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Brush with history

By Zhuan Ti (China Daily)

14:33, April 22, 2013

The Oriental (four leaders of the PRC - Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai), 270x780cm, 1993. (China Daily)

Liu Wenxi's art is known to everyone in China - it's on the latest currency.

"I have a piece of work that 1.3 billion people have seen," Liu Wenxi says with a smile.

The octogenarian former vice-president of China Artists Association and dean emeritus of Xi'an Academy of Fine Arts, is perhaps best known for painting portraits of Chairman Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People's Republic of China.

One of the portraits is now printed on the back of the renminbi, the nation's currency.

Born in a small village in Zhejiang province in 1933, Liu demonstrated his talent for art from a very young age.

But it wasn't until he went to the county school that he first time heard the name Leonardo da Vinci, the legendary artist in the Italian Renaissance.

Vinci sounds similar to Wenxi in Chinese.

"Then I thought, since we are both called 'wenxi', why couldn't I become an artist? " he recalled.

Liu's artist dream received a huge boost after his uncle introduced him to Chen Wangdao, then president of Fudan University in Shanghai.

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