Popular and traditional Styles in depicting Mao
Later portrayals also capture the intimacy typical of images of Mao in which he is visually brought very close to the masses and becomes “one of them plain folks” (HRA 2008 “Family” Situations). One such picture is entitled The Growth of All Things Depends on the Sun (万物生长靠太阳). It shows a large crowd of peasants in a cotton field, all beaming at Mao as he holds some cotton in one of his arms and a little girl in the other (ill. 5.7). Another, The Hearts of Yan’an’s Sons and Daughters Turn to Chairman Mao (延安儿女心向毛主席) shows Mao receiving a small group of peasants from Yan’an. They are all sitting around a small table, intently focused on him (ill. 5.8).
Chinese elements are immediately recognized here. The first one with its elaborate depiction of plants and lush leaves takes up on the style of popular peasant paintings and New Year Prints which are dominated by repetitive natural elements (most well-known the decorative Huxian variety, which is quite akin to the depiction chosen as part of the sample here, and has achieved international fame, ill. 5.14).
The second, painted by a “Shaanxi Municipal Art Creation Group” in 1973, most probably under the direction of Liu Wenxi 刘文西 (1933-), is a typical example of 彩墨画 caimohua (colour and ink painting), that is, a socialist realist figure painting making use of Chinese material (ink and brush). It presents Mao and the peasants in ink and colour on paper—the traditional materials are used to create a socialist realist figure painting: the black outlines of figures used in the traditional style are largely retained but chiaroscuro from the European tradition is added. The plain and pale background from traditional practice is retained here, but added is a three-dimensionality in the picture’s structural make-up which is of “European” heritage (Andrews 1994:363-64).