." Only recently liberated to serve as a consultant for local submissions to the national exhibition, he was once again labeled a counterrevolutionary.[165]

The fundamental issue behind the Black Painting Movement was Zhou Enlai's contention that China should have two standards for art, one for domestic and one for foreign consumption. This view was not new, for Zhou had long served as a bridge between the CCP and the outside world; the double standard in art was in fact a natural extension of his United Front policy, with which he sought to maintain a highly civilized and moderate facade for the Chinese Communist party. Given such a formulation, Jiang Qing and Wang Mantian were left to hold their annual socialist realist art exhibitions for the masses, while institutions under Zhou Enlai's direction would produce mildly nationalistic or pleasantly apolitical paintings for the rest of the world. While such an approach has its own political logic, to Jiang Qing it appeared that Zhou Enlai had usurped the only territory over which she had unquestioned authority: the cultural sphere. The paintings were not commissioned through the culture group of the State Council; instead, Zhou simply activated the foreign affairs and foreign trade bureaucracies to carry out his ideas. Attacks against him, however, focused not on this power struggle, but on his fundamental policy. Jiang Qing and her allies simply rejected the need for dual artistic standards.[166]

For most black artists, the years after 1974 were difficult. Daily self-criticism sessions at their work units were mandatory. Because the artists had been branded as criminals, all but their most faithful friends shunned them. When their protector, Zhou Enlai, died of cancer on January 8, 1976, Mao sent no condolences to his widow.[167] A demonstration held to commemorate him in April drew hundreds of thousands of people; nevertheless, it was put down and condemned, allegedly because bad people had taken control. Mao Zedong himself lived until September 9, 1976; within weeks of his passing, the Gang of Four—Jiang Qing, Yao Wenyuan, Wang Hongwen, and Zhang Chunqiao—were arrested. The great exhibition of Cultural Revolution art planned for the fall of 1976 did not take place.


The Transition to "Artistic Democracy" 1976-1979

The deaths of Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong left China and the Chinese art world in a state of uncertainty. The succession struggle had begun several years before, with radicals around Jiang Qing, including Yao Wenyuan, Wang Hong-wen, and Zhang Chunqiao, seeking to succeed Mao Zedong. Zhou Enlai was attacked by the radicals in the Anti-Confucius campaign of 1974. His ally Deng Xiaoping came under fire in 1975. Deng delivered the eulogy at Zhou Enlai's funeral in January 1976, and when Beijing residents held a demonstration in April at Tiananmen to commemorate Zhou, Deng Xiaoping was purged from government.[1]

Hua Guofeng was promoted to the premiership and to the succession in the wake of the Tiananmen demonstration. He had first come to Mao's attention for his favorable assessment of the Great Leap Forward in 1959; in 1975 he was promoted to the powerful post of minister of public security.[2] His primary accomplishment as premier was the arrest of Jiang Qing and her allies. For the next two years, the Maoist Hua Guofeng and the pragmatic Deng Xiaoping jockeyed for power. China's artists, meanwhile, began testing the limits of the new administration's cultural controls.

Many people looked first to the past, not to the future, as they sought to undo the injustices of earlier years. When Meishu resumed publication in March 1976, the art leader Gao Jingde felt compelled to deny rumors that the cases against black painters would be reversed. That such ideas were circulating indicates open dissatisfaction with recent art policies. Gao further criticized the "power holders within the party who take the capitalist road"—Cultural Revolution jargon probably aimed at Deng Xiaoping. Gao affirmed the verdict that black paintings were subversive, and castigated artists who continued secretly to paint black paintings on the assumption that they might be exhibited in the future.


In what was to be his swan song as a national administrator, Gao summarized the accomplishments of his office between 1972 and 1976: four national exhibitions; the Huxian Peasant Painting Exhibition; the Shanghai, Yangquan, Lüda Workers' Painting Exhibition; and a myriad of local art exhibitions.[3] There is no question that the number of national exhibitions during the last few years of the Cultural Revolution was high and that large numbers of artists were at work. The new standards were thoroughly implemented throughout China, an administrative feat possible only under a government that brooked no dissent. The first few issues of Meishu following its hiatus were devoted to documenting the Cultural Revolution's success by reproducing works from the previous years' exhibitions and to criticizing Deng Xiaoping's threat to the Cultural Revolution.

The Cultural Revolution emphasis on amateur art continued with a bimonthly instructional feature in Meishu about artistic techniques. Drawings by talented young academy graduates and Red Guard artists, including Zhou Sicong, were reproduced.[4] A feature on how to make woodcuts was prepared by one of the Sichuan printmakers, Song Kejun.[5]

Cultural Revolution Art Without the Gang of Four

One step taken to regularize government in the late Cultural Revolution period was the reconstitution of the Ministry of Culture in 1975, although the staff was dominated by Jiang Qing's appointees. Gao Jingde and one of his assistants were assigned to the Art Office of the Arts Bureau within the new ministry. Another of his assistants stayed on the staff of the Chinese National Art Gallery, with exhibition plans being implemented as before.[6] The official arts administration thus remained highly centralized.

Gao Jingde's supervisor, Wang Mantian, killed herself after the Gang of Four was arrested on October 6, 1976, and Gao was soon removed from his post. Zhang Yongsheng, the Hangzhou art student who became a prominent provincial administrator and director of the Zhejiang academy, was arrested. The annual national art exhibition, originally planned to open in October, was canceled.

Nevertheless, the headless art system continued to follow Cultural Revolution administrative procedures for the next several years. All but the highest Cultural Revolution administrators remained in their jobs. Official exhibitions on political themes were held at least annually, juried according to the standards established by Wang Mantian and Gao Jingde. One of the most important bore the unwieldy title "National Art Exhibition to Ardently Celebrate Comrade Hua Guofeng's Appointment as Central Party Chairman and Chair-


man of the Central Military Committee and Ardently Celebrate the Great Victory of Smashing the 'Gang of Four's' Plot to Usurp the Party and Take Power"; it opened in Beijing on February 18, 1977[7] In a procedure Gao Jingde's group had reinstituted, local exhibitions were held all over China in preparation for the national showing. Another significant official exhibition was the Art Exhibition to Celebrate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the People's Liberation Army, which opened on August 1, 1977, in Beijing.[8] According to the catalogue preface, the exhibition expressed the artists' love for Chairman Hua Guofeng and hatred of the Gang of Four. Annual exhibitions were held in most cities on October 1, China's national day.

The artists and art administration responded to the rapidly shifting political situation not with conceptual or stylistic innovations but with iconographic changes. During the first years after the Cultural Revolution, portraits of Chairman Mao and Red Guard heroes were partially replaced by images of Hua Guofeng, Zhou Enlai, and other political leaders. By January 1977, for example, He Kongde and Gao Hong had prepared an oil portrait of Hua Guofeng greeting the crowd at Tiananmen Square.[9] Their oil portrait of Zhou Enlai at a construction site, Our Good Premier , was published soon after.[10] Portraits of Zhou, which the premier had discouraged during his lifetime, were ubiquitous by the first anniversary of his death.

The most famous painting theme of the era was With You in Charge, I Am at Ease , which recorded the moment at which the dying Mao passed his mantle to Hua Guofeng. The uniformity of style and iconography is a testimony to the radically restricted state of painting at the close of the Cultural Revolution. The image may have first appeared in the February 1977 national exhibition, but dozens of versions were exhibited in 1977 and 1978. The best-known interpretation was by the military painter Peng Bin and the CAFA professor Jin Shangyi (fig. 131).[11] Other examples include a collaborative work from Xi'an by the Maksimov student Zhan Beixin, who was primarily a landscapist, the guohua painter Liu Wenxi, and two other artists.[12] In most examples, the composition depicts a deferential Hua Guofeng receiving Mao's mandate in his book-filled sitting room.

One rejected version of the composition is an interesting testament to the official standards of the period (fig. 132.).[13] The Shanghai artists Han Xin and Wei Jingshan executed their painting collaboratively, as was the practice in 1978. Wei Jingshan, a 1964 graduate of the Shanghai Art School, had joined the Municipal Oil Painting and Sculpture Studio in 1965. During the Cultural Revolution his institute was merged with the Shanghai Institute of Chinese Painting. Wei worked at the enlarged institution in 1978 when this painting was commissioned for the October exhibition. Han Xin, only eleven years old when the Cultural Revolution closed China's schools, was a self-taught artist. He had painted in youth palaces as a teenager and had improved his technique


Image not available

Figure 131
Peng Bin and Jin Shangyi, With You in
Charge, I Am at Ease, 1977, oil on
canvas, 226 cm × 270 cm, Chinese
National Art Gallery.

by seeking advice from older professional artists. Declared a black painter in 1974 for his overly avant-garde artistic interests, particularly his enthusiasm for impressionism, he was assigned to work at a munitions plant in Anhui. He refused to accept the punitive position, however, and remained unemployed, living on his parents' meager funds and ration coupons for the next several years. Later befriended by several official artists in the painting institute, he was hired on a temporary basis by the institute from late 1976 to late 1978 to assist older artists with specific projects.


Image not available

Figure 132
Han Xin and Wei Jingshan, With You in
Charge, I Am at Ease, 1978, oil on


The two painters submitted their draft of With You in Charge, I Am at Ease to the Art Creation Office of the Municipal Revolutionary Committee for approval. After permission to proceed had been granted, they decided (prematurely, as it turned out) that a new age of realism had dawned with the fall of the Gang of Four. Unlike famous versions of With You in Charge in which the dying Chairman Mao glows with health and Hua Guofeng looks like an eager student, the final Han-Wei version based its image of Mao on the last published photograph of the octogenarian leader. The result is a gleeful, somewhat shifty-looking Hua Guofeng holding the hand of a helpless Mao Zedong. This version of the succession, in which Mao is supposed to have scribbled the words of his blessing on a scrap of paper, notably fails to boost the new chairman's credibility. Intentionally or not, it is a parody of socialist realist standards. The painting was completed on schedule and installed in the municipal exhibition, but the night before the opening the local art administration removed it. Idealization, not realism, remained the critical standard for portraits of political leaders.

The August 1977 Art Exhibition to Celebrate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the People's Liberation Army displayed over five hundred works,[14] including many history paintings depicting events from the lives of Mao Zedong, Zhu De, and Zhou Enlai, images of living officials Hua Guofeng, Ye Jianying, and Deng Xiaoping, and pictures of official heroes Lu Xun and Norman Bethune. The black painter Han Xin, still trying to clear his name, collaborated with another Shanghai Painting Institute artist, Liu Yaozhen, in depicting Hua Guofeng as a soldier (fig. 133). Painted earlier than figure 132, this bureaucratically successful work, which was widely reproduced, depicts a healthy and benevolent Hua Guofeng. Most paintings in the exhibition were closely modeled on works of the 1960s or 1970s. Oil paintings and guohua paintings alike were characterized by the strong illumination and exaggerated postures typical of the Cultural Revolution period. Many works depict single heroic figures. Other pictures reverted to the grand Soviet style of history painting popularized between 1959 and 1964. Typical of Shanghai painters, however, are the muted earth tones and touches of realism found in the Liu-Han painting. Particular attention was paid to Hua's wrinkled jacket and frazzled leggings. Shanghai artists in fact became known for this innovation in the official genre—a new photographic realism.

