Li Keran is one of the representative figures of China’s painting since the 1960s. Tutored by Qi Baishi and Huang Binhong, Li inherited the painting skills of the two great masters of traditional Chinese painting in the early 20th century.
After the founding of New China, Li helped to enrich the expressiveness of traditional Chinese painting by introducing elements of western painting such as light and shadow, colors, etc. In the 1960s, Li created a series of works based on the poems of Chairman Mao Zedong, among which “Red over the Mountains as if the Forests are Dyed” is a representative one.
This painting was created on the basis of “Red over the Mountains as if the Forests are Dyed,” a verse excerpted from Qin Yuan Chun•Changsha by Mao. This poem was composed when the revolution led by Mao entered a period of rapid development. Therefore, the enormous pride in the success and great aspirations of the young leader when facing the beautiful scenery of late autumn can be sensed from the poem. In order to convey this sense of grandeur created by the poem, the painter applied the panoramic image composition which prevailed in the landscape painting of Northern Song Dynasty, and adopted heavy colors by adding minerals such as cinnabar into the pigments, thus creating a vigorous and powerful effect which is rare in traditional Chinese paintings.