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Andy Warhol's Mao Tse Tung

Andy Warhol's Mao Tse Tung (1972) is a silk-screen portrait of the Chinese leader that was made in many versions. It is one of the series of silk-screens that he made on the subject of fame. They began in the early 1960s with his many portraits of Marilyn Monroe whose sad death in 1962 led him to contemplation of what it meant to be famous and what it could possibly be worth. The fame of the individuals in these portraits was usually of the Hollywood variety and various representations of Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, and others are among the best known. Usually the different versions employed the same image--sometimes repeatedly within the same piece. In every instance, however, Warhol's method was to use appropriated images. They were usually taken from the press or from Hollywood promotional materials and adapted for the artist's purposes,

In these paintings Warhol also made many points about applying mechanized methods of reproduction to "fine arts," thereby turning fine art into consumer goods. And, by implication, the people in the 'fame' portraits were, in a sense, consumer goods themselves. He called his studio "The Factory" and he and his assistants turned out as many as 80 silk-screens per day. Despite all this emphasis on mechanical reproduction, however, he always preferred the signs of the human touch in the work. He could have had them made in a real factory and made so as to be indistinguishable from each other. Instead he "preferred the human error reflected in the misregistration of the screens, the uneven inking, and the occasional smears" (Fineberg 253). By 1970, however, Warhol had drifted away from painting. In yet another attempt to shock the public--for the purpose of getting attention and for the purpose of continuing to shake up people's thinking about art--he even pretended that his assistants had been doing all the work anyway, a claim he later recanted.

But in the early seven...

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Andy Warhol's Mao Tse Tung. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 00:04, August 21, 2019, from