Wu Biduan, born in 1926, is a professor of woodcuts in the Central Academy of Fine Arts. He was born to a poor family in Shanghai and spent his childhood in loneliness and poverty.
After the anti-Japanese war, Wu began to study art in the literature and art department of Northeast Union University. Not long after that, he went to the northeast battlefield along with the Chinese People's Liberation Army as a member of a publicity group. Wu used a brush-pencil and woodcut knife as his weapons to help the army fight the enemies. He taught in Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing after 1949.
Wu was sent to the late Soviet Union to learn woodcutting, and brought various woodcutting techniques to China. He also made great accomplishments while teaching in the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Wu has achieved a lot not only in woodcutting but also in water-ink painting and watercolor painting.
Wu is good at drawing illustrations for literary works. The subjects of Wu's woodcuts are very broad, and his works are deeply rooted in people's daily lives. Meanwhile, his works are in various forms: black and white woodcuts which are simple and natural and express the pursuit of true life experiences, chromatic woodcuts which are bright and show a love of nature, as well as dry point painting. His style is simple and bright and uses both traditional Chinese painting techniques and western modes of expression, thus forming his own unique style.
Wu and the Portrait of Zhou Enlai
Wu's woodcut Lenin and the Volunteer Warriors of China once won the highest prize for woodcutting in China-the Lu Xun Prize. Among all of his works, his portrait of the late Prime Minister Zhou Enlai is the most famous. This portrait of Zhou Enlai is often used as the cover for many books such as the Selected Works of Zhou Enlai.
Zhou Enlai passed away on Jan 8th, 1976. After that, People's Liberation Army Pictorial decided to make a column to commemorate him. They invited Wu to draw a portrait of Zhou for the pictorial.
Wu locked himself in a room and thought about how to draw the portrait. After painstaking work and frequent revisions, a vivid portrait of Zhou Enlai was created, which showed the intelligence, personality, and nobility of Zhou. The press published the portrait immediately in the People's Liberation Army Pictorial. After that, this portrait became the best-known and most influential portrait of Zhou.
(chinaculture August 18, 2006)