Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Ashmolean − Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Chinese Prints 1950-2006 in the Ashmolean Museum

A catalogue of the Ashmolean’s collection of Chinese prints from 1950-2006 by Weimin He and Shelagh Vainker (published Oxford, 2007).

Chinese Prints 1950-2006 in the Ashmolean Museum by Weimin He and Shelagh Vainker


All China Association of Anti-Enemy Woodcut Artists 中华全国木刻界抗敌协会 An association founded in Wuhan on 6 June 1938 by a group of artists aiming to produce propaganda woodcuts against the Japanese invasion. The association once had more than 200 members nationwide. It was declared an illegal organization in 1941 and forced to close by the Nationalist authority.

A.P. abbreviation of artist’s proof.

Assembled-printing 短版 is when the areas of the component colour areas or linear descriptions of an image are separated by tracings and cut into small, independently registered pieces of wood as individual blocks and then printed in a pre­determined sequence to complete the image.

Bleed through 透印 also called the transparent method. The woodblock is cut with the correct reading, then inked and printed on the verso of the thin paper so that the ink completely pene­trates or bleeds through the recto of the paper to provide a perfect image.

Dab-printing 拓印 is achieved by driving down slightly dampened paper into the cut wooden block to take up its form. Printing colour of all types may then be dabbed using small dabbers onto the up-standing areas of the paper to reveal the image. The image appears as a right reading image, not in mirror image as is normally the case with printed images.

The Great Northern Wilderness School 北大荒版画 was established at the end of the 1950s by a group of amateur artists who were transferred to the state farm land of the Great Northern Wilderness (Beidahuang) region in north-east China, along with 100,000 military personnel. Their prints mainly use multi-blocks and rich colours to depict the natural scenery of this region.

The Jiangsu Shuiyin School 江苏水印版画 was formed during the early 1950s in Nanjing, which was the centre of woodblock printing during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The school uses water-soluble ink and depicts the natural scenery of southern China. The school was also influenced by traditional literati ink painting and the New Year folk prints of the Taohuawu 桃花坞, one of the most widespread folk New Year picture schools in southern China, featuring woodcut process printing and vivid colouring.

Lu Xun 鲁迅 (1881-1936) whose original name was Zhou Shuren, was a leading writer of 20th-century China, as well as critic, poet, and translator. Lu studied medicine in Japan but saw writing as an effective tool for exposing the social ills of China. Lu Xun was a founder and patron of the Creative Prints Movement, and his contribution to promoting creative printmaking marks a new era in Chinese printmaking history.

Lu Xun Prints Prize 鲁迅版画奖 A prize awarded by the Chinese Printmaker's Association in 1991 for outstanding printmakers. Printmakers of the 1930-40s received the first Lu Xun Prize and the second award was in 1996 to the outstanding printmakers of the 1950-60s; the third was in 1999 to the outstanding printmakers of the 1980-90s.

New Woodcut Movement 新兴木刻运动 was conceived by Lu Xun during the late 1920s and spread nationwide during the 1930-40s. Edited by Lu and Rou Shi (1902-31), Yiyan zhaohua 艺苑朝华disseminated European and Japanese prints during this period. The movement faced social reality and worked against the Japanese invasion.

Non-key block printing 无主版印法, the technique of printing a multicolour woodcut print without a key block which is usually printed in black and acts as a framework for the colour areas. Each block will print one or more colours to assemble the complete image, and no single colour block domi­nates the image.

Qiu Jin 秋瑾(1875—1907) was a poet, revolutionary and a symbol of women’s independence. She studied in Japan between 1903 and 1906 and her activism included organizing for women’s rights and education and against the customs of binding women’s feet and selling women into slavery. She participated in the Nationalists' Revolution against Manchu rule, for which she was beheaded by the Qing authorities.

Shuiyin 水印 or shuiyin muke 水印木刻, water-soluble ink printed woodcut.

The Sichuan Print School 四川版画 formed in the early 1950s in Chongqing and Chengdu. The predominant subject matter is figures, especially depiction of Tibetan or Yi ethnic minorities. The school’s work is distinguished from that of other regions in its high technical quality especially in both oil-based monochrome or water-soluble colour printed woodcuts.

Waste-block printing 绝版, also called reductive or lost-block printing, most famously used by Pablo Picasso for his lino-cuts. Only one printing block is employed during the printing process. The technique is to print more than the required number of prints in the edition from the uncut block in one colour, make the first cuts, then print the block again in a second and different colour onto all of the first printings using the same register, make more cuts and print again until the image is complete and the block has little printing surface remaining.

Yan'an 延安 is a city in the north of Shanxi province. From 1935 to 1948, Yan'an was the centre of the Chinese Communist Revolution against both the Japanese invasion and the Nationalists’ regime. The Lu Xun Academy of Literature and Arts was established in Yan’an and attracted many revolu­tionary intellectuals as well as many artists during that period. Many of these artists later became leading figures in the field of art after the People’s Republic of China was founded.

A further glossary on printmaking can be found in David Barker, ‘A Chinese-English Glossary of Terms Relating to Woodblock Printmaking’ in The Art of Contemporary Chinese Woodcuts, London: The Muban Foundation 2003.


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