Aside from the model performances, the Communist Party similarly codified a set of model artworks for artists to emulate. In addition to the painting of a young Mao Zedong traveling to Anyuan, one of the most famous model works was the Rent Collection Courtyard, a life-size sculptural installation depicting the infamous landlord Liu Wencai collecting rent from starving tenant farmers.
The work was executed in 1965 by a team of sculptors from the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts. 114 unpainted clay sculptures forming 6 narrative tableaux were installed in