Wu Huixin|
Exhibition

Three generations of woodcut artists star in show at museum

2024-04-07 to 2024-04-07
Zhejiang Art Museum
138 Nanshan Rd 南山路138号
2024-04-07 to 2024-04-07
Zhejiang Art Museum
138 Nanshan Rd 南山路138号

Through April 7, woodcuts take center stage at the National Invitational Exhibition of Narrative and Thematic Prints in five sections according to different historical periods and themes.

Ninety years ago, Lu Xun, a leading figure in 20th-century Chinese literature, urged artists to use woodcut posters to inspire patriotism and the fighting spirit in war. Since then, woodcut have developed into an art genre in China and continue their popularity with young artists.

The exhibition, housed in the Zhejiang Art Museum, showcases 300 works from three generations of esteemed artists, notably including Zhang Yangxi, Zhao Yannian and Zhang Huaijiang, who are revered as the pioneers of Chinese woodcut art.

They are joined by Li Huanmin, Zhao Zongzao and Xu Kuang, who led the second generation, and Wang Gongyi, Kang Ning and Wu Changjiang, the contemporary artists continuing this time-honored art.

Visitors can form a well-rounded picture of the art form's development and learn how it has evolved into a media recording social changes.

Woodblock printing, originating in China around 1,200 years ago, played a pivotal role in the history of printing and communication in ancient China. Initially, monochromatic woodblock prints were utilized to reproduce and disseminate paintings and books.

During the 1930s, the Muling Woodcut Society, which was established in Hangzhou under Lu's guidance and instruction, brought together many patriotic artists and published paintings to stir the public conscience. The society is still going strong and has become part of the China Academy of Art.

When China was torn by war and civil conflicts, artists used wood chisels, brushes and pens to create works that inspired people to fight against invasion and their enemies. Such themes are epitomized by the works from the first generation of modern masters.

Three generations of woodcut artists star in show at museum
Ti Gong

A woodcut print by Zhang Yangxi (1912-1964)

Zhang Yangxi (1912-1964), one of the most famous of these artists, produced hundreds of prints and other works during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-1945). They aroused sympathy for victims and the underprivileged, motivated people to resist, praised farmers and the working people, and showcased the progress achieved by Chinese people.

Zhang threw himself into the woodcuts movement, discarding his earlier subjects such as landscapes and beauties. He turned instead to political subjects, the national crisis and the suffering of the people.

In 1956, with the help of the central government, Zhang established the woodcut department of the CAA in Hangzhou. This is considered his greatest contribution to modern-day Chinese art.

Three generations of woodcut artists star in show at museum
Ti Gong

Zhang Huaijiang (1922-1990) made this simple yet strong woodcut print "The Pillar" in 1981.

Zhang Huaijiang (1922-1990), another famous artist, produced hundreds of prints and other works themed on the war against Japanese invaders. He developed a unique way of cutting, integrating former Soviet Union and traditional woodcut techniques.

Many of Zhang Huaijiang's works were inspired by literary figure Lu. He later taught at the CAA and wrote an article titled "Lu Xun Teaches Me How to Hold a Pen."

Today, the CAA woodcut department is one of the main units of the college. Students inherit their predecessors' plain, strong lines to depict the environment and facial expressions. However, the themes have switched to modern life and abstraction as social conditions change.

Three generations of woodcut artists star in show at museum
Ti Gong

Zhao Zongzao's "Four Seasons of Spring" (1960)

The young generation focuses on capturing the beauty of nature and local life by portraying forests and water towns through the artful use of lines, dots and blocks. They blend hues to create a smooth transition, avoiding abrupt contrasts in their work.

Their works reflect genuine aesthetic reactions to the world, delivering a true experience with a poetic style. Some artists borrowed painting techniques from folk arts and traditional nianhua – colorful, woodcut-printed Chinese New Year paintings, which resulted in a broader vision in art creation.

A multi-colored woodblock print is traditionally created using a dozen separate methods. The time-consuming technique frequently requires months of polishing. The painters devote five times as much time to a woodblock painting as they do to an ink-wash painting.

Three generations of woodcut artists star in show at museum
Ti Gong

Wang Chao offers a unique perspective on woodcut art in his piece "Beautiful Home" (2019).

If you go

Date: Through April 7 (closed on Mondays), 9am-5pm

Admission: Free

Venue: Zhejiang Art Museum

Address: 138 Nanshan Rd

南山路138号