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Zhang Xiaogang

Kunming, China born 1958

  • resides Sichuan Province

Bloodline (Two Comrades with red baby) 1995 Place made: China
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas

Dimensions: 150.0 h x 180.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2000
Accession No: NGA 2000.334
Image rights: © Zhang Xiaogang


This is a painting by Chinese artist Zhang Xiaogang (b.1958) depicting two parents and a child. The painting is shown as an enlargeable image. Text onscreen gives information about the context and intention of the work of art, critical of the one-child policy in China, as well as a comprehensive visual analysis, explaining the symbolism of the red tone, the baby girl and the stark family portrayal. The painting measures 150.0 cm high x 180.0 cm wide and was painted with oil on canvas.

Educational value

  • This is an excellent resource for the Responding strand in the visual arts curriculum for the year bands from 5-6 to 9-10, especially for those content descriptions that refer to considering the broader context of arts works, such as the social, cultural and historical context and role of the artist and of the audience/s. As the supporting text points out, traditionally Chinese families were extended ones but the one child policy – a population control measure – has placed more importance on the immediate family.
  • The resource is useful for the Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia cross-curriculum priority. The work explores the culture, society and traditions of China and the effects of the one child policy on people’s lives. It links to the priority’s organising ideas about the diverse countries of Asia and about the arts and literature of Asia influencing aesthetic and creative pursuits within Australia, the region and globally.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

This painting by internationally acclaimed Chinese artist, Zhang Xiaogang, depicts two parents and a child. The formal portraits of the adults are based on photographs of the artist’s own family from the 1920s. Painted in red tones, the naked baby girl is in stark contrast, giving the impression that she is at odds with the past and her parents’ generation. Only thin red umbilical cords – bloodlines – link the family together.

While the bloodline of Chinese families was traditionally an extended one, the one-child policy has resulted in the growing importance of the nuclear family. Through the symbolism of the ubiquitous grey uniform of the era, Zhang alludes to the deep sense of alienation and loss of individuality experienced in China during the time of Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label