Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-99c86f546-kpmwg Total loading time: 0.287 Render date: 2021-12-03T20:30:20.342Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Oil Paintings and Politics: Weaving a Heroic Tale of the Chinese Communist Revolution

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 October 2007

Chang-Tai Hung
Affiliation:
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Extract

“In my entire life I did not produce a single painting that was uppermost in mind to create,” the celebrated painter Dong Xiwen (1914–1973) reportedly lamented on his deathbed. Dong may not have produced the dream piece that he would truly cherish, but he did create, albeit unwillingly, a deeply controversial work of art in his 1953 oil painting The Founding Ceremony of the Nation (Kaiguo dadian) (Figures 1 and 2), for it epitomizes the tension between art and politics in the People's Republic of China (PRC). In this famous piece, Dong portrays Chairman Mao Zedong (1893–1976) in Tiananmen Square on 1 October 1949, with his senior associates in attendance—Liu Shaoqi (1898–1969), Zhu De (1886–1976), Zhou Enlai (1898–1976), Gao Gang (1905–1954), Lin Boqu (1886–1960), and others. They are surrounded by huge lanterns, a Chinese symbol of prosperity, and a sea of red banners that declare the founding of a new nation. When first unveiled in 1953, the painting was widely hailed as one of the greatest oil paintings ever produced by a native artist. In just three months more than half-a-million reproductions of the painting were sold. But the fate of this work soon took an ominous turn, and the artist was requested to make three major revisions during his lifetime. In 1954 Dong was instructed to excise Gao Gang from the scene when Gao was purged by the Party for allegedly plotting to seize power and create an “independent kingdom” in Manchuria. During the Cultural Revolution in the mid-1960s Liu Shaoqi was accused of advocating a “bourgeois reactionary line” and subsequently was purged, and Dong was ordered in 1967 to redo his painting again and erased Liu from the inauguration scene. Then, in 1972, also during the Cultural Revolution, the radicals, commonly labeled the “Gang of Four,” ordered a third revision, namely, that Lin Boqu be eliminated from the painting for allegedly opposing the marriage of Mao and Jiang Qing (1914–1991) during the Yan'an days. By this time Dong was dying of cancer and was too ill to pick up the brush, so his student Jin Shangyi (b. 1934), and another artist, Zhao Yu (1926–1980), were assigned the task. These two artists, afraid of doing further damage to the original piece, eventually produced a replica of the painting, with the ailing Dong brought from the hospital for consultation on his embattled work. Though Dong died the following year, the ill-fated story of The Founding Ceremony of the Nation did not end: in 1979, with the demise of the Gang of Four and the Party's official rehabilitation of Liu Shaoqi, the images of Liu, Gao Gang, and Lin Boqu were restored in the painting. Because Jin Shangyi was on a foreign tour, Yan Zhenduo (b. 1940), a graduate of the Department of Oil Painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), was called upon to help reinstall the three leaders.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Society for Comparative Study of Society and History 2007

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

1 Xiaochun, Liu, ed., Luo Gongliu yishu duihualu (A dialogue about art with Luo Gongliu) (Taiyuan: Shanxi jiaoyu chubanshe, 1999), 119Google Scholar.

2 Songnian, Bo, ed., Zhongguo yishushi tuji (A pictorial history of Chinese art) (Shanghai: Shanghai wenyi chubanshe, 2004), 253Google Scholar.

3 Feng, Jiang, Jiang Feng meishu lunji (Jiang Feng's collected essays on art) (Beijing: Renmin meishu chubanshe, 1983), Vol. 1, 92Google Scholar.

4 Shangyi, Jin, with the help of Cao Wenhan, Wo de youhua zhi lu (My life as an oil painter) (Changchun: Jilin meishu chubanshe, 2000), 6264Google Scholar. Interviews with Jin Shangyi, 4 Aug. 2004, and 7 Jan. 2006, Beijing.

5 Bown, Matthew Cullerne, Art under Stalin (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1991), 140, 214Google Scholar.

6 For the term “revolutionary history paintings” (geming lishihua), see Shanshi, Quan, “Cong cuozhe zhong jian guangming” (Seeing the light after adversities), Meishu (Art) 1 (6 Feb. 1962), 50Google Scholar.

7 Andrews, Julia F., Painters and Politics in the People's Republic of China, 1949–1979 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 7586, 228–46Google Scholar. Denton, Kirk A., “Visual Memory and the Construction of a Revolutionary Past: Paintings from the Museum of the Chinese RevolutionModern Chinese Literature and Culture 12, 2 (Fall 2000): 203–35Google Scholar.

8 Zhongguo geming bowuguan wushinian bianweihui, ed., Zhongguo geming bowuguan wushinian (The fifty years of the Museum of the Chinese Revolution) (Shenzhen: Haitian chubanshe, 2001), 136Google Scholar.

10 Yeqiu, Wang, “Sulian Guoli geming bowuguan” (Soviet National Revolutionary Museum), Wenwu cankao ziliao (Reference materials on cultural relics) 10 (31 Oct. 1950): 73Google Scholar.