Chen Yifei and Wei Jingshan painted the most striking history painting of the post-Cultural Revolution era, The Taking of the Presidential Palace (plate 11), an enormous work commissioned by the Military Museum on the recommendation of He Kongde.[15] It depicts the fall of the Nanjing Presidential Palace to PLA soldiers, an event signified by the raising of the Communist flag. The two artists had studied Soviet art at the Shanghai Art School in the early 1960s, where they learned the bold brush techniques taught by Yu Yunjie and


Image not available

Figure 133
Liu Yaozhen and Han Xin, Hua Guofeng
at Yangqu, 1977, oil on canvas, Chinese
National Art Gallery.

other Soviet-influenced professors. In 1975, though, the Shanghai Painting Institute, where they worked, acquired an encyclopedia of world art that opened their eyes to the works of Delacroix and other European history painters. On this basis they developed a new and highly refined realistic style easily distinguishable from the bold, rough brushwork of most Chinese artists trained in the 1950s. While the dramatic lighting, postures, and perspective of The Taking of the Presidential Palace are in keeping with Cultural Revolution standards, the relatively somber colors are not; the extremely detailed rendering of stone and fabric, moreover, though derivative of European and Soviet art, is unprecedented in Chinese oil painting. The power of this huge painting to impress its viewers did not escape the notice of the many young artists who studied it. Completed in 1977, it was the first and most influential exploration of photographic realism, a style that was to characterize much of the art of the 1980s.

The critics Gao Minglu and Zhou Yan have labeled the years from 1976 to 1978 the post-Cultural Revolution (hou wenge ) period, adopting a construction Chinese writers use for postimpressionism, postmodernism, and other schools of art closely related to what came before.[16] Their thesis is that


the art of the period is a continuation of the "icon-making movement" of the Cultural Revolution. Rather than basing art on the values of ordinary people, most artists simply replaced old deities with new ones. Stylistic features of the Cultural Revolution, such as "complete, many, and big," "red, smooth, and luminous," and "centralized," still prevailed. One commonly saw criticism of the Gang of Four in cartoon form, but even it took the same forms, styles, and images used ten years earlier to attack Liu Shaoqi. A third, slightly less important trend identified by Gao and Zhou was the painting of revolutionary martyrs. The official exhibitions of the period support their assessment.

Quasi-official Exhibitions

With the exception of the tightly controlled capital, local arts administrators began experimenting with new themes and procedures for exhibited art in 1977.[17] The most important conceptual change was that, although art remained quite conservative, the artist was now viewed as an individual rather than as a cog in the bureaucratic machine. Furthermore, these activities did not directly involve either the Cultural Revolution art administration or the reemerging Chinese Artists Association.

Events in Shanghai were particularly lively.[18] Many Western-style painters in Shanghai worked in the postimpressionist and Fauvist styles taught before liberation at the Shanghai Art Academy. The lack of a local art school after 1949 yielded a largely unregulated transmission of this style to young amateur artists via private lessons and youth palace art classes; this trend continued during the late years of the Cultural Revolution, with the styles of Liu Haisu and Yan Wenliang dominating the unofficial Shanghai art scene. So strong was this mode of painting, which reflected conservative landscape and still-life styles of early-twentieth-century Europe, that it in fact became an underground regional style (see fig. 32). It was not a dissident style, however, for most artists who practiced it did not openly reject official standards. They were, by temperament or training, simply incapable of painting the narrowly conceived official art.[19]

Qu Shunfa, an administrator of the Xuhui District Cultural Palace and himself a watercolorist, decided in late 1976 that official standards should be broadened under the new regime.[20] Explaining to the municipal authorities that the watercolor medium had been sorely neglected by the Gang of Four, he requested permission to hold a small watercolor show. What he did not make explicit was that watercolors had failed to gain support simply because few artists could use them to paint political themes. The exhibition he organized is


believed by participants to be the first public showing of apolitical paintings in Shanghai after the fall of the Gang of Four.

The invitations to the event were hand-stamped with a big seal by the cultural palace staff, for no funds were available for printing. Qu recruited several young artists to visit the homes of well-known artists to request new works for the exhibition. Their inclusion in the show would, it was hoped, legitimate the exhibition's artistic goals; for the organizers' motives were not to oppose official art, but to broaden it. Further, they wanted to ensure that their exhibition would not be dismissed as an incompetent amateur effort. Some official artists declined, afraid to take such a chance in an unsettled period. Guan Liang, however, who normally painted on Chinese paper, executed a flower painting on watercolor paper for the exhibition. The Shanghai Painting Institute artists Chen Yifei and Wei Jingshan also submitted works. In addition, paintings by previously unknown young artists were shown for the first time. All works were selected by the artists, with minimal interference from the authorities. One young artist, for example, remembers being asked to change the name of his painting in deference to an old artist whose work bore the same title.[21] The exhibition of landscapes and still lifes opened in December and was met with great interest from the artistic community. When no protests were heard from higher authorities, the pace of such activity increased.

Most such exhibitions were held at cultural palaces or the exhibition halls of public parks rather than in the Municipal Art Gallery. They were thus quasi-official: although they were initiated by the artists themselves and not directed or publicized by the official arts administration, they were allowed the use of government-owned facilities and had the tacit approval of the local authorities. A larger exhibition including both guohua and Western-style landscapes and still lifes took place in the spring of 1977 at the Luwan District Cultural Palace. Several paintings by Liu Haisu, who lived in the district, were shown. Inclusion of this outspoken artist, a target of both the Anti-Rightist campaign and the Cultural Revolution, confirmed the renewed elevation of art over politics. One of the organizers had studied at the Zhejiang Academy of Art and invited professors from the academy to exhibit. The show drew spectators from Hangzhou as well as Shanghai. Shen Jiawei, who still lived in Heilongjiang, recalls going to see the exhibition while on a home visit in Zhejiang.[22]

Kong Boji, a professor at the Shanghai Drama Academy, organized several such shows as well. The "Twelve-Man Painting Exhibition," held at the Huangpu District Youth Palace in late 1978 or early 1979, is mentioned by Chinese writers as a particularly important event. As is typical of the best-known quasi-official exhibitions, some of the organizers were low-level Communist party officials. These shows did not oppose the party; instead they


sought, at least in part, to influence party policy from within. Similar exhibitions were held all over China, including Xi'an and other cities.[23]

The first such exhibition in Beijing coincided with the lunar new year in early 1979. A group of oil painters calling themselves the Spring Tide (Chun-chao ) asked Jiang Feng, who had recently reemerged from obscurity, to write the preface for their exhibition flyer. The artists were typical of participants in such quasi-official exhibitions: they ranged from amateur painters, to serious but relatively apolitical official artists, to Communist party members. According to Chen Yingde, New Spring exhibitors included Zhan Jianjun, Jin Shangyi, Lin Gang, Chang Youming, Wu Guanzhong, Liu Bingjiang, Cao Dali, Yan Zhenduo, and Zhong Ming.[24] The group reconvened in October, showing many of the nude studies they had been making to rid themselves of Cultural Revolution conventions. Jiang Feng's preface to the first show expressed particular approval of the independence demonstrated by their uncensored exhibition. He predicted that such painting clubs would allow creativity to flourish, would promote variety of artistic styles and subjects, would encourage mutual study, competition, and improvement among artists, would create more opportunities for art to be seen and evaluated by the masses, would be financially self-supporting, and would solve the problem of China's lack of places, such as shops and hotels, to buy oil paintings.[25] At about the same time, Jiang Feng wrote a fervent article in praise of Zhou Enlai's recently printed speech of 1961.[26] The sincerity of his conclusion, that China needed artistic democracy, would soon be tested by the emergence of truly dissident art.

The Reemergence of Jiang Feng: The Art Academies and the Chinese Artists Association

In the fall of 1977, the May Seventh College of Arts, established four years earlier by Jiang Qing, was abolished. A temporary administrative team composed of Zhu Dan, Bai Yan, Gu Yuan, Zhang Qiren, Luo Gongliu, Sheng Yang, and Ai Zhongxin set about reconstituting the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Over the next two years, 126 faculty members condemned during the Cultural Revolution were rehabilitated, as were 44 teachers who had been condemned as rightists in 1957.[27]

The first actions taken to release the art world from Jiang Qing's grip resembled steps backward in time. Leftist works from the 1960s that had been unjustifiably criticized by the Red Guard were published in 1977 issues of Meishu . A famous 1960 portrait of Mao by Li Qi, who had been ridiculed ten years earlier for dancing with Liu Shaoqi's wife,[28] was reprinted, as was Wang Shikuo's Bloody Clothes (fig. 74). Prints of the same era by such artists as Li


Huanmin and Huang Yongyu and woodcuts of the Yan'an period fill the pages of the art journal.[29]

In 1979, the Ministry of Culture restored Jiang Feng's party membership and named him director of the CAFA. After twenty-one years in disgrace, he responded with great enthusiasm to his new responsibilities. He was further named a special advisor to the Ministry of Culture and a member of the Political Consultative Council. In November, he was elected chairman of the newly reconstituted Chinese Artists Association. Jiang Feng exercised great power in decisions about the art world, even though many of his later opinions proved controversial. To the end of his life he displayed the conflicting loyalties that made his career so unpredictable. In spite of all he had suffered, he retained a profound belief in the ideals of the Communist party.[30] At the same time, he had deep sympathy for young people, in whom he recognized idealism and talent, as well as for people who had endured political subjugation. Most of the students and faculty who had been declared rightists for defending him in 1957 were brought back to the academy as professors in 1980. The bureaucratic difficulties of obtaining residential transfers for those who had been exiled to Heilongjiang or Qinghai were enormous, but Jiang persisted. Nevertheless, when Deng Xiaoping restricted free expression in 1980, Jiang Feng spoke publicly for the party line. The conflict between Communist bureaucracy and Communist ideals was the great tragedy of Jiang Feng's life. He died suddenly in 1982, in the midst of a heated debate at a party meeting.

The restored administrative staff of the academy grew rather crowded as former officials from before and after the Anti-Rightist campaign all returned to their jobs. Wu Zuoren, who had replaced Jiang Feng as director of CAFA in 1958, was named honorary director, and Liu Kaiqu, Zhu Dan, Gu Yuan, Luo Gongliu, Ai Zhongxin, and Zhang Qiren came on as vice-directors. Chen Pei, who had replaced Jiang Feng as party secretary, regained that post; Jiang Feng's protégé Hong Bo was named vice-secretary. The middle school also reopened in 1979.

One of the most important events for the academic art establishment was the reinstitution of the college entrance examination system in 1978. Two thousand applications for the CAFA graduate program poured in from all over the nation. Fifty-four artists were admitted as graduate students, fifty-five as undergraduates, and twenty more in a two-year teacher training program.[31] Major art colleges in other cities began to admit students at about the same time.

The Chinese art that emerged in the late 1970s was chiefly of two kinds: styles that had survived the Cultural Revolution and those that had been created by it. While young Cultural Revolution artists notorious for Jiang Qing's interest in them, such as Liu Chunhua and Shen Jiawei, did not win admission to art schools, most of the students who were accepted, like Tang Muli, had


learned to paint during the Cultural Revolution. Others, such as Sun Jingbo and Ge Pengren, had studied art at CAFA before 1966 but had spent the first decade of their artistic careers making Cultural Revolution propaganda. The painting of the Cultural Revolution was a narrowly defined product of the Communist art academies, and the academic art of the post-1976 era inherited this impoverished legacy. Some, though not all, older professors failed to regain their interest in teaching after the abuse they suffered at the hands of Red Guard students. Younger faculty, those trained in the 1950s, had painted so many red-hued portraits of Chairman Mao that they had no personal style to which to return. Newly admitted students had come to maturity as painters in the Cultural Revolution style. Yet the art academies continued to dominate the world of official art, and the struggles of individuals within the academy to throw off the legacy of the Cultural Revolution became those of Chinese art as a whole.

