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Propaganda In Art - Part of our 'Poster Power' Exhibition

Chinese Propaganda Posters

Posters have a long history of propaganda - being used by particular individuals or parties to make a point that agrees with and supports their ideology. Some of these posters were so effective that they have entered a cultures psyche and can be used to reference or symbolise the ideas associated with them to the wider public. We have a collection of Chinese propaganda posters as part of our ‘Poster Power’ exhibition, as pristine examples of politics and art. These three pieces were created in 1967 to promote Mao Zedong’s regime. They use hyper-realism and heavily use the colour red to promote messages of a revolutionary people in support of the proletariat and against bourgeois mentalities. 

 

‘Long Live Mao’s Theory’ or ‘workers Below Chairman Mao As The Sun’

This piece features soldiers, farmers and factory workers all together holding forth the Little Red Book which contained a selection of quotes from Mao which summed up how to life a ‘Red Guard’ life.  This symbolised their loyalty to Mao whilst also stressing the importance of these peoples to Mao’s regime all in one image.

‘We Will Crush The Dog Heads Of Those Who Oppose Chairman Mao’

This piece shows a soldier with his red armband in the forefront, marking him as part of the Red Guard. This illustrates the other side of propaganda; instead of focusing on the positives of the regime and the happy citizens like the other works, this piece instead focuses on the consequences of not being part of the regime. The dramatic pose, looking like he is shouting those words, ‘we will crush the dog heads of those who oppose Chairman Mao’ at the viewer forces a mental ‘with or against’ reaction. This experience is a key part of why propaganda is so effective throughout history and why we now treasure these pieces as historical artworks.

 

‘The Many Accomplish Great Things’

Workers march happily forward on their way to work below Chairman Mao as the sun. Some are again holding forth the Little Red Book which summed up how to life a ‘Red Guard’ life in a series of quotes from Mao. It is said that in the 1960s the Little Red Book was the most printed book on earth, so great was its influence. It was not uncommon for citizens to have multiply copies on them and in their homes. In the background the red flags fly all about, showing the huge swell of support for the regime. The head of Mao in this piece was appropriated by contemporary artist Shepard Fairey’s in his ‘Obey’ piece. Even today the influence of these pieces persists.