Zhao Yu (1926-1980) was born in Xiaoyi, Shanxi Province. After he joined the People's Liberation Army, he became engaged in propaganda work. He also was editor of the Northeast China Illustrated [东北画报, Dongbei huabao]. After the founding of the PRC, he worked in the People's Fine Arts Publishing House, Beijing Normal University and the Central Art Academy.
In 1972, Zhao was the artist designated to assist Dong Xiwen, who was seriously ill by then, to paint the fourth version of the painting The Founding of the Nation [开国大典, Kaiguo dadian]. This had become necessary because certain persons, including Liu Shaoqi, who had come under a cloud during the Cultural Revolution or who had fallen foul of Jiang Qing, had to be removed from the earlier painting.
Zhao collaborated with Wu Dezu and Zhang Fanfu.