Most of those who entered art school in the late 1970s brought much richer experiences to their art than had the relatively sheltered students of the 1950s, for the Cultural Revolution involved them intimately in politics, war, and manual labor, not to mention other equally fundamental human experiences. Tang Muli, Sun Jingbo, and Ge Pengren were accepted by CAFA as graduate students in its oil painting program. Weng Rulan, Guang Jun, and Han Xin tested into the gohua , printmaking, and mural painting specialties. The deaths and retirements of many old teachers meant that many of these young artists were retained as instructors after graduation. The independence they had developed during the Cultural Revolution gave them a less compliant attitude toward authority than that of the generation educated in the 1950s.

One of the most important unofficial art groups in Beijing in the period immediately following the Cultural Revolution emerged in 1980. Many of its members were oil painting graduate students at CAFA or CAAC, and its core members had, like Sun Jingbo, graduated from the CAFA middle school before the Cultural Revolution. All had been through the Red Guard experience and subsequent farm labor. They chose a group name that makes their self-identification explicit: Tongdairen , usually translated as the Contemporaries but literally meaning Men of the Same Generation; with this name, then, they asserted the uniqueness of their position in the history of modern China. While the artists' works sometimes look rather like American paintings of the noble savages that were imagined to inhabit the Western frontier, the step backward from socialist realism was important. One group member, Chen Danqing, a self-taught Shanghai painter who had labored in Tibet, began working in a new photographic style that portrays China's people as the artists saw them, not as the government may have wished them to look.[32]

A preparatory group for the reestablishment of the Chinese Artists Association was founded in August 1978 under Cai Ruohong's direction. In March


1979, the twenty-third directors' meeting of the CAA was held in Beijing, attended by thirty-six people, including vice-directors, standing directors, the secretary of the secretariat, the preparatory group, some responsible people from local CAA branches, responsible people from the People's Liberation Army, and several old cadres, such as Jiang Feng and Pang Xunqin. The meeting retracted a resolution passed at the standing directors' meeting of December 12, 1957, that labeled Jiang Feng and others rightists. It further rehabilitated all officers who had been declared capitalist roaders, counterrevolutionary revisionists, and black painters by the Gang of Four. These included the late CAA chairmen Xu Beihong and Qi Baishi; vice-chairmen Cai Ruohong, Liu Kaiqu, Ye Qianyu, and Wu Zuoren; the late artists Pan Tianshou and Fu Baoshi; and secretary of the secretariat Hua Junwu.[33] In November, Jiang Feng was elected chairman of the CAA, and an all-inclusive, if unwieldy, board of directors was named (see appendix 3). The new charter contained no references to stylistic requirements, whether to those of the national tradition or to socialist realism, although it did state that artists should follow Marxist-Leninist-Maoist thought and maintain the socialist direction.[34] The Hundred Flowers should bloom; art should serve the people.


As older artists strove to reestablish the art bureaucracy, they found themselves weighed down by the burden of the past. Zhou Yang issued a public apology for his role in the Anti-Rightist campaign. Although the suffering that all had shared at the hands of the Red Guard tempered old animosities, conflicts between Jiang Feng, Cai Ruohong, and Hua Junwu were almost inevitable. When the political shackles were removed from the art world, no innovations sprang forth. As though permanently molded by the pressure of the past, exhibitions overflowed with works painted twenty years before, or ones that looked as though they might have been.

If this backward-looking trend was obvious in official art, it was even clearer in private painting. Even the most talented guohua artists of Beijing and Shanghai failed to produce major work. A few older artists, most notably Li Keran and Cheng Shifa, had continued to develop during the Cultural Revolution. Most of those who survived that tormented decade, however, stagnated, an unsurprising result of the dreadful psychological pressure under which they had lived. When they picked up their brushes again, many simply repeated successful compositions of the 1950s and 1960s. Publications of the early 1980s were devoted to retrospectives aimed at rehabilitating the reputations of guohua artists who had been condemned during the Cultural Revolution.


Nevertheless, three important trends appeared in the works of young and middle-aged artists in 1979. Each was developed in reaction to past standards; each was related to foreign art, but was used for particularly Chinese ends; and each marked the beginning of a movement that would sweep the nation in the 1980s. The three trends were an Art Deco-inspired figure painting style of largely ornamental intent; a new sympathetic realism identified with "Scar" literature, which lamented the personal tragedies of the Cultural Revolution; and the politically engaged modernism of the Stars. The artists in the first group, the most conservative, were middle-aged academically trained painters; those in the second group were mainly rusticated youth who had become professional artists; and those in the third were nonprofessionals, including former Red Guard, who challenged the art world from outside its territory. The fullest development of each of these trends occurred in the 1980s, but we will briefly describe their origins.

The most important early exemplar of the decorative school of painting was Yuan Yunsheng. Early in 1979, the Ministry of Light Industry commissioned a group of artists to execute interior decorations for the new Beijing airport. The project was under the general direction of Zhang Ding, director of the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts. He enlisted forty-odd artists from seventeen cities to collaborate on the project, which was to take the form of painted or ceramic murals. The thematic sources of the decorations were varied, ranging from literary texts to minority festivals. Although the artists came from all over China, most of them had some connection with CAAC. The project was considered sufficiently important that its opening ceremonies were attended by Deng Xiaoping, Li Xiannian, and Gu Mu, as well as by officials of the Ministries of Light Industry and Culture.

It is likely that Yuan Yunsheng became involved in the project through the recommendation of his brother Yuan Yunpu, a professor at CAAC. Yuan Yunsheng had studied with Dong Xiwen in the late 1950s and early 1960s, had been declared a rightist student, and, upon graduation, had been assigned to a job in distant Jilin province. Yuan's airport murals were the first major project he had undertaken since his 1962 graduation picture, Memories of a Waterside Village , a work that was criticized during the political movements preceding the Cultural Revolution, stolen, and eventually lost. The linear style he developed for the airport project is related to Dong Xiwen's preliberation Kazak Herdswoman (fig. 34). It was thus linked to ancient Chinese mural decorations, to painting in the "national tradition," to the academy styles of the 1950s, and to what modern Western art Yuan had seen as a student in Beijing and in exile in Jilin province.[35]

His mural, Water Splashing Festival (fig. 134), is typical of the new apo-litical painting for interior design. Here, compositional beauty is the primary pictorial motivation.[36] Linear patterns dominate the surface. Human figures


Image not available

Figure 134
Yuan Yunsheng, Water Splashing Festi-
val, 1979, acrylic on canvas mural,
Beijing International Airport.

are elongated and distorted for aesthetic purposes, political themes replaced by a celebration of humankind and the natural world. This style of painting should probably be traced to the Art Deco movement of the 1930s,[37] but after its suppression in China for many decades, this innocuous decorative modernism assumed new meaning. For artists and critics trained in socialist realist styles and subjects, work such as Yuan's was most notable for its avoidance of explicit political subject matter and its distortion of the human form. Although traces of Soviet socialist realism may be found in the well-muscled forms of Yuan's figures, the work is an open rejection of those values and of the standards of the Cultural Revolution. An issue that later embroiled the artist in controversy was his substitution, on the far righthand wall, of nude women bathing for the clothed figures that had been approved when his draft was submitted to the arts authorities. Whether the artist meant it or not, his nudes constituted a "formalist" or "rightist" challenge to Cultural Revolution politi-


cal standards. Thematically, of course, such images were justified, for the subject of the mural was a bathing festival in which everyone did remove their clothing. By the following year, however, some party authorities had concluded that the mural was obscene, and the part with the naked women was boarded over.[38]

Most artists believe that even Mao understood the aesthetic value of the nude human form, and those who would ban nudes are considered leftist extremists. As we saw in chapter 5, Culture Ministry officials banned the drawing of nude models in the academy shortly before the Cultural Revolution.[39] According to senior art administrators, Mao overturned this decision. Meishu fenglei quoted him as saying, "Male and female and old and young nude models are the necessary basic training for painting and sculpture. Not having them won't do. Feudal thought, the banning of [this practice], is inappropriate. Even if some bad things happen, that's not important. For the study of art, don't worry about small sacrifices."[40] Perhaps he later changed his mind, for the nude remained banned until 1977. In the late 1970s, Mao's approval, qualified as it was, was raised as justification for reviving the practice. In such a context, CAFA administrators could portray opponents of the nude as being more leftist than Mao, a political stance reserved for Jiang Qing and her allies. Depicting the nude, even in a provocative manner, is thus considered a politically healthy activity in most academic circles.

A number of Yuan Yunsheng's contemporaries, including some who claim to have invented the style, worked in a similar brightly colored linear fashion on thick Chinese paper. Among the most notable were Ding Shaoguang, a 1962 graduate of the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts. Ding claims to have acquired his taste for decorative figure painting from the CAAC teacher Zhang Guangyu, who worked before liberation as a book designer and illustrator. He attributes the interest in Modigliani that is particularly evident in his work to Pang Xunqin, who continued to teach at CAAC after being declared a rightist.[41] Another influential artist of this school was Jiang Tiefeng, a 1964 graduate of Huang Yongyu's printmaking studio at CAFA who was similarly interested in book design and illustration. By 1979, Ding, Jiang, and a small group of academically trained artists who had worked in Yunnan since the 1960s were recognized as a regional school. They specialized in local themes executed in this decorative style. Jiang Tiefeng, like Yuan Yunsheng, claims to have been profoundly influenced by the mural paintings of Dunhuang and Yonglegong.[42] In 1980, the group executed a large painting for the Yunnan Room of the Great Hall of the People. Two key figures in the Yunnan school soon left for California, Ding Shaoguang in 1980, and Jiang Tiefeng in 1983. Yuan Yunsheng moved from Beijing to New York in 1982. Their linear figurative style was adopted all over China for decoration of interior spaces, especially hotels and banks.


Image not available

Figure 135
Gao Xiaohua, Why?, 1979, oil on

The second movement of the late 1970s may be labeled "new realism,"[43] its most famous proponents being students who entered the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in 1977.[44] Sichuan had seen some of the worst violence of the Cultural Revolution, with hundreds of citizens reportedly killed in clashes between Red Guards and the People's Liberation Army.[45] Like all artists of their generation, these students had seen the ideals with which they had been indoctrinated as children smashed by the political turmoil of their adolescence; they had also, like most of their contemporaries, learned to paint in the socialist realist style of the late Cultural Revolution. Some were also influenced by the photographic realism of Chen Yifei and Wei Jingshan. What was new, therefore, was less their style than their imagery: they depicted not the glories of socialism but the human cost of the Cultural Revolution. Cheng Conglin's X Day X Month, 1968 , for example, depicts the carnage following a Red Guard battle.[46] We reproduce Gao Xiaohua's Why ? of 1979 (fig. 135). In this work two young men, one wearing an armband inscribed "Rebel Faction," guard a street corner


against attack. One mans a machine gun, the other, his head bandaged, clutches a rifle. Two comrades may be seen, one idling away the time playing solitaire; another, wounded and covered in a Red Guard banner, lies on the sidewalk near a storm sewer. The boys look exhausted, but they obviously intend to fight on. And for what purpose?

Gao Xiaohua, the son of a high-ranking military officer, had worked beside his father in a labor camp in 1970. He was later able to gain a position in the PLA himself, where he became a staff artist. He participated in the 1972 national exhibition, and later became a military photographer. Such experience may have facilitated his shockingly realistic rendering of the machine gun in Why ?, a piece of equipment most artists would not have had the leisure to photograph or study so carefully. Admitted to art school in 1977, he began work on this painting in the summer of 1978.

