Zhang Lichen was a member of the CPPCC National Committee, the Doctoral tutor of Chinese painting department of China Central Academy of Fine Arts, and the director of Chinese Artists Association. He enjoyed a good reputation in contemporary art circles. He was good at painting birds and flowers in free style. His major works are Eternal Fragrance, Plantain in Snowy Days, and Morning Frost in Autumn. These paintings have a heroic and bold style which is duly in compliance with the candor character of Zhang Lichen.
Zhang Lichen was born in 1939, Peixian County in Jiangsu Province. His alias is Yuren which is homophonic with fisherman in Chinese. He specialized in painting of flowers and birds in liberal style under the tutelage of the famous artist Pan Tianshou, and graduated from Chinese Painting Department of Zhejiang Fine Arts Institute at the age of 26. In May1970, Zhang went to the May Seventh Cadre School in Xianning with all the members of People's Fine Arts Publishing House. Different form his colleagues, Zhang was escorted to the destination since he was involved in the political matter of Combating Jiang Qing. For this matter, he was confined secretly by the Public Military Propaganda Team in the end of 1969. Despite the torture, he remained indomitable. His issues hadn't been clarified even when he went to the cadre school. His so called accomplices are Zhang Guang, Xu Xi, Wang Yunguang, Liu Ruyang and some other young artists. In the early period of cadre school life, the supervisors tended to go extreme and overdo many things. Soon afterwards, Public Military Propaganda Team of Hubei Province was taken over by Commissar Li Xiaoxiang, who made intensive surveys of these affairs and declared that the mission of the cadre school was productive labor and class movement, which the reality wasn't inconsistent with. These words were a great consolation to Zhang Lichen and other members of cadre school. Their repressed emotion slightly got released.
At that time, cadre school members suffered mental stress as well as heavy manual labor. But Zhang Lichen, a politically oppressed man, never yielded to difficulty. He could carry a load weighing around 240 Jin; dig a ditch reaching a length of about 8 meters in one day. What he did equaled to several others' work. In the early summer of 1972, Zhang returned to capital Beijing to marry his girlfriend, a young teacher named Hu Ping. However, he had to go back to the cadre school again shortly afterwards…
Though Zhang Lichen suffered a lot in cadre school, he still thought his experiences were better than a routine life. Perhaps this kind of life was full and comprehensive, or there would be drawbacks in life. Xiangyang Lake made intellectuals of that time penetrating which wasn't easy under normal conditions. As for Zhang himself, the cadre school was a great opportunity to go deep into the realities of life, to open a new prospect in mind, and to broaden choices of subjects, which all had deep influence on artistic creation. Life is the source of art, that's why a painter who goes through trails and tribulations can have a profound understanding and comprehension for life, and create meaningful and though-provoking works. For example, When Zhang was in Xianning, he once witnessed bamboos growing in mountains swayed gracefully in wind and rain, from which he found strength to struggle against fate. As for dredging up lotus seedpods and picking out water caltrops in lake, these things also gave him much delight. Sometimes boating on lake, appreciating the attractive sunset and flocks of wild ducks, he would feel to be absorbed with nature and free from inhibitions. What Zhang couldn't bear to part from were lotus, whose leaves were as big as umbrella and stem was as straight as pestle. Zhang grew up by the side of Weishan Lake, but he never saw such large lotus with thick stem. Sometimes he might be caught in a storm; in this case, he would pluck a lotus leaf to keep off the rain and lie on the boat eatinging lotus seeds. This kind of life was like a fairy tale that couldn't appreciate. When he gave a lesson, he always propagated lotus of Xiangyang Lake to his students and even sought opportunities to take them to Xiangyang Lake for sketching. After he came back to Beijing, he named his studio Fisherman's Thatched Cottage. In the album of Zhang Lichen's Paintings, the lotus paintings he drew were about 10 which occupied 10% of his 100 paintings. Those paintings were named Chinese ink lotus, Autumn Lotus, Delegate Lotus, Summer Lotus Lake and something like these. On two of these paintings were inscribed a poem: A cloud came with the breeze, the mist rose over the lakes, a drizzle dropped on the withering lotus, the rustle conveyed no cold feelings. Definitely, this poem expressed the author's understanding of Xiangyang Lake. So to speak, if there were no cadre school life, there would have been no lotus painted by Zhang Lichen or any lotus painting exhibition. Now the successful painter sometimes said that proper arrangement for intellectuals to visit Xianning could also realize the meaning that cadre schools aimed to tell us. (Written by Li Chengwai)