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Oil paintings and politics: Weaving a heroic tale of the Chinese communist revolution

Authors Hung, Chang-Tai
Issue Date 2007
Source Comparative Studies in Society and History , v. 49, (4), 2007, OCT, p. 783-814
Summary The use of oil paintings as a political tool is apparent at various times in the history of art. In the PRC however, the Communists' use of artworks reached far beyond the mere tension between politics and art to include the influence of the Soviet Union, and the nationalization of oil painting. By examining what the Chinese Communists called 'revolutionary history painting', the author analyzes the CCP's propaganda effort to reconstruct an official visual narrative of the nation's history (purged leaders were painted out of portraits; works were rejected because they did not conform to party aesthetics; rigorous visual languages were devised to convey the power of the leader, Mao Zedong, and the correctness of his thought). The author sees in this tradition a creative, popular, and politically effective means of communicating a revolutionary message, especially in a vast land with an overwhelmingly illiterate, rural population; he also contends that, despite ideological rigidity, both the revolutionary message and the oil paintings themselves were constantly evolving as power shifted within the CCP. Figures, References. O. van Zijl
ISSN 0010-4175
Language English
Format Article
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