Gu Yuan (1919-1996), a native of Zhongshan, Guangdong Province, is mainly known as a woodcut artist. ln 1938, Gu joined the Communist forces in Shaanxi. He studied at the Lu Xun Academy (鲁艺, Luyi) in Yan'an, from which he graduated in 1940. He was present at the "Yan'an Forum on Literature and Arts" (1942), where Mao Zedong delivered the opening and closing address and where the principles were set out that were to guide the arts until the early 1980s. In 1945, Gu went to Northeast China, where he performed with local cultural groups and worked as a journalist and artist. He was also active in the land reform movement. His work has come to embody the popular style of the liberated areas and has played an important role in spreading the policies of the Communist Party in the countryside before 1949.
In 1959, Gu Yuan joined the printmaking department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Later in his career he held the position of President of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.