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Zhang Zhenshi 张振仕 (1914–1992) was a famous effigy painter and outstanding fine art educator in China. He created an image of Chairman Mao that has appeared all over the country and has become the most reproduced image of Mao of all time. Chinese artists have called it China's Mona Lisa.

Portrait for power

Mao Zedong was a Chinese communist leader who led the Communist Party of China to victory against the nationalist Kuomintang in the Chinese Civil War. The 20 year long civil war technically ended when Mao's forces captured all of mainland China on which the CPC established the People’s Republic of Chinamarker on October 1, 1949 in Beijing. Over 30 painters were chosen to create portraits of Chairman Mao for the first anniversary of the revolution in 1950. One of the painters, Mao's favourite, was Zhang Zhenshi. Most of the 30 paintings have since been lost or destroyed but Zhang's image of a solemn Mao dressed in simple grey tunic was reproduced as a poster that was put up everywhere in China. The model for the giant image of Mao that hangs in Tiananmen Square is based on Zhang Zhenshi's painting.

The original

On June 3, 2006 the original painting was set to go on the auction block. The Beijing Huachen Auction Company, which stated that there would be no location restrictions on the portrait and that the sale would have be open to both Chinese and foreign bidders, was forced to cancel the auction after a huge outcry from the Chinese public. Mao is still beloved by many Chinese and they feared that a foreign bidder would take the image out of the country. Eventually, a deal was reached with the private Chinese-American owner who agreed to sell the painting to the China's National Museummarker. The purchase was jointly financed by the museum and the State Administration of Cultural Heritage. For the auction the painting was valued at $120,000 American dollars but the price actually paid was not disclosed.



Stefan Landsberger's Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages

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