Modern Chinese Woodblock Prints By Cox, Matt
The history of Chinese Modern prints is intimately tied to social and political developments in 20th-century China. On May 4, 1919, a protest against the provisional government’s feeble response to the treaty of Versailles and the Japanese occupation attracted left-leaning students and artists to the city of Beijing. Amongst the protestors, a cluster of artists and writers used the immediacy of the woodblock to mass-produce subversive and anti-Japanese political images and messages. Under the mentorship of Lu Xun (鲁迅, 1881–1936), one of China’s greatest Modern literary figures, they adopted the nianhua (年画, new year calendar prints) or xinnian huazhi (flowery new year calendar) as a vehicle for experimentation with wood block printing. The Creative Woodblock Movement pioneered by Lu Xun sought to undermine the petit-riche ownership of the woodblock and re-contextualize art as the property of the masses. In order to reconcile the aims of the Creative Woodblock Movement with the tastes of the rural populations Lu Xun advocated the adoption of familiar peasant pictorial devices in the production of a new art.