Always keen for new subject matter, developments in American foreign
policy presented Warhol with a new celebrity. In 1972 President Nixon
made his first official trip to China — a country that had been
unrecognised by many in the West ever since the Communist Revolution of
1949. There Nixon met the Chinese Communist leader, Chairman Mao Zedong,
heralding a new era of diplomacy. This event and the figure of Mao provided
a new icon for the artist – someone who was recognisable to millions,
and therefore a sure money spinner. This was a serious consideration for
an artist always keen to become richer.
Warhol took his image of Mao from the cover of the Quotations from
Chairman Mao Tse-tung, produced in millions of copies. He created
multiple versions of Mao screenprinted onto canvas of various sizes, which
became increasingly painterly. This gestural quality was also evident
in the 1972 print version of ten works that feature hand-drawn marks around
the head of Mao and unevenly inked colours.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010