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Painting History: China’s Revolution in a Global Context By Jiawei Shen ...

Chapter 1:  The Fate of a Painting
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Painting History:

Chapter 1

The Fate of a Painting

My Standing Guard for Our Great Motherland was painted in 1974 and had an extraordinary fate that made it a cultural artifact encapsulating the narrative of the Cultural Revolution.1 When Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution in May of 1966, he ended my dream of studying in an art academy but turned me into a famous painter at a very young age. I had just graduated from secondary school, so I stayed on at my old school to take part in the Cultural Revolution. I belonged to the “generation raised under the red flag,” and passionately believed in communism. Prior to Mao Zedong’s severing ties with the Soviet Union, I had read extensively in Russian literature and was deeply influenced by Russian and Soviet art, and for this I was persecuted at the start of the Cultural Revolution. I subsequently became a member of what was called the “rebel faction” of the Red Guard Third Command. Our organization was part of the Zhejiang Joint Provincial Headquarters based on the campus of the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in the provincial capital of Hangzhou. At the time, Zhejiang was the only province in which the core members of the revolutionary movement were art academy students and young teachers. So, when the Cultural Revolution was transformed from an armed conflict into a propaganda movement in 1968,