Art for a New China: A Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Professor Zhou Lingzhao’s Birth

TEXT:SUE WANG    DATE: 2019.9.3

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“The country and people have raised me, any grass and wood can become useful talent, on the annual rings of my tree of life although there were twists and turns, as well as hardships, I have a strong vitality. My seriousness, diligence and strictness in art are my lifelong habits. Living in a prosperous country with happy people during a magnificent epoch, I would like to keep on working to beautify our country and the lives of people.”

—Zhou Lingzhao

 Mr. Zhou Lingzhao, born in 1919, celebrates his 100th birthday this year.

Each title such as “National Business Card, National Image Designer”, “Public Art Pioneer”, “The First Forerunner of Chinese Design” is admirable.

Such as Mr. Fan Di’an, President of the Chinese Artists Association and President of the Central Academy of Fine Arts commented, “An artist’s life experience, artistic creation and cultural contribution have gone through a century of glory, which indicates the special status and reputation of Mr. Zhou Lingzhao in the development of modern art.” 

The exhibition “Art for a New China: A Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Professor Zhou Lingzhao’s Birth” was unveiled at the CAFA Art Museum on August 29th, 2019. It is co-organized with the China Artists Association, the National Art Museum of China and the Publicity Department of the CCP Committee of Hunan Province with the support of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, the National Museum of China, the China Banknote Printing and Minting Corporation, the Museum of CPPCC Literature and History and Mr. Zhou Lingzhao’s family.

Under the careful planning and preparation of the exhibition team, the exhibition aims to present the life achievement of Mr. Zhou Lingzhao, who has been devoting his artist and art educator career to his homeland and countrymen. The exhibition is in four sections, over 300 works and includes a rich archive. Some of the exhibits are displayed in front of the public for the first time, including the design draft of the CPPCC emblem, design plan of the CAFA National Emblem Design Team and design draft of the RMB bills.

The exhibition consists of four sections, “Devotion to Anti-Japanese War While Saluting the Dawn”, “Art for Life in Glorious Years”, “Dedication to the National Image”, “Relentless Diligence”, which intends to comprehensively showcase Mr. Zhou Lingzhao’s achievements in artistic creations and art education for the country and people. While paying homage to him, this exhibition also provides an opportunity for visitors to understand the stories and experience of this outstanding artist.

Zhou Lingzhao was born in Pingjiang County, Hunan Province in 1919. He once studied at Changsha Central China Art College and Wuchang Art College and he was guided by Wang Zhongqiong, Chen Guozhao, Tang Yihe, Shen Shizhuang and so on. In 1936, the 17-year-old Zhou Lingzhao was an apprentice at the Eastern China Photographic Printing Company in Shanghai and the famous expert of the printing plate Liu Puqing was his master. After the outbreak of the Anti-Japanese War in 1937, Mr. Zhou Lingzhao began to actively participate in the propaganda work of Anti-Japanese War. In 1938, the 19-year-old Zhou Lingzhao entered the Office of Fine Arts, Department of Art, the Third Provincial Department of Politics in Wuhan led by the Communist Party of China.

After the end of Anti-Japanese War, invited by Mr. Xu Beihong, Zhou Lingzhao came to the National Peking Art College (one of the predecessors of the Central Academy of Fine Arts) and taught art patterns and he has been working at the Central Academy of Fine Arts ever since. Before and after the founding of People’s Republic of China, Mr. Zhou Lingzhao actively participated in lots of image designs for the Republic.

The first and second sessions are based on Mr. Zhou Lingzhao’s experience and they feature his masterpieces during the Anti-Japanese War; his sketches and watercolors during the period that he taught at Shanghai Yucai School after the War; his works themed on Land Reform and Liberation after he was hired by the National Peking Art College in 1948.

The third session showcases some important national image designs that Mr. Zhou Lingzhao has participated in or taken charge of, including the design draft of the CPPCC emblem, design plan of the CAFA National Emblem Design Team and design draft of the RMB bills, many of which are open to the public for the first time.

As an outstanding representative among his peers, Mr. Zhou Lingzhao has participated in the great history of China when he was young and his works bear witness to the great epoch. As Mr. Fan Di’an commented, “he ‘designed’ brand new national images with new visual images, which visualized the national will and reflected on the spirit that people become the masters of the nation.” It can be said that Mr. Zhou Lingzhao has testified to the historical process of the People’s Republic of China in his rich and long artistic career.

As a tutor of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Mr. Zhou Lingzhao has also seen the developments of this prestigious and highest art institution in China. As one of the main founders of the new disciplines of Design and Mural Painting, he has cultivated a lot of outstanding professionals for the country. During his teaching in the Department of Patterns and Applied Arts, Mr. Zhou Lingzhao has instructed many design courses while undertaking lots of national design tasks. Renowned craft artists and designers including Chang Shana, Han Meilin, Chen Hanmin and so on who were deeply affected by his work. After the “Cultural Revolution”, Mr. Zhou Lingzhao has participated in preparations for the first Department of Mural Painting among the system of Chinese higher art education at the Central Academy of Fine Arts and he served as the first Director of the Ethnic Painting Studio in the Department of Mural Painting. In education, he especially emphasized the inheritance and development of the Chinese folk art tradition, which reflects his vision and cultural confidence as an important master of art, so that he has made important contributions to the establishment and improvement of the Mural Painting System at the Central Academy of Fine Arts with his artistic thoughts and creative practices.

The fourth session mainly displays many important murals and public artworks as presided over by Mr. Zhou Lingzhao and some of his individual works since the reform and opening-up, including the color drafts and line drawings of “White Could and Yellow Crane”, Shenzhen Zhonghua Folk Village and “Collections of the Ancient Capital” at Beijing Hotel.

Mr. Zhou Lingzhao also shared his heartfelt words in this exhibition, “Eight years ago, my friends wished me to love being a hundred years old, I said that I would work hard to complete the task. Eight years have passed, I live well and I can still see the world. The present world is developing so fast that tremendous changes have happened in two years, let alone eight years. This year is 2019 and I am already 100 years old and I am entering the 101st year, I am still in good health but my memory is poor. This year is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. I am so lucky that I will celebrate my birthday with my great country. We have fought for the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, and we have been devoted to its developing constructions and we will still carry it on.”

Mr. Zhou Lingzhao has been endowed with profound feelings for his home country and actively participated in the artistic undertaking of China. He is a participant, a witness, a recorder and a narrator. The exhibition provides a detailed and in-depth presentation of lifelong exploration and contribution of Mr. Zhou Lingzhao, which also opens a window for visitors to know about the history, read previous stories, and the excellent spirit of older generations of artists represented by him. Also he will become the starting point for the new generations of artists to inherit and innovate, forming the beginning of future infinite possibilities.

Edited by Zhang Yizhi, translated by Sue/CAFA ART INFO

Photo Courtesy of the Organizer