11 Zhongguo geming bowuguan wushinian bianweihui, Zhongguo geming bowuguan wushinian, 137. Interview with Yan Han, 3 Jan. 2006, Beijing.

12 Liu Xiaochun, Lou Gongliu yishu duihualu, 32.

13 Renmin ribao (People's daily), 27 Nov. 1949: 4.

14 Bown, Matthew Cullerne, Socialist Realist Painting (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 131204Google Scholar; Holz, Wolfgang, “Allegory and Iconography in Socialist Realist Painting,” in Bown, Matthew Cullerne and Taylor, Brandon, eds., Art of the Soviets: Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in a One-Party State, 1917–1992 (Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1993), 7385Google Scholar.

15 Interview with Bo Songnian, 6 Aug. 2005, Beijing.

16 Beihong, Xu, “Zai Sulian Jieke canguan meishu de jianlüe baogao” (A brief report on art during a visit to the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia), in, Zhen, Wang and Boyang, Xu, eds., Xu Beihong yishu wenji (Xu Beihong's collected essays on art) (Yinchuan: Ningxia renmin chubanshe, 2001), 546Google Scholar.

17 Bown, Socialist Realist Painting, 187.

18 “Renmin yishujia Yiliya Liebin,” (Ilya Repin: The people's artist); Renmin meishu (People's art) 1, 4 (1 Aug. 1950): 13–14.

19 Nadan, Chang, “Xianshi zhuyi de lishi huajia Sulikefu” (Surikov: A realist history painter), Renmin meishu 1, 5 (1 Oct. 1950): 3840Google Scholar.

20 Renmin meishu 1, 5 (1 Oct. 1950): 47–49.

21 Renmin ribao, 30 Sept. 1954: 3, 5; Jin Shangyi, Wo de youhua zhi lu, 23.

22 Jin Shangyi, Wo de youhua zhi lu, 23.

23 Jizhe, , “Huanyin Sulian youhuajia K. M. Makeximofu” (Welcome Soviet oil painter K. M. Maksimov), Meishu 3 (15 Mar. 1955): 39Google Scholar.

24 Interviews with Jin Shangyi.

25 Interview with Wu Biduan, 30 July 2004, Beijing.

26 Interviews with Jin Shangyi.

27 Ruohong, Cai, “Wei chuangzao zui xin zui mei de yishu er fendou” (Striving to create the newest and most beautiful art), Meishu 8–9 (1960): 3Google Scholar.

28 Bown, Socialist Realist Painting, 136.

29 Zhongguo geming bowuguan wushinian bianweihui, Zhongguo geming bowuguan wushinian, 140.

30 Liu Xiaochun, Lou Gongliu yishu duihualu, 92–94.

31 Yonglie, Ye, Hu Qiaomu (Hu Qiaomu). (Beijing: Zhonggong zhongyang dangxiao chubanshe, 1994), 3, 104–6Google Scholar.

32 Qiaomu, Hu, Zhongguo gongchandang de sanshi nian (Thirty years of the Chinese Communist Party) (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1951)Google Scholar.

33 Yimin, Hou, “Wo he wo de geming lishihua,” (I, the artist, and my revolutionary history paintings), Meishu bolan (Art review) 17 (25 June 2005): 33Google Scholar. Interview with Zhan Jianjun, 2 Aug. 2005, Beijing.

34 Interviews with Hou Yimin, 1 Aug. 2004 and 9 Jan. 2006, Beijing; interview with Zhan Jianjun; interviews with Jin Shangyi.

35 Interview with Zhan Jianjun.

37 Hung, Chang-tai, “The Red Line: Creating a Museum of the Chinese Revolution,” The China Quarterly 184 (Dec. 2005): 914–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

39 Golomstock, Igor, “Problems in the Study of Stalinist Culture,” in, Günther, Hans, ed., The Culture of the Stalin Period (New York: St. Martin's, 1990), 114Google Scholar.

40 Di, Zhu, “Tan lishi ticai de meishu chuangzuo” (On historical topics in art) Meishu 3 (6 June 1961): 41Google Scholar.

41 Cai Ruohong, “Wei chuangzao zui xin zui mei de yishu er fendou,” 5.

42 Although a full inventory of the oil paintings is not available, some journals printed photographs of the exhibition. See Wenwu (Cultural relics) 7 (July 1961).

43 Jin Shangyi, Wo de youhua zhi lu, 48. Interviews with Jin Shangyi.

44 Jin Shangyi, Wo de youhua zhi lu, 49–50.

45 Interviews with Jin Shangyi.

46 Jin Shangyi, Wo de youhua zhi lu, 49.

48 Luo acknowledged Rembrandt's influence on his paintings. See Liu Xiaochun, Luo Gongliu yishu duihualu, 54.

49 Liu Xiaochun, “Luo Gongliu,” Jujiang meishu zhoukan: Zhongguo xilie (Masters of Chinese painting) 111 (12 Oct. 1996): 8. See also Liu Xiaochun, Luo Gongliu yishu duihualu, 130–33.