His work, like that of Cheng Conglin and their classmate Luo Zhongli, challenged the status quo because it was the wrong kind of realism. Never before had artists been permitted to express their criticism of any aspect of the Communist experience in paint. The history of Gao's painting exemplifies the uncertain standards of the period. He wrote in 1979 that his draft had already passed through three "historical periods" in the eight months since its inception. When the draft was completed in September 1978, people told him that by revealing the "black side" of things he had entered "forbidden territory." In the next period, the Tiananmen demonstration to commemorate Zhou Enlai was given a positive reevaluation, and the literature, drama, and film worlds began revealing the evils of the Gang of Four. Thus, for a time, the work was fashionable. Finally, in 1979, with the country now concentrating on the Four Modernizations, artistic subject matter was expected to switch to modern and positive themes. Gao lamented that art could no longer depict tragedies or reveal the dark side of things and that his painting was already out of date. He concluded by asking why this flower, thorns and all, should not bloom along with the others?[47]

Gao Xiaohua's painting is closely related to "Scar" literature, so named after a short story about the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. The most influential example of this art appeared not on the canvases of Sichuan painters, but in lianhuanhua form, the visual art most closely tied to literature. Three young painters, Chen Yiming, Liu Yulian, and Li Bing, who had spent most of the Cultural Revolution with Shen Jiawei on the military farms of Heilong-jiang, emerged as the most influential artists in this genre. In 1979 they submitted a set of illustrations and an adaptation of the short story "Maple" to Lianhuanhuabao (Serial Pictures Gazette), which, like all periodicals at that time, was state run. The story's narrator, a young high school teacher, describes the tragic deaths of two of his students, the young lovers Lu Danfeng (whose given name means Crimson Maple; fig. 136) and Li Honggang, as a


Image not available

Figure 136
Chen Yiming, Liu Yulian, and Li Bing,
"Maple," lianhuanhua, 1979, after a
short story by Zheng Yi, published in


result of battles between contending Red Guard factions. Despite their passion, the two broke ties when their political groups split. After a decisive and particularly bloody clash, Danfeng threw herself from the roof of a building rather than surrender to Honggang's victorious troops. The story closes with Hong-gang's arrest for her murder and his public execution. Red maple leaves appear throughout the story as tragic images of Danfeng and her fate.[48]

The artists wrote that they characterized the hero and heroine as typical children of the time, diligent students who knew little of worldly matters. Dan-feng and Honggang were typical as well in that they threw themselves totally into Mao's Red Guard movement, even at the cost of their lives. The artists strove for complete historical accuracy, hoping only that their pictures would not suffer the same fate as Dong Xiwen's Founding of the Nation . Cultural Revolution slogans and benevolent-looking posters of Lin Biao and Jiang Qing served as backgrounds to the figures.[49] In the changing climate of late 1979, these images of the now-out-of-favor leaders were considered too neutral, and this issue of Lianhuanhuabao was banned. The journal editors ignored the order prohibiting sale, however, and apparently got away with their disobedience. The controversy caused sales to skyrocket, making the paintings among the best-known of the post-Cultural Revolution period.

A third example of the new realism from the Sichuan academy, Father by Luo Zhongli, became notorious in 1980 largely for its ambiguity (fig. 137).[50] This enormous rendering of an old peasant, which is almost z.5 meters high, is clearly influenced by the style of the American photo-realist Chuck Close. The juxtaposition of such a postmodern mode of painting with standard Communist subject matter is a bit perplexing to the Western viewer. Few Chinese observers, however, would have been aware of the stylistic source; to them, the work most closely resembled the enormous portraits of Chairman Mao that ornamented every public space in the nation. Replacing the ageless Chairman Mao with a weather-beaten man who has suffered from his work was more than a bit mischievous, however. While Luo's challenge to the status quo was encouraged by the administrators of his school, it was opposed by the print-maker Li Shaoyan, who suggested that Luo add a ballpoint pen behind the peasant's ear; then the viewer would know that the subject was a progressive contemporary peasant, not an oppressed preliberation one. Such critical dialogue is evidence that the Yan'an veterans who continued to regulate art either failed to understand the younger generation's challenge to their legacy or sought to waylay them by pretending to miss the point.

The most notorious artistic event of 1979 was the "Stars" (Xingxing ) exhibition, the title of which was probably a naughty reference to a 1930 article by Mao Zedong that was often quoted during the Cultural Revolution: "A tiny spark [xingxing zhi huo ] can set the steppes ablaze."[51] Open calls for "artistic democracy" filled the press, leading to the proliferation of quasi-official exhibi-


Image not available

Figure 137
Luo Zhongli, Father, 1980, oil on can-
vas, 240 cm × 165 cm, Chinese National
Art Gallery.

tions and such experiments as the publication of "Maple" in a state-run periodical. On September 27, 1979, during a preparatory display for the Fifth National Art Exhibition, planned to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the People's Republic, an unprecedented incident occurred.[52] A group of young amateur artists hung their work on the fence and in the garden outside the Chinese National Art Gallery. Because the spot happened to be near a major bus stop, the pictures immediately drew huge crowds of spectators. The backgrounds of the organizers were somewhat different from those of artists associated with the quasi-official exhibitions; although most were children of party officials or high-ranking intellectuals, few were academy-trained or official artists. The participating artists, moreover, seem to have had different motivations: they did not gain official sanction, but instead openly defied both the art establishment and the government. While much of the exhibited art was naive, the event was politically and conceptually quite sophisticated. Wang Keping, one of the organizers, recalls that the point of staging the event at the National Gallery during an important exhibition was to show that artists


could emerge both from within the academy and from outside it. Possibly inspired by Moscow's dissident "bulldozer exhibition" of five years before, the demolition of which had been reported in the official translations of foreign news reports available to cadres, these artists presented themselves as dissidents. They did not seek to expand the boundaries of the official art world from within; rather, their intention was to invade from without. This effort attracted the attention of the art world, the masses, and the police.

According to Wang Keping, Jiang Feng was sympathetic to the group and gave permission to store their paintings in a lounge inside the National Gallery at night. After they set up their work on the second day, thirty policemen arrived to arrest them for the illegal posting of bills. When the artists explained that the Chinese constitution guaranteed artistic freedom, the police departed. On the third day, the artists arrived to find their spot occupied by five hundred policemen[53] and a sign prohibiting exhibitions. They tried to regroup at the nearby CAFA middle school but found it full of policemen as well. When they attempted to remove their paintings from the National Gallery, they were prevented from doing so by still more policemen. The swelling crowd began arguing with the police, who finally withdrew. Before long, a crowd of hoodlums arrived to harass the artists. One of the artists believes that the hoodlums were temporarily released from jail for this very purpose. A CAA official finally persuaded the police to remove the hoodlums from the scene.[54]

With the exhibition closed down, the artists posted a notice on Democracy Wall that if the police did not apologize for infringing their rights they would hold a protest march on October 1, their intent presumably being to mar the national day celebrations. No apology arrived, and on the appointed day a group of about seven hundred people set forth from Democracy Wall toward the municipal government buildings. Police blocked them from marching across Tiananmen Square but allowed them to continue by another route. Wang Keping recalls that most of the demonstrators disappeared when the police came. The artists finally reached the offices of the Municipal Party Committee, where Ma Desheng delivered a lecture from the steps. Huang Rui and Xu Wenli negotiated with bureaucrats inside, but no conclusion was reached. The matter remained unresolved until November, when the group was allowed to mount an exhibition at Beihai Park.

This event, linked with the Democracy Wall movement, was one of the few examples of dissident art in the first three decades of the PRC.[55] The organization and timing of the exhibition reveal a remarkable sensitivity to political currents and a marvelous sense of humor. Wang Keping commented that their ragtag demonstration drew so much attention from the foreign media that journalists all but neglected to report an important national day speech.[56] None of the artists was arrested, and the group became internationally famous.[57] Although less polished than his later work, Wang Keping's


Image not available

Figure 138
Wang Keping, Idol, 1979, wooden sculpture.

Idol , which seems to combine an image of the late Mao with that of a corpulent Buddhist deity of late-Tang or Song-dynasty style, typifies the strongly political tone of the group's activity (fig. 138).

Events of this sort came to an end by 1981 with renewed political pressure on the arts. Nevertheless, the "new wave" or "avant-garde" movements of the late 1980s look to the Stars as models. The most important features of these successor groups are their rejection of official art, be it traditional guohua or Soviet socialist realism, and their enthusiasm for Western modernism or post-modernism. Although these groups initially proved less successful than the


Stars at attracting foreign attention, many individuals have found collectors and supporters abroad. In China, more to the point, they have often stirred up as much controversy as the Stars did a decade earlier.[58]


Jiang Feng's idealistic but slightly horrifying exhortation that the art that people will accept is the art they are accustomed to seeing has been partly validated by the experiences of the Chinese art world.[59] Much has been written about the resilience of the Chinese artistic tradition, a point of view that is supported by the modest reappearance of guohua landscape paintings in the studios of artists born after the liberation. As Chu-tsing Li, an important champion of modern guohua in the West since the 1950s, observed in 1979, "Because many artists were trained in ... a literati background they cannot easily forget the tradition's valuable aspects, such as its spiritual aspect, its aesthetic excellence, its rich meaning and its profound expression."[60] As Li implies, the Western observer must keep in mind that there is some truth to even the most nationalistic cultural formulations, and that much of contemporary Chinese culture is indeed unique. Nevertheless, it is rare in any society for an artist to work in a world entirely of his or her own making, free from the pressures of social, political, and economic circumstances. In the People's Republic of China, such an isolated artistic life is virtually impossible owing to the far-reaching social, economic, and political policies of the official sector; the Communist remolding of Chinese art has thus had every opportunity to gain the upper hand.

Perry Link has described a system of bureaucratic control under which Chinese writers labored after 1949.[61] The primary question to be asked about the postliberation Chinese art world was similarly bureaucratic: what mattered was not what the artists might be inclined to paint, but instead who would determine which artworks might be exhibited. Most artists hoped that their contributions to Chinese art would be recognized. Such aspirations led many to a certain degree of cooperation with the authorities; as a result, bureaucratic factors became ever more important as determinants of artistic production. Indeed, by the early 1980s most artists simply assumed that one's career was naturally determined by the art bureaucracy. Complaints might arise, but they generally focused on individual bureaucrats who had failed to recognize the value of a certain artist's work, not on the system of control itself.

There may be superficial parallels between this system and the American art market, particularly in terms of their rewards. Fame and material comfort come from critical recognition in both societies. As in China, the attention of


an influential American critic, curator, or art dealer has been known to turn an unknown painter into a star. The primary difference is, of course, on the negative side. Artists in the West have not in recent times been subject to criminal punishment for producing critically unacceptable works or for criticizing the work of other artists.[62] An artist who, voluntarily or involuntarily, has failed to attract positive critical attention can still lead a productive artistic life. In China, however, with a system based on centralized social engineering, styles and techniques flourished, declined, or died strictly on the basis of administrative decisions and procedures.

Our survey of the Chinese art world between 1949 and 1979 has attempted to describe some of the ways in which the art bureaucracy sponsored and controlled art. By rewarding and punishing artists, the Communist art education system and art bureaucracy systematically and effectively altered the very nature of Chinese painting. Traditional painting, with its rigorous technical requirements, was by 1979 practiced by only a handful of old painters. It had been eradicated as a living artistic tradition, replaced by the new ways of using Chinese media developed in the academies and local CAA branches of the 1950s and 1960s. Modernism, dimmed by the Japanese invasion of the late 1930s, was extinguished by Communism. Since 1949, realistic oil painting has been fully integrated into the Chinese art world, an attainment that the Westernizers of the early twentieth century would probably have thought impossible. They might have been equally surprised to find the Chinese art world enthusiastically preserving, practicing, and developing styles of painting defunct in the West for almost a century.

