How I eventually created over 150 illustrations for Lu Xun’s works
ZHAO Yannian (Translated by Mon WONG)
I was 14 when I enrolled in Shanghai Fine Arts School. I often saw a classmate carrying a thick hardcover book with a red cover, which made me curious. Once after class, I picked up the book to take a peak while he wasn’t around. Printed in silver inks, the title of the book was The Complete Works of Lu Xun. Though I didn’t understand exactly what the book was about, I was deeply impressed nonetheless. Looking back now, I realize how green and ignorant I was.
I started to understand Lu Xun a little more systematically in 1956. It was the twentieth anniversary of his death, and the government planned to build Lu Xun Memorial Halls in Beijing, Shanghai and Shaoxing, while the Shanghai Film Studio planned to make a film about his life, so they were in desperate need of artworks that portrayed Lu Xun’s life and works. The Shanghai Artists Association was tasked to organize artists in Eastern China to create the artworks. By then, I was already a professional painter in the Association and was involved in the organization and creative process for the event. In order to fulfill my task, I began with learning about Lu Xun’s life, and then, through examining plenty of sketches of artworks for the event and creating my own artworks, I obtained a much deeper understanding of Lu Xun. He has such a great spirit in him.
Born in Huzhou of Zhejiang, Zhao Yannian [赵延年] (1924-2014) was a well known woodcut painter and educator. He enrolled in Shanghai Fine Arts School in 1938 and established with his classmates a “Research Group on Woodcut Paintings in Iron Current” in 1939, which marked the beginning of his woodcut painting career that lasted for 60 years. For years he involved in media, publishing and educational works, while creating excellent woodcut works. He created more than 200 master pieces, including The Portrait of Lu Xun and illustrations for The True Story of Ah Q. For over 60 years, he created more than 700 pieces of woodcut paintings.
Mon Wong is a freelance translator.