Andy Warhol

[no title]


Not on display

Andy Warhol 1928–1987
Part of
Mao Tse-Tung
Screenprint on paper
Image: 914 × 914 mm
Purchased 1984

Display caption

`I''ve been reading so much about China,` Warhol said. `The only picture they ever have is of Mao Zedong. It''s great. It looks like a silkscreen.` Warhol`s portraits of Chairman Mao coincided with President Nixon`s historic visit to Beijing. Like many of Warhol''s subjects, the Communist leader was a contemporary icon. The official portrait used by Warhol appeared everywhere in China, while American radicals also knew it from the cover of the `Little Red Book`, an anthology of Mao''s quotations.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Andy Warhol 1928-87

P77073 - P77082 Mao-Tse Tung 1972

Portfolio of ten screenprints on Velin Arches paper, each sheet approx. 914 x 914 (36 x 36); printed by Styria Studio, New York and co-published by Castelli Graphics and Multiples Inc., New York in an edition of 250
Each inscribed on back ‘Andy Warhol' b.l. and stamped with the artist's and printer's stamp b.r. and ‘135/250'
Purchased at Christie's (Grant-in-Aid) 1984
Lit: ‘Prints & Photographs Published', Print Collector's Newsletter, vol.3, Nov.-Dec. 1972, p.108; Roberta Bernstein, ‘Warhol as Printmaker', in Frayda Feldman and Jorg Schellmann (eds.), Andy Warhol Prints, New York and Munich 1985, p.17, repr. p.51 (col.). Also repr: Hermann Wunsche, Andy Warhol das Graphische Werk 1962-1980, Bonn [c.1980], nos. 71-80 (col.)

Mao Tse-Tung (1893-1976) became chairman of the Communist Party in China in 1943 and proclaimed the People's Republic of China in 1949. He retained the post of Chairman until his death. In 1972 Warhol used a photograph of Chairman Mao, taken from the frontispiece of Quotations from Chairman Mao-Tse Tung (Peking 1960) as the basis for a series of paintings, prints and wallpaper. Whereas previously Warhol had made prints which were based upon completed paintings, the Mao prints appeared in the same year as the paintings and were worked on at the same time. Some 2,000 Mao images in all media were shown in a Warhol exhibition held at Musée Galleria, Paris in 1974 (month unknown).

The format of the Maos is similar to his other major early portfolio entitled ‘Marilyn' 1967 (P07121-07130, another copy repr. Feldman and Schellman (eds.) 1985, p.39 in col.) both series consisting of ten screenprints employing the same image but printed in various different colours. The Maos differ from the Marilyns by Warhol's incorporation of graphic marks, different in each print within the series, to the side of Mao's head. Warhol's painted portraits of Mao combined silkscreen with very free brushwork and the graphic gestures in the series of prints may be related to these. According to Bernstein, ‘This represents the first of a number of devices he introduces into his works during the 1970s to give them more "style", as he himself puts it.' The graphic marks are also suggestive of Chinese ideograms.

‘Mao', Warhol's first non-American subject, was made in the same year that President Richard Nixon visited China and therefore at a time when Mao was a figure of American public awareness. According to Peter Schjeldahl, writing about Warhol's paintings:

the Maos and hammers and sickles relate to the electric chairs and car crashes of the early '60s - the difference being one of class content. The calculated shock value of the earlier paintings was in the images of plebeian catastrophe, that of the recent paintings in the images of historic menace to the ruling class. Warhol offers his patrons both a delicious horror and a promise of emotional mastery over it: they can hang it on their walls (‘Warhol & Class Content', Art in America, vol. 68, May 1980, p.118).

According to Bernstein, the Mao prints can be seen as a parody of ‘the seemingly endless number of posters and billboards of Mao in China. The manipulation of the colour of each image stresses the mechanical nature of the screenprinting process'.

The Mao prints were co-published by Castelli Graphics and Multiples Inc., New York. However, Feldman and Schellmann state incorrectly that they were published by Peter M Brant. The Tate Gallery Report 1984-6, 1986 incorrectly lists these works as being not inscribed.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, p.469

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