Li Keran (1907-1989) was born in Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province. His artistic education started in 1929 when he entered the Research Section of the Hangzhou State Xihu Art College. He learned oil painting from the famous French artist Corroto. In 1931, he joined the 'August One Art Association', which was disbanded by the Guomindang government. After the Japanese invasion, Li eventually arrived in Chongqing, where he worked under Zhou Enlai in the wartime propaganda effort. He worked as a teacher at the Beiping State Art Institute from 1946 on, and for more than ten years studied traditional Chinese painting with masters such as Qi Baishi and Huang Binhong. He was appointed as a professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1949.
As an expert in landscape painting, Li made great contributions to the reform of traditional Chinese landscape painting. At the same time, during periods of political upheaval such as the Cultural Revolution, he was prosecuted precisely because his expertise was seen as out of touch with the political demands of the moment.