An Old Man in the Border Area By Wang Shikuo in 1942 (Collected by the CAFA Art Museum)
Land Liquidation By Jiang Feng in 1942 (Provided by Gu Yuan’s family)
Warehousing By Gu Yuan in 1940 (Provided by Gu Yuan’s family)
Literature and Art in Yan’an: A Chapter of Eternal Significance By Fan Di’an and Bai Xiaogang in 2020 (Original work collected in the Yan’an Literature and Art Memorial Hall)
80 years ago, Comrade Mao Zedong’s Talks at the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art (hereinafter referred to as the Talks) pointed out the right direction for Chinese revolutionary literature and art, and the correct path for literature and art in a new era. Moreover, it has also become the cornerstone of Chinese contemporary artistic theories.
In order to commemorate the 80th anniversary for the publication of the Talks, on May 23, the National Centre for the Performing Arts and the Central Academy of Fine Arts jointly launched a special exhibition for commemorating the 80th anniversary for the publication of Comrade Mao Zedong’s Talks at the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art named “Carry Forward the Yan’an Spirit with Artworks of Our Time”.
Through more than 100 pieces of artworks in two major sections called Light of the Lu Xun Academy of Arts and A Historical Relay of Art, the exhibition focuses on the historical documents and materials at the beginning of the founding of the Yan’an Lu Xun Academy of Art, the classic works of famous masters in the Yan’an period collected by the Central Academy of Fine Arts, and new works by young teachers in the new era that inherit the Yan’an Spirit, so as to jointly review the passionate revolutionary years of Yan’an and to present the brilliant achievements by the Communist Party of China on providing a consistent guidance for the ever-going socialist development of literature and art.
Light of the Lu Xun Academy of Art
In 1938, the Lu Xun Academy of Art was founded in Yan’an. It was the first comprehensive educational institution for art established by the Communist Party of China during the Anti-Japanese War and also the predecessor of the Central Academy of Fine Arts.
Under the guidance of the spirit in the Talks, the Lu Xun Academy of Art pioneered a new chapter for the practice of both educational philosophies and artistic creation. The academy also served as a lighthouse that directed the literature and art circles into China’s proletariat revolution in the 20th century.
Among all items exhibited this time, works such as An Old Man in the Border Area, Land Liquidation and Warehousing were created in the early 1940s, depicting the ordinary yet respectable life stories of workers and peasants. The academy took the lead in establishing the fundamental framework for China’s artistic education and disciplinary setting, under which a large number of art cadres and art teachers were trained, together with a series of outstanding classic works. All these efforts have altogether laid the foundation for artistic undertakings in the newly-established country.
A Historical Relay of Art
The essence of socialist literature and art is putting ordinary people at the very center. A people-oriented style of art means taking people’s spiritual needs and cultural demands as both the starting point and the ultimate goal of artistic undertakings. It also means choosing ordinary people as the protagonists of artistic works as well as taking people’s view as the standard for artistic production and serving the people as one’s due responsibility. Comments of this kind represent a historical relay of art and an innovative interpretation for the spirits in the Talks.
In this chapter of the exhibition, Fan Di’an, Chairman of the China Artists Association and Dean of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, and Bai Xiaogang, a professor at the Mural Painting Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, together created the painting Literature and Art in Yan’an: A Chapter of Eternal Significance, which illustrates the very theme of this exhibition: the Yan’an Pagoda Mountain stands in the center as a guiding beacon with a dragon-like red ribbon winding around and running all the way through the painting. Such a picture vividly reminds us of the revolutionary years in the 1940s in Yan’an.
Excellent artistic works must take a deep root in the life of ordinary people, reflect the overarching trend of times and can clearly depict the zeitgeist of the nation. Today, more and more artists take the initiative to participate in major national artistic programs, using their artistic tools to depict the revolutionary history and the great people therein.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, a series of artistic programs such as the National Art Creation Project for Major Historical Themes, the Art Creation Project for Tracing the Origins of the Chinese Civilization and Homeland China have all paid high tribute to the people and to this era. With great passion, artists produce countless classic works of art to express their love and respect to life in this new era.
Feng Yuan, Vice President of the China Central Institute for Culture and History and Honorary Chairman of the China Artists Association, said that despite of social advancement, historical evolution and artistic renewal, the core of art shall never change but remain intact, and we must keep in mind the for the people tenet.
Production Editors: Lu Jing and Gao Lei