Mao Zedong, the iconic figure and absolute leader of Communist China and leader of the Cultural Revolution in China, was also surprisingly a calligrapher and graceful and eloquent poet. In the midst of the Cultural Revolution in China, soon followed by the May, 1968, riots in France, Pierre Argillet brought the book of “Poems” by Mao Zedong to Dalí. Tickled, the artist decided to create eight illustrations, some of which were political satires.
The “Hundred Flowers” are shown as towering fleurs- de-lis, symbols of royalty, with people attempting to reach them. Crowns emerge from the “River of Plenty.” When Argillet asked Dalí why his “Bust of Mao” was headless in a Chinese uniform, Dalí replied: “Well, the man is so tall that he didn’t fit on the page!”—“And what about these small dancing “Demons?”—“To the Chinese, they are Japanese!”
The “Dragon” is a female monster, the “Three Mountains of Peace” are hardly larger than rocks, and the “Turtle Mountain,” shown as gigantic, antediluvian animals, wander in the midst of excrements resembling the Yin and Yang symbol. As to the splendid “Small Horses,” their pirouettes call to mind the Renaissance period, but also the longing for freedom.