Not unexpectedly, efficiency of bureaucratic control and artistic creativity appear to have been inversely related in China between 1949 and 1979. The most aesthetically pleasing art reproduced in this book was made during periods of greatest bureaucratic irregularity, in particular the Hundred Flowers period (1956-1957) and the aftermath of the Great Leap Forward (1960-1962). By contrast, the official art of the Cultural Revolution appears, in the simplicity of its bureaucratic support, not as an aberration, but as the logical, if cold-blooded, development of efficient, state-sponsored Maoist art.

We have looked, in the course of our examination of the Chinese art bureaucracy, at the careers of artists from three generations. The oldest generation is defined, quite broadly, as men and women who were professional artists, administrators, or revolutionaries before 1949. Despite the disparities in age and experience within this group, its members shared an important common experience: all were required to adapt their preliberation inclinations and ideals to the new discipline imposed by the Communist party. The second generation is similarly defined in terms of education and experience rather than by strictly chronological age. It comprises artists who were educated during the 1950s, at the height of China's new national pride and progress, a period of


extreme standardization and self-confidence. The third generation of artists has childhood memories of the three-year famine of 1959-1961. Some received their artistic education in the 1960s, but they are best characterized as the Red Guard generation.[63]

The artists we have looked at, Communist and non-Communist alike, have sought to contribute to Chinese culture, society, and politics through their art. Many of the artists in the first generation were idealistic Communists who followed the twists and turns of party policy with faith unshaken. Most of those we know today as artists , however, eventually missed one of the turns and were forced to stumble along on their own paths. Shi Lu is the most notable example of the artistic personality overcoming the party bureaucrat persona, a victory possibly provoked by party criticism but made all the more tragic by its association with his mental illness. The talented Yan Han, whose woodcuts had adapted to every movement, from new year's pictures to Soviet socialist realism, did not begin developing an individual style until the early 1960s, after the party had rejected him in the Anti-Rightist campaign. His focus on illustrating literary works, a specialty for which artists received extra pay, may have been determined by a drastic reduction of his salary after he was declared a rightist. In any event, it was during this period that he began exploring new and more expressive carving techniques.[64] Unfortunately, he did not really free himself from external control on his art until his old age, during the early and mid-1980s, when he turned to a semiabstract manner reminiscent of Matisse's late paper cuts. By the end of the 1980s, he had turned to abstract expressionist ink painting. This phase of his career came to a premature halt with a heart attack he suffered in the early hours of June 4, 1989.[65]

Non-Communist guohua painters suffered from different constraints. Fu Baoshi, as an art teacher, was permitted to paint, and as a result his art developed quickly and consistently during the early postliberation years. With his national recognition at the end of the 1950s, however, political interference became evident in some of his work. He died from the complications of high blood pressure in 1965, and so did not live long into this phase of his career, but it appears that he was quite sensitive to political rewards and pressures.

The guohua painter Li Keran is one of the great successes of the contemporary Chinese art world. This judgment is based both on the quality of his work and on the shape of his painting career as a whole, one that could not be taken for granted in the China of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. He painted continuously throughout his life, interrupted only during the early years of the Cultural Revolution. He managed to bring into existence a new style that satisfied both his own artistic aims and those of the Chinese system, while largely protecting his art from the vagaries of politics. Moreover, his art developed steadily in a direction he himself chose. These characteristics are, in a society where art is free, fundamental to artistic self-definition. For Li Keran to create


such art in China, however, one can only assume that beneath his mild and unassuming exterior he was a man of truly extraordinary artistic commitment and self-confidence. One does not see the false starts one finds in the work of Shi Lu, the dutiful sacrifice of art to the requirements of propaganda that characterizes much of Yan Han's output, or the excessive sensitivity to the praise of political leaders from which Fu Baoshi suffered briefly in the early 1960s. Nevertheless, Li Keran's accomplishment was an extremely fragile one, possible only because he was sheltered from harm at critical moments of his career. As a result, he was rewarded for aspects of his art that harmonized with party policy and, except for the early years of the Cultural Revolution, rarely punished for those that might not.[66]

An evaluation of the long-term effects of bureaucratic policies of the first three decades of the People's Republic is premature, for their influence will continue to be felt for decades. In particular, the experiments and attainments of the 1980s still await systematic study. A print by Wu Fan, originally intended as a criticism of the Cultural Revolution, may sum up the mood of many artists of his generation in the 1980s (plate 12). Plum blossoms, an age-old Chinese symbol of spiritual resilience, have been crushed by the tires of a jeep. An attack on heavy-handed cultural policies, especially on brutality directed against intellectuals, the work lends itself to broader interpretations. Might it not represent the destruction of all that was subtle, delicate, and traditional in Chinese art by the machine of modernity? Even in its style, the quiet work is filled with tension. Executed in the water-based shuiyin technique promoted by nationalists of the late 1950s, it adopts a modern, photographic point of view.

Unfortunately, the second generation of artists in the People's Republic has adopted a legacy with precedents in the distant past. Wai-kam Ho characterized the imperial painting academy of the Song period in terms that may be recognized in the official ateliers established under Mao: "The inclination to dogmatism, the tendency towards institutionalization, the encouragement of over-specialization, and the temptation to be isolated and wrapped up in a theoretical cocoon of an intoxicated narcissism—these were some of the negative aspects of the Academy."[67]

The 1980s, the period in which the second generation came to power, was marked by bureaucratic continuity. During that decade, almost every major art academy except the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts appointed Soviet-trained artists to key administrative positions. As a result, graduates of the CAFA class of 1953 and their contemporaries may, at the tithe of this writing, be found in important positions all over China. The Maksimov pupil Jin Shangyi, for example, is director of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. His classmate Ren Mengzhang is vice-director and chief administrator of the Shen-yang Lu Xun Academy of Art. The Soviet-educated oil painters Xiao Feng and


Guo Shaogang direct the Zhejiang and Guangzhou academies, respectively. A sculptor trained in the Soviet manner, Ye Yushan, heads the Sichuan academy. Furthermore, department chairmen at most academies have usually been, since the mid-1980s, CAFA-trained or products of their own institutions. While we would not venture to predict an individual art administrator's behavior on the basis of his or her educational background, the new generation of administrators was trained by the art bureaucracy we have described, operates within its nets of personal relations, and, in most instances, accepts its norms.

As for the Chinese Artists Association, the only national vice-chair young enough to have been educated after 1949 was Zhou Sicong, a CAFA-trained guohua painter. Director of the CAA secretariat (shujichu shuji ) between the Anti-Spiritual Pollution campaign of 1982-1983 and the 1989 Tiananmen massacre was Ge Weimo, a 1953 CAFA graduate; editor-in-chief of Meishu in the same period was the Soviet-educated theorist Shao Dazhen, a professor at CAFA.

Branches of the CAA have retained unique local characteristics, but their personnel hail from the party bureaucracy or art academy system we have described. In many local branches, leaders have risen through the ranks with the help of a powerful bureaucratic patron. Li Huanmin in Sichuan is one such example; the influence of his revolutionary patriarch, Li Shaoyan, remains strong. In regions where the patriarch has died, as in Xi'an, Shi Lu's iconoclastic fiefdom was overturned by an influx of art academy graduates, who took over the local branch. The Shanghai CAA branch was run by Shen Roujian, a woodcut artist of the New Fourth Army, throughout the 1980s. The Shanghai Chinese Painting Institute was, during this decade, directed by the guobua painter Cheng Shifa, who rose through the ranks of the local art bureaucracy, first in the publishing industry and later in the painting institute. A few members of the Red Guard generation emerged during the late 1980s in important administrative roles. Upon Cui Zifan's retirement, the Beijing Institute of Painting somewhat surprisingly chose as his successor Liu Chunhua, who, you will recall, was trained at the Lu Xun academy's middle school and CAAC. The Chinese art world, to reiterate, is dominated by the art academy system and its standards.

We conclude our study with the year 1979, the thirtieth anniversary of the PRC, for reasons other than arithmetic orderliness. Deng Xiaoping's opening to the West introduced factors that profoundly changed the Chinese art world in the 1980s. The precedent set by the Stars in 1979 for unofficial dissident art produced more artists who operate largely outside the official structures. Even more important has been China's involvement with the international art market. Few artists today look to the party as their only patron; instead, many seek the attention of collectors in Tokyo, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Paris, New


York, or Los Angeles. Even some official artists find national exhibitions uninteresting; their goal is to exhibit abroad. One Soviet-trained oil painter confessed in 1990 that he had recently turned down an important museum history painting commission. He recalled that things were different in the old days, when artists would paint for prestige alone, excited by the simple joy of using high-quality imported materials. Official galleries, vying with the international market, which can offer artists more than political platitudes, have difficulty collecting new work. The party bureaucracy has lost its role as the sole external arbiter to which an artist might respond, and art is gradually becoming more diverse. Nevertheless, the Chinese art world remains different and separate from that of the West. Some of the unique characteristics it retains have to do with its ancient legacy, some are the result of China's particular experiences in the twentieth century, and many simply reflect the bureaucratic habits established between 1949 and 1979.


Appendix I
National Arts Administrators, 1949

All-China Federation of Literary and Art Circles (FLAC), July 1949

CHAIRMAN : Guo Moruo
VICE-CHAIRMEN : Mao Dun, Zhou Yang
STANDING COMMITTEE MEMBERS : Guo Moruo, Mao Dun, Zhou Yang, Ding Ling, Cao Yu, Sha Kefu, Zhao Shuli, Yuan Muzhi, Tian Han, Xia Yan, Xiao San, Ouyang Yuqian, Yang Hansheng, Ke Zhongping, Zheng Zhenduo, Ma Sicong, Li Bojian, Hong Shen, Xu Beihong, Liu Zhiming, Zhang Zhixiang (in order of importance)
ARTISTS AND ART CRITIC MEMBERS OF FLAC : A Ying, Ai Qing, Cai Ruohong, Gu Yuan, Jiang Feng, Lai Shaoqi, Li Hua, Li Qun, Liu Kaiqu, Ni Yide, Qi Baishi, Xu Beihong, Ye Qianyu, Zhang Geng (in alphabetical order)
SUPPLEMENTAL MEMBERS : Hua Junwu, Wang Zhaowen, Yan Han, Ye Fu, Zhu Dan

All-China Art Workers Association (A WA), July 1949

CHAIRMAN : Xu Beihong
VICE-CHAIRMEN : Jiang Feng, Ye Qianyu
STANDING COMMITTEE MEMBERS : Xu Beihong, Jiang Feng, Ye Qianyu, Cai Ruohong, Liu Kaiqu, Wu Zuoren, Li Hua, Gu Yuan, Wang Zhaowen, Ni Yide, Li Qun, Zhu Dan, Ye Fu (in order of importance)



NATIONAL COMMITTEE MEMBERS : Ai Qing, Cai Ruohong, Cai Yi, Cao Zhen-feng, Chen Qiucao, Chen Shuliang, Chen Yanqiao, Ding Cong, Fu Luofei, Gu Yuan, Hu Mang, Hua Junwu, Jiang Feng, Lai Shaoqi, Lei Guiyuan, Li Hua, Li Keran, Li Qun, Liang Sicheng, Liu Kaiqu, Ma Da, Mo Pu, Ni Yide, Pang Xun-qin, Qi Baishi, Shi Lu, Te Wei, Wang Manshi, Wang Shikuo, Wang Zhaowen, Wu Zuoren, Xu Beihong, Yan Han, Ye Fu, Ye Qianyu, Yin Shoushi, Zhang Ding, Zhang Yangxi, Zhao Wangyun, Zhu Dan, Zhu Minggang (in alphabetical order; excluding twelve members from as yet unliberated areas)
SUPPLEMENTAL MEMBERS : Ai Yan, Hu Yichuan, Huang Binhong, Shi Qun, Wang Liuqiu, Wang Zixiang, Xi Ye, Zhang Leping, Zhang Wenyuan, Zhu Jin-lou (in alphabetical order)

Chinese Text of Membership Lists




Source: Zhonghua quanguo wenxue yishu gongzuozhe daibiao dahui xuanquanchu (All-China Congress of Literary and Arts Workers Propaganda Department), Zhonghua quanguo wenxue yishu gongzuozhe daibiao dahui jinian wenji (Commemorative essays) (Beijing: Xinhua shudian, 1950), pp. 579-580, 587-588.