50 Liu Xiaochun, Luo Gongliu yishu duihualu, 125.

51 Ibid., 126.

52 Quan Shanshi, “Cong cuozhe zhong jian guangming,” 48. Zedong, Mao, “On Coalition Government,” in Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, 5 vols. (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 19671977), 3: 211Google Scholar.

53 Tertz, Abram, On Socialist Realism, intro. by Czeslaw Milosz (New York: Pantheon, 1960), 48Google Scholar.

54 Quan Shanshi, “Cong cuozhe zhong jian guangming,” 49.

55 Ibid., 50.

57 Jianjun, Zhan, “Zou wanlu yougan” (Reflections on taking a roundabout course), Meishu 6 (6 Dec. 1961): 31Google Scholar.

59 Di, Zhu, “Guangming zai qian” (The future is bright), Meishu 4 (6 Aug. 1961): 26Google Scholar.

60 Jia, Bao, “Cong zhanzheng da changmian zhong biaoxian shidai jingshen” (Expressing the spirit of the time through great war scenes), Meishu 6 (6 Dec. 1961): 30Google Scholar.

62 Mao Zedong, “The Present Situation and Our Tasks,” in Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, 4: 157, 169, 173.

63 Shangyi, Jin, “Chuangzuo Mao zhuxi zai shieryue huiyi shang de tihui” (My reflections on painting Chairman Mao at the December Conference), Meishu 6 (6 Dec. 1961): 1011Google Scholar.

64 Interviews with Jin Shangyi.

65 A replica of Serov's painting was sent as a gift by the Soviet Union and displayed in the same museum in 1961. Wenwu 7 (July 1961): n.p. (photo).

66 Jin Shangyi, Wo de youhua zhi lu, 131. Interviews with Hou Yimin.

67 Interviews with Hou Yimin.

68 Hou Yimin, “Liu Shaoqi tongzhi he Anyuan kuanggong de gousi” (My conception of the painting Comrade Liu Shaoqi and the Anyuan Coal Miners), Meishu 4 (6 Aug. 1961): 21.

69 He Rong, “Geming fengbao zhong de yingxiong xingxiang” (The image of the hero in the storm of revolution), Meishu 4 (6 Aug. 1961): 6.

70 Hou Yimin, “Liu Shaoqi tongzhi he Anyuan kuanggong de gousi,” 24.

71 Interviews with Hou Yimin.

72 Wenwu 7 (July 1961), 27–37.

73 Xiwen, Dong, “Youhua Kaiguo dadian de chuangzuo jingyan” (How I created The Founding Ceremony of the Nation), Xin guancha (New observer) 21 (1 Nov. 1953): 2425Google Scholar.

74 Jiang Feng, Jiang Feng meishu lunji, 92.

75 Interviews with Jin Shangyi.

76 Bo Songnian, Zhongguo yishushi tuji, 253.

78 Golomostock, Igor, Totalitarian Art in the Soviet Union, the Third Reich, Fascist Italy and the People's Republic of China, Chandler, Robert, trans. (New York: IconEditions, 1990Google Scholar).

79 Groys, Boris, The Total Art of Stalinism: Avant-Garde, Aesthetic Dictatorship, and Beyond, Rougle, Charles, trans. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 33Google Scholar.

80 Zhaowen, Wang, “Biaoxian renmin qunzhong de yingxiong shidai” (An age of heroism that reflects the people), Meishu 8–9 (Aug.-Sept. 1960): 35Google Scholar.

81 Jin Shangyi, “Chuangzuo Mao zhuxi zai shieryue huiyi shang de tihui,” 11.

82 Bonnell, Victoria, Iconography of Power: Soviet Political Posters under Lenin and Stalin (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 147Google Scholar.

83 Xiwen, Dong, “Cong Zhongguo huihua de biaoxian fangfa tandao youhua de Zhongguofeng” (From the expressive methods of Chinese painting to Chinese characteristics of oil painting), Meishu 1 (1 Jan. 1957): 6Google Scholar.

84 Dong Xiwen, “Youhua Kaiguo dadian de chuangzuo jingyan,” 25.

86 Zuoren, Wu, “Youhua de xinmao” (The novelty of oil painting), Meishu 8–9 (1960): 42Google Scholar.

87 Enlai, Zhou, “Zai yinyue wudao zuotanhui shang de jianghua” (Talk at the music and dance forum), in, Wenhuabu wenxue yishu yanjiuyuan, , ed., Zhou Enlai lun wenyi (Zhou Enlai on literature and art) (Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 1979), 181Google Scholar.

88 Mao Zedong, “Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art,” in Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, 3: 69–98.

89 Liu Xiaochun, Lou Gongliu yishu duihualu, 49.

5
Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Oil Paintings and Politics: Weaving a Heroic Tale of the Chinese Communist Revolution
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Oil Paintings and Politics: Weaving a Heroic Tale of the Chinese Communist Revolution
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Oil Paintings and Politics: Weaving a Heroic Tale of the Chinese Communist Revolution
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *