Mao zhuxi wan sui! (Long Live Chairman Mao!)

Weida de daoshi, weida de lingxiu, weida de tongshuai, weida de kangshou. (The Great Teacher, the Great Leader, the Great Commander, and the Great Helmsman.)

Shanghai: Renmin meishu chubanshe, 1967 Stock Code: 149243
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A well-preserved poster portrait of China's "Great Helmsman" dating to the early Cultural Revolution

A large, well-preserved poster produced early in the Cultural Revolution to stoke the revolutionary fires of Mao's burgeoning cult. The portrait mirrors the contemporary official portrait of Mao that hung overlooking Tiananmen Square, and it is accompanied by the slogans that quickly became the standard adulation for Mao after the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.

Under the Chinese Communist Party, portraits of state leaders have always been a tightly-controlled visual genre. Mao had a number of official portraits made during his lifetime, with the version on this poster being the seventh authorised portrait commissioned after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. The depiction, painted by the artist Wang Guodong, came into use in 1964 and, at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, the Party's Politburo decided to make the hanging of a Mao portrait on the Tiananmen rostrum permanent for the first time.

In essence, this decision legitimised the mass dissemination of Mao's image in poster form and his cult of personality quickly ballooned. With one's loyalty to Mao judged by outward, performative demonstrations of fealty, the hanging of a Mao poster was a way for ordinary people to survive the political radicalism of the Cultural Revolution, and publishers and printers around the country produced tens of millions of copies to feed growing demand. This copy was printed in Shanghai on high-quality paper; often in short-supply, this grade of paper was reserved for Mao-related projects. Mao portraits were intended to be hung and not collected, meaning only a minority survive in the condition of this copy.

This poster was printed shortly before a new portrait of Mao was commissioned. Painted by Wang in collaboration with his student Ge Xiaoguang, versions of it have hung on the Tiananmen rostrum up to the present, demonstrating the ongoing legitimising power of Mao's image.

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Poster (770 x 530 mm). A portrait of Chairman Mao with a caption below in red.


Very faint small mark to upper margin, not affecting image. Near-fine, rare in such sharp and vibrant condition.


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