Appendix 2
National Art Administrators, 1960

Officers Elected by the Second Congress of the Chinese Artists Association (CAA), 1960

CHAIR : He Xiangning
VICE-CHAIRMEN : Cai Ruohong, Liu Kaiqu, Ye Qianyu, Wu Zuoren, Pan Tianshou, Fu Baoshi
STANDING DIRECTORATE : Abudu Kelimu, Cai Ruohong, Feng Zikai, Fu Baoshi, Gu Yuan, Guan Shanyue, He Xiangning, Hua Junwu, Lei Guiyuan, Li Hua, Li Qun, Liu Kaiqu, Pan Tianshou, Shao Yu, Shen Roujian, Shi Lu, Wang Geyi, Wang Shikuo, Wang Zhaowen, Wu Zuoren, Ye Qianyu, Zhang Ding, Zhang Jinghu (in alphabetical order)
FIRST SECRETARY OF THE SECRETARIAT (shujichu diyi shuji ): Cai Ruohong
SECRETARIES : Chen Pei, Hua Junwu, Li Qun, Luo Gongliu, Shao Yu, Wang Zhaowen, Zhang Ding, Zhao Fengchuan (in alphabetical order)
DIRECTOR OF THE SECRETARIAT (mishuzhang ): Hua Junwu

Directors of the CAA, 1960

Abudu Kelimu, Ai Zhongxin, Cai Ruohong, Cao Zhenfeng, Chang Shana (f), Chang Shuhong, Chen Baiyi, Chen Banding, Chen Long, Chen Pei, Chen Shuliang, Chen Yanqiao, Chen Yin, Chen Zhifo, Cheng Qiucao, Deng Bai, Fang Cheng, Feng Zikai, Fu Baoshi, Fu Luofei, Gu Bingxin, Gu Yuan, Guan Bu,


Guan Shanyue, Guo Tongjiang, He Tianjian, He Xiangning (f), Hu Man, Hu Yichuan, Hua Junwu, Hua Tianyou, Huang Xinbo, Huang Yongyu, Jiang Zhaohe, Jin Meisheng, Ke Huang, Lai Shaoqi, Lang Zhuohong, Lei Guiyuan, Li Hua, Li Keran, Li Qun, Li Shaoyan, Li Shuoqing, Li Youfu, Li Zhiqing, Liang Sicheng, Lin Fengmian, Liu Kaiqu, Liu Mengtian, Liu Zhuan, Liu Zijiu, Long Tingba, Luo Gongliu, Ma Da, Ma Fengtang, Mi Gu, Na Di, Ni Yide, Niu Naiwen, Pan He, Pan Tianshou, Pan Yongbing, Peng Peimin, Sa Kongliao, Shao Yu, Shen Fu, Shen Fuwen, Shen Roujian, Shi Lu, Shi Qun, Song Enhou, Song Yinke, Su Guang, Te Wei, Wang Geyi, Wang Shikuo, Wang Shuhui (f), Wang Shuyi, Wang Songxian, Wang Zhaowen, Wu Fan, Wu Jingding, Wu Shuyang, Wu Zuoren, Xi Ye, Xiao Chuanjiu, Xie Ruijie, Xie Touba, Ya Ming, Yan Han, Yang Shihui, Ye Qianyu, Yu Ben, Yu Feng (f), Yu Xining, Yuan Shaocen, Zeng Xingfei (f), Zhang Ding, Zhang E, Zhang Guangyu, Zhang Jinghu, Zhang Jitang, Zhang Leping, Zhang Qiren, Zhang Yangxi, Zhang Zhaoming, Zhang Zhengyu, Zhao Fengchuan, Zhao Yannian, Zhou Zhuanxian, Zhu Dan (in alphabetical order; f = female)

Chinese Text of Membership Lists





Source: Meishu , 1960, no. 8/9, pp. 18-19.


Appendix 3
National Art Administrators, 1979

Officers Elected by the Third Congress of the Chinese Artists Association, 1979

CHAIRMAN : Jiang Feng
VICE-CHAIRMEN : Cai Ruohong, Guan Shanyue, Hua Junwu, Huang Xinbo, Li Keran, Li Shaoyan, Liu Kaiqu, Wang Zhaowen, Wu Zuoren, Ye Qianyu
STANDING DIRECTORS : Abudu Kelimu, Cai Ruohong, Chang Shuhong, Chen Pei, Gao Hong, Gu Yuan, Guan Shanyue, Hu Yichuan, Hua Junwu, Huang Xinbo, Huang Yongyu, Huang Zhou, Jiang Feng, Lai Shaoqi, Lei Guiyuan, Li Hua, Li Keran, Li Qun, Li Shaoyan, Lin Fengmian, Liu Kaiqu, Liu Xun, Lö Meng, Luo Gongliu, Mo Pu, Pang Xunqin, Qian Songyan, Qin Zheng, Shao Yu, Shen Fu, Shen Fuwen, Shen Roujian, Shi Lu, Wang Zhaowen, Wen Hao, Wu Guanzhong, Wu Zuoren, Xia Xiangping, Ya Ming, Yan Han, Yang Jiao, Ye Qianyu, Yu Feng (f), Zhang Ding, Zhang Leping, Zhou Sicong (f), Zhu Dan (in alphabetical order; f = female)

Directors of the CAA, 1979 (Exclusive of Standing Directors)

Ai Zhongxin, Cai Zhenhua, Chang Shana (f), Chao Mei, Chen Baiyi, Chen Boxi, Chen Pei, Chen Qiucao, Chen Shuliang, Chen Tianran, Chen Yin, Chi Xing, Deng Bai, Ding Cong, Ding Jingwen, Dong Chensheng, Du Jian, Fang Cheng, Fang Jizhong, Fang Zengxian, Fang Zhinan, Fu Tianchou, Gu Bingxin, Guan Bu, Guan Fusheng, Guan Liang, Guan Wanli, Han Meilin, Hazi Aimaiti, He Youzhi, Hou Yimin, Hu Xianya, Hua Tianyou, Hua Xia, Huang Mao,


Huang Miaozi, Huang Pixing, Jiang Yousheng, Jiang Zhaohe, Jin Weinuo, Kang Zhuang, Li Binghong, Li Huaizhi, Li Huanmin, Li Kuchan, Li Shuoqing, Li Xiongcai, Li Zisheng, Liao Bingxiong, Lin Yong, Liu Haisu, Liu Jiyou, Liu Mengtian, Liu Wenxi, Lü Xueqin, Lu Yanshao, Mi Gu, Niu Naiwen, Niu Wen, Pan He, Pan Jieci, Qiang Ba, Qin Xuanfu, Sa Kongliao, Shi Qun, Shi Xi-man, Shi Zhan, Song Wenzhi, Song Yansheng, Song Yinke, Su Guang, Sun Qifeng, Tang Daxi, Tang Xiaoming, Tang Yun, Te Wei, Tian Xingfu, Tu Ke, Wang Dewei, Wang Geyi, Wang Guan'an, Wang Liuqiu, Wang Qi, Wang Qinghuai, Wang Shenglie, Wang Shuhui (f), Wang Shuyi, Wang Xuetao, Wang Xuyang, Wei Zixi, Wu Biduan, Wu Fan, Wu Lao, Xie Haiyan, Xie Ruijie, Xie Touba, Xie Zhiliu, Xu Xingzhi, Yan Wenliang, Yang Nawei, Yang Taiyang, Yang Zhiguang, Yin Shoushi, Ying Tao, Yu Ben, Yu Xining, Yuan Xicen, Zeng Xingfei (f), Zhan Jianjun, Zhang Deyu, Zhang E, Zhang Fagen, Zhang Songhe, Zhang Wang, Zhang Wenyuan, Zhang Yingxue, Zhao Yannian, Zhao Zongcao, Zheng Ke, Zhou Changgu, Zhou Lingzhao, Zhou Shaohua, Zhu Minggang, Zhu Naizheng, Zhu Youtao, Zhuang Yan (in alphabetical order)

Chinese Text of Membership Lists




Source: MS 1979, no. 12, p. 6.


Appendix 4
Oil Painters in the Soviet Manner

Participants in Konstantin M. Maksimov's Oil Painting Study Class, 1955-1957

CAFA, BEIJING : Hou Yimin, Jin Shangyi, and Zhan Jianjun; Feng Fasi, Shang Husheng, and Zhang Wenxin (for part of the course)
CAFA, HANGZHOU : Wang Chengyi, Wang Dewei, Wang Liuqiu (irregular student), and Yu Changgong
PLA : Gao Hong and He Kongde
SHANGHAI : Yu Yunjie (special student)
SICHUAN : Wei Chuanyi
TIANJIN : Qin Zheng
WUHAN : Wang Xuzhu and Yuan Hao
XI'AN : Zhan Beixin

Participants in Luo Gongliu's History Painting Class, 1961-1963

Zhong Han (secretary), Dong Gang, Du Jian, Fu Zhigui, Ge Weimo, Gu Zhujun, Li Huaji, Li Renjie, Liang Yulong, Liu Qing, Ma Changli, Tuo Musi, Wei Lianfu, Wen Lipeng, Wu Yongnian, Xiang Ergong, Xin Mang, Yun Qicang


Artists Who Painted History Paintings (Partial List)


Ai Zhongxin, Bao Jia, Dong Xiwen, Gao Chao, Hou Yimin, Jin Shangyi, Li Tianxiang, Lin Gang, Luo Gongliu, Wang Shikuo, Wu Zuoren, Yin Rongsheng, Zhan Jianjun, Zhang Fagen


Cai Liang, Deng Shu, Huang Lisheng, Jin Shangyi, Li Jun, Lin Gang, Ma Changli, Qin Dahu, Quan Shanshi, Tang Xiaohe, Wang Dewei, Wang Shikuo, Wen Lipeng, Xin Mang, Yah Wenxi, Yun Qicang, Zhan Jianjun




1. Exceptions to this generalization exist, of course. The most prominent was probably Wu Guanzhong, who had studied in Paris between 1947 and 1950. After a thirty-year career in which his opinions were largely ignored, he emerged as an influential artist in the 1980s. See the catalogue of his solo exhibitions, Wu Guanzhong: A Contemporary Chinese Artist , ed. Lucy Lim (San Francisco: Chinese Culture Foundation, 1989); and Anne Farrer, Wu Guanzhong: A Twentieth-Century Chinese Painter (London: British Museum, 1992).

2. One study of Western art in China is Mayching Kao's dissertation, ''China's Response to the West in Art, 1898-1937'' (Stanford University, 1972).

3. Franz Schurmann described this phenomenon in Ideology and Organization in Communist China (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1968), esp. pp. 109-110.

4. Introduction to Perry Link, ed., Roses and Thorns: The Second Blooming of the Hundred Flowers in Chinese Fiction, 1979-1980 , pp. 1-41. Link's ''Introduction: On the Mechanics of the Control of Literature in China," in Stubborn Weeds: Popular and Controversial Chinese Literature After the Cultural Revolution , ed. Perry Link (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983), pp. 1-30, is a superb introduction to this question.

5. I have seen issues of Renmin meishu from 1950, Meishu has been published from 1954 to the present, with a ten-year hiatus between 1966 and 1976. In the 1980s, CAA members also received an "internal circulation" publication, Meishujia tongxun (Artists' circular), which printed particularly important articles as guides to official art policy.

One Revolutionaries and Academics Art of the Republican Period

1. For an account of these losses, see Frederic Wakeman, Jr., The Fall of Imperial China (New York: Free Press, 1975), pp. 131-224.

2. Cai Yuanpei, one of Liu's supporters, believed that Liu's academy was the first; see his "Sanshiwu nian lai zhongguo zhi xinwenhua" (China's New Culture over Thirty-five Years), reprinted from Zuijin sanshiwu nian zhi zhongguo jiaoyu (Chinese education over the past thirty-five years) (N.p.: Commercial Press, 1931), in Cai Yuanpei yuyan ji wenxue lunzhu (Cai Yuanpei's writings on linguistics and literature), ed. Gao Pingshu (Shijiazhuang: Hebei People's Art Press, 1985), p. 257. Kao, "China's Response," p. 63, and Michael Sullivan, The Meeting of Eastern and Western Art (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989), p. 174, write that Western art was taught as a department of the Jiangsu-Jiangxi Normal School in Nanjing as early as 1906.

3. Liu Haisu, "Shanghai meishu zhuanke xuexiao ershiwu zhounian bianyan" (Preface for Shanghai Art Academy's twenty-fifth anniversary), reprinted from Shishi xinbao (Current affairs), Nov. 23, 1936, in Liu Haisu yishu wenxuan (Liu Haisu's collected writings on art), ed. Zhu Jinlou and Yuan Zhihuang (Shanghai: Shanghai People's Art Press, 1987), p. 172.

4. In mainland China, the convenient but value-laden term "liberation" is used to describe the Communist assumption of power in 1949. I have adopted the term in conformity with that usage.

5. Michael Sullivan has asked similar questions in his article "Art and Reality in Twentieth-Century Chinese Painting," in Twentieth-Century Chinese Painting , ed. Mayching M. Kao (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), pp. 1-20.

6. The struggle between modernism and tradition in Chinese art of the first half of the twentieth century, while beyond the scope of this book, had a strong influence on the post-1949 period. Excellent studies of the art of the Republican period include Ralph Croizier, Art and Revolution in Modern China: The Lingnan (Cantonese) School of Painting, 1906-1951 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988); Kao, "China's Response"; Sullivan, Meeting of Eastern and Western Art , pp. 174-185; idem, Chinese Art in the Twentieth Century (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1959); and Chu-tsing Li, Trends in Modern Chinese Painting (The C.A. Drenowatz Collection ), Artibus Asiae Supplementum 36 (Ascona, Switz.: Artibus Asiae Publishers, 1979), pp. 11-55.

7. Cai Yuanpei, "Sanshiwu nian lai zhongguo zhi xinwenhua," p. 261.

8. Croizier, Art and Revolution , p. 109.

9. Interview with A.

10. "Jiang Feng nianbiao" (A chronology of Jiang Feng) [hereafter JFNB], in Jiang Feng meishu lunji , ed. Hong Bo et al. (Beijing: People's Art Press, 1983) [hereafter JFMSLJ ], p. 315. Note that, while it is desirable to avoid cluttering the text with Chinese terms, romanized names are supplied for organizations that will be unfamiliar to most readers and for terms that have more than one possible translation.

11. JFNB, p. 315. Jiang Feng, writing in 1979, dates his meeting with expelled students to 1930; see "Lu Xun xiansheng yu 'yiba yishe'" (Lu Xun and the Eighteen Art Society), reprinted from Meishu [hereafter MS ], 1979, nos. 1 and 2, in JFMSLJ , p. 129 (also reprinted in Li Hua, Li Shusheng, and Ma Ke, eds., Zhongguo xinxing banhua yundong wushi nian [Fifty years of the new Chinese print movement] [Shenyang: Liaoning meishu chubanshe, 1981], pp. 187-198). The same source, p. 128, refers to the Hangzhou academy as "Hangzhou guoli xihu yishu yuan." Hu Yichuan recollects that expulsions for political reasons occurred in 1929 and again in 1932; see "Huiyi Lu Xun yu 'yiba yishe''' (Recalling Lu Xun and the Eighteen Society), reprinted from Meishu xuebao (Guangzhou Institute of Arts), 1980, no. 1, in Yiba yishe jinian ji (Collection to commemorate the Eighteen Society), ed. Wu Bunai and Wang Guanquan (Beijing: Renmin meishu chubanshe, 1981), pp. 23, 25 (also reprinted in Li, Li, and Ma [eds.], Zhongguo xinxing banhua yundong wushi nian , pp. 171-181).

12. The name of the society refers to the year of its founding, the eighteenth year of the republic, and, according to one interview source, to its original eighteen members.

13. Interview with B. The Eighteen Art Society was a leftist splinter of the school-sponsored group; see Hu Yichuan, "Huiyi Lu Xun yu 'yiba yishe,'" in Wu and Wang (eds.), Yiba yishe jinian ji , p. 21.

14. Hu Yichuan, "Huiyi Lu Xun yu 'yiba yishe,'" in Wu and Wang (eds.), Yiba yishe jinian ji , p. 23.

15. JFNB, p. 316; Hu Yichuan, "Huiyi Lu Xun yu 'yiba yishe,'" in Wu and Wang (eds.), Yiba yishe jinian ji , p. 23.

16. Interview with B.

17. The Chinese term in JFNB, p. 316, is wenzong , an abbreviation for Zhongguo zuoyi wenhua zong tongmeng . See Jiang Feng, "Lu Xun xiansheng yu 'yiba yishe,'" in JFMSLJ , p. 130.

18. JFNB, p. 316; Lou Shiyi, "Songbie Jiang Feng" (Saying farewell to Jiang Feng), reprinted from Wenhuibao , Oct. 20, 1982, in JFMSLJ , pp. 342-343.

19. JFNB, p. 316; Jiang Feng, "Lu Xun xiansheng yu 'yiba yishe,'" in JFMSLJ , pp. 130-135. For the relationship between Feng and Lu Xun, see Merle Goldman, Literary Dissent in Communist China (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1967), pp. xi, 9-11.

20. Ding Ling, "Dao Jiang Feng" (Mourning Jiang Feng), reprinted from Renmain ribao (People's daily) [hereafter RMRB ], Dec. 27, 1982, in JFMSLJ , p. 364.

21. Lou Shiyi, "Songbie Jiang Feng," p. 342.

22. Jiang Feng, "Lu Xun xiansheng yu 'yiba yishe,'" in JFMSLJ , pp. 131-134.

23. JFNB, p. 316. The prints, entitled Portrait and Labor , are reproduced in JFMSLJ , pls. 1-2.

24. Hu Yichuan, "Huiyi Lu Xun yu 'yiba yishe,'" in Wu and Wang (eds.), Yiba yishe jinian ji , p. 25. Also, interview with B; and "Hu Yichuan meishu huodong nianbiao" (Chronology of Hu Yichuan's art activities), in Hu Yichuan youhua fengjingxuan (Selected landscapes in oils by Hu Yichuan) (Guangzhou: Lingnan meishu chubanshe, 1983).

25. JFNB, p. 317.

26. Jiang Feng, "Lu Xun xiansheng yu 'yiba yishe,'" as corrected in Li, Li, and Ma (eds.), Zhongguo xinxing banhua yundong wushi nian , p. 194. Sun Lung-kee translates it as the Spring Field Painting Club; see "Out of the Wilderness: Chinese Intellectual Odysseys from the 'May Fourth' to the 'Thirties'" (Ph.D. diss., Stanford University, 1985), p. 295. Jiang Feng's original text ( MS 1979, no. 2, p. 38) and the version reprinted in JFMSLJ , p. 135, refer to it as Chundi meishu yanjiu suo (Spring Earth Art Research Center), as well as by the shorter name.

27. According to an autobiographical sketch, Ai Qing enrolled at the National Hangzhou Art Academy for a term when he was eighteen; the academy's director, Lin Fengmian, urged him to go abroad to study. See "'Wulao' yi Lin Fengmian xiansheng" ("Five elders" remember Lin Fengmian), Zhongguo meishubao, 1989 , no. 48, p. 1.

28. Translations of some poetry and theory by Ai Qing may be found in Hualing Nieh, ed., Literature of the Hundred Flowers , vol. 2: Poetry and Fiction (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981), pp. 57-75.

29. Jiang Feng, "Lu Xun xiansheng yu 'yiba yishe,'" in JFMSLJ , p. 136; JFNB, pp. 317-318. According to Jiang Feng, Communist monetary contributions had been promised the club by the party organizer Tian Han, but when they failed to arrive Lu Xun began supporting the group.

30. One student turned out to be a spy. Others arrested were Yu Hal, Li Xiushi, Li Yang, and Huang Shanding. See Jiang Feng, "Lu Xun xiansheng yu 'yiba yishe,'" in JFMSLJ , p. 136.

31. Ibid., pp. 136-137. Jiang notes that Lu Xun's diary for December 31, 1932, records receipt of a letter from "Jie Fu, Jia, et al." Jie Fu and Jia were pseudonyms for Jiang Feng and Ai Qing, respectively.

32. Huang Shanding, "Yipian zhongcheng—chentong daonian laozhanyou Jiang Feng" (A life of loyalty—mourning my old comrade-in-arms Jiang Feng), in JFMSLJ , p. 401.

33. JFNB, pp. 318-320.

34. Goldman, Literary Dissent , pp. 9-17.

35. Ibid., pp. 11-14.

36. JFNB, p. 319.

37. Reproduced in JFMSLJ, shang , pls. 11-12. Such designs were popular in books of the 1930s. See Scott Minick and Jiao Ping, Chinese Graphic Design in the Twentieth Century (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1990), pp. 54-65.

38. Reproduced in Lu Xun bianyin huaji jicun (Art albums edited and published by Lu Xun), vol. 3 (Shanghai: People's Art Press, 1981), figs. 107, 105, 125.

39. These events are described in Jonathan D. Spence, The Search for Modern China (New York: W. W. Norton, 1990), pp. 403-410.

40. JFNB, p. 320.

41. Jiang Feng, "Lu Xun xiansheng yu Zhongguo de xinxing muke yundong" (Lu Xun and China's revolutionary woodcut movement), reprinted from Qiyue [July], 1939, no. 2, in JFMSLJ , p. 1.

42. Goldman, Literary Dissent , pp. 15-16.

43. Yah Han, "Yi Taihangshan kangri genjudi de nianhua he muke huodong" (Recollections of the new year's pictures and woodcut movement in the Taihangshan anti-Japanese base), reprinted from MS 1957, no. 3, in Li, Li, and Ma (eds.), Zhongguo xinxing banhua yundong wushi nian , pp. 308-309; and Hu Yichuan, "Huiyi Luyi muke gongzuotuan zai dihou" (Recollections of the Lu Xun Academy's woodcut work team behind enemy lines), in ibid., pp. 296-297. Yan's article is summarized in Ellen Johnston Laing, The Winking Owl: Art in the People's Republic of China (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988), p. 14.

44. Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt, Art Under a Dictatorship (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954), has described the ways in which religious iconography, such as that of Christmas, was similarly manipulated for political purposes by the Nazis and the Soviets.

45. Bo Songnian, Zhongguo nianhua shi (A history of Chinese new year's pictures) (Shenyang: Liaoning Art Press, 1986), p. 177, dates the first such prints to the lunar new year (late winter) of 1939 and attributes them to Jiang Feng and Wo Zha. Yan Han, "Yi Taihangshan," pp. 308-309, describes events leading up to the lunar new year of 1940.

Wo Zha (1905-1094; né Cheng Zhenxing) entered Shanghai New China Arts School ( Shanghai xinhua yishu zhuanke xuexiao ) in 1926 but graduated from the Shanghai Art Academy ( Shanghai meishu zhuanke xuexiao ) in 1935. He was a member of various left-wing groups, including the Eighteen Art Society, the Taokong huahui (Taokong Painting Club), and the Tiema banhuahui (Iron Horse Print Club). He went to Yan'an in October 1937 and served for a time as art department head at the Lu Xun Academy. See Zhongguo meishu cidian (Dictionary of Chinese fine arts) (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe, 1987), p. 234.

Chen Tiegeng (1908-1969; also named Kebo and Yaotang) entered the National Hangzhou Arts Academy in 1927 but went to Shanghai in 1930 to work as a propagandist and printmaker. He participated in Lu Xun's printmaking class and belonged to the Eighteen Art Society and the League of Left-Wing Artists. He went to Yan'an in 1938 and was charged with establishing a branch campus of the Lu Xun Academy in the Taihang Mountain Communist base area. See Zhongguo meishu cidian , p. 234.

Luo Gongliu (b. 1916) enrolled in the Zhongshan University Middle School in Guangzhou in 1931. He was admitted as a scholarship student to the National Hangzhou Arts College in 1936 but went to Yan'an in 1938. See Yang Mingsheng, ed., Zhongguo xiandai huajia zhuan (Biographies of modern Chinese painters) (Zhengzhou: Henan Art Press, 1983), xia , pp. 592-600; and Zhongguo yishujia cidian, xiandai (Dictionary of Chinese artists, modern) (Changsha: Hunan People's Art Press, 1981), 2:520-521.

Yan Han (b. 1916; né Liu Yanhan) entered the National Hangzhou Arts Academy in 1935. He joined the Communist party in Yan'an in 1938. See Zbongguo yishujia cidian 1:508-510.

46. JFNB, p. 320.

47. JFNB, pp. 320-321.

48. Hu Yichuan, "Huiyi Luyi muke gongzuotuan zai dihou," pp. 296-297; Yan Han, "Yi Taihangshan," pp. 308-309.

49. Unlike some other Yan'an artists, Jiang Feng apparently saved very few of his prints. The judgment that he made fewer prints after he became an administrator in Yan'an is based on prints collected in JFMSLJ . Prints not included in that collection have been brought to my attention by Jiang Wen, his son, and it is possible that searches of preliberation newspapers and other publications might lead to another view of his Yan'an activity.

50. For a translation and discussion of Mao's text, see Bonnie S. McDougall, Mao Zedong's "Talks at the Yan'an Conference on Literature and Art": A Translation of the 1943 Text with Commentary , Michigan Papers in Chinese Studies, no. 39 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies, 1980).

51. Gu Yuan, "Bumie de huoyan—mianhuai Jiang Feng tongzhi" (An unextinguishable flame—cherish the memory of Comrade Jiang Feng), reprinted from RMRB , Oct. 25, 1982, in JFMSLJ, shang , p. 349; and Luo Gongliu, "Renmin yishu jiaoyu jia Jiang Feng tongzhi yongsheng" (May the people's art educator Comrade Jiang Feng live forever), reprinted from Gongren ribao , Oct. 8, 1982, in ibid., p. 340.

52. Kang Sheng is reputed to have been particularly ruthless in attacking former convicts (conversations with Joseph Esherick and Xin Han).

53. Yah Han, "Jiang Feng tongzhi de banxue chengjiu" (Jiang Feng's achievements in educational administration), reprinted from Meishu yanjiu , 1983, no. 1, in JFMSLJ, shang , p. 375.

54. JFNB, p. 321.

55. Interviews with C and D. See Spence, Search for Modern China , pp. 484-498, for background on this stage of the civil war. Over one hundred thousand soldiers from the Eighth Route Army made the arduous journey.

56. Li Song, ed., Xu Beihong nianpu, 1895-1953 (A chronology of Xu Beihong) (Beijing: People's Art Press, 1985), p. 105; interview with BL. Zhang Xiaofei directed the new academy's art section.

57. Jiang Feng, "Huihua shang liyong jiu xingshi wenti" (The problem of using old forms in painting), reprinted from Jin-Cha-Ji ribao (Jin-Cha-Ji daily), Feb. 6, 1946, in JFMSLJ , pp. 8-11.

58. Goldman, Literary Dissent , p. 15.

59. Ibid., pp. 15-16.

60. A slightly atypical picture of the yuefenpai type is reproduced in Minick and Jiao, Chinese Graphic Design , p. 84.

61. Interview with D.

62. "Zhongyang meishu xueyuan jianyuan sanshiwunian jishi" (Record of the thirty-five years since establishment of the Central Academy of Fine Arts), Meishu yanjiu (Art research), 1985, no. 1, p. 4. Additional information is taken from an anonymous mimeographed manuscript, "Zhongyang meishu xueyuan jianshi" (A brief history of the Central Academy of Fine Arts), reportedly compiled by the art historian Li Shusheng under the direction of school authorities.

63. JFNB, p. 322.

64. Hong Bo, "Huainian geming meishu shiye de kaituozhe Jiang Feng tongzhi" (Remembering a pioneer of revolutionary art, Comrade Jiang Feng), in JFMSLJ , p. 428.

65. "Zhongyang meishu xueyuan jianshi," p. 5. Other works considered important at the time included Feng Zhen's anti-American gouache painting Children's Game of 1948; reproduced in Bo Songnian, Zhongguo nianhua shi , p. 20.

66. In 1952, the Suzhou Art Academy, Shanghai Art Academy, and the Shandong University art department were combined into a new institution called the East China Arts Academy (see chapter 2). Based in Wuxi, the new school was directed by Liu Haisu. Yan Wenliang was transferred to the East China branch of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou, where he served as a vice-director. See Qian Bocheng, "Yan Wenliang xiansheng nianpu [Chronology of Yan Wenliang]," in Yan Wenliang , ed. Lin Wenxia (Shanghai: Xuelin Press, 1982), pp. 179-180.

67. This summary is based on William J. Duiker, Ts'ai Yuan-p'ei: Educator of Modern China (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977), pp. 44-52; and Xiao Feng, "Guanghui de yeji shanlan de weilai—wei xiaoqing liushi zhounian erzuo" (Brilliant achievements, a glittering future—written for the school's sixtieth anniversary), Xinmeishu , vol. 31 [ sic ], 1988, no. 1, pp. 4-5. Duiker refers to Cai's article of February 1912, "Duiyu jiaoyu fangzhen zhi yijian" (My views on the aims of education), in Jiaoyu zazhi , as his source on the five-part curriculum. One of many reprinted versions of this article may be found in Cai Yuanpei meixue wenxuan (Selected texts by Cai Yuanpei on aesthetics), ed. Wenyi meixue congshu Editorial Committee (Beijing: Beijing University, 1983), pp. 1-7, where the source is given as Lingshi zhengfu gongbao (Occasional government papers), no. 13 (Feb. 11, 1912). Duiker notes that when the program was adopted by the government, aesthetic education was retained but the internationalist world-outlook education omitted, which presumably left only four parts to the curriculum. Xiao Feng, whose documentation is incomplete, discusses Cai's proposal as consisting of only four parts—moral, intellectual, physical, and aesthetic—and cites an unidentified article in Xin qingnian (New youth), 1917, as his source.

The most thorough studies of pre-1937 Chinese art education are those by Mayching Kao, including "China's Response" and "The Beginning of the Western-Style Painting Movement in Relationship to Reforms in Education in Early TwentiethCentury China," New Asia Academic Bulletin ( Xinya xueshu jikan , University of Hong Kong) 4 (1983): 373-397. Basing her discussion on Cai's "Duiyu jiaoyu fangzhen de yijian," she, like Duiker, discusses Cai's educational aims as being fivefold.

68. "Yi meiyu dai zongjiao" (The theory of replacing religion by aesthetic education), a speech Cai gave to the Shenzhou Scholarly Society in Beijing, April 8, 1917, reprinted in Cai Yuanpei xiansheng yiwen leichao (An anthology of essays by Cai Yuanpei) (Taibei: Fuxing shuju, 1961), pp. 229-233; and in Cai Yuanpei meiyu lunji (Cai Yuanpei's collected essays on aesthetic education) (Changsha: Hunan jiaoyu chubanshe, 1987), pp. 43-47. The latter cites Xin qingnian , vol. 3, no. 6 (Aug. 1917), as its source.

69. Xiao, "Guanghui de yeji shanlan de weilai," p. 5.

70. Kao, "China's Response," p. 118.

71. Kao (ibid.) states that Lin concluded his tenure in 1939. Wang Gong, Zhao Xi, and Zhao Youci, "Zhongyang meishu xueyuan lishi, fulu" (A short history of the Central Academy of Fine Arts), Meishu yanjiu , 1988, no. 4, P. 96, are not specific as to the date; they attribute his demotion to the 1938 decision by the Nationalist Ministry of Education to abolish the post of director when the exiled Hangzhou and Beiping academies were merged.

72. Ellen J. Laing credits Lin Fengmian with a "staunch refusal to bend to the art demands [of the Communist government, which] branded him as a maverick and left him after 1952 without official support," in "Zhongguo de yuegui yishu yu fandui yishu" (''Deviant" and ''dissident" art in the People's Republic of China), Jiuzhou yuekan (Chinese culture quarterly) 2, no. 2 (Jan. 1988): 142; p. 6 in unpublished English version.

73. Kao mentioned biographical details about Xu; see "China's Response," pp. 81, 102-104, 155-156. Chinese-language literature on Xu Beihong is voluminous. Much of that available before 1975 was examined by Chu-tsing Li, Trends , pp. 91-98, in his evaluation of the artist. Among the more recent publications are Li Song (ed.), Xu Beihong nianpu ; Ai Zhongxin, Xu Beihong yanjiu (Research on Xu Beihong) (Shanghai: Shanghai People's Art Press, 1984); a biography by his wife, Liao Jingwen, Xu Beihong yisheng (Beijing: China Youth Press, 1982) (also published in English translation as Xu Beihong: Life of a Master Painter [Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1987]); an exhibition catalogue, Xu Beihong de yishu (The art of Xu Beihong) (Hong Kong: Urban Council, 1988); and Wang Zhen, Xu Beihong yanjiu (Research on Xu Beihong) (Nanjing: Jiangsu Art Press, 1991).

74. Chu-tsing Li, Trends , p. 98.

75. Li Keran, who was close to both Lin Fengmian and Xu Beihong, characterized the latter as the art world's Bo Le, in reference to an ancient story about a man who could recognize a horse's potential even when it was not obvious to ordinary observers. See "'Wulao' yi Lin Fengmian xiansheng," p. 1.

76. Liao, Xu Beihong (1982), p. 95/(1987), p. 86; Kao, "China's Response," p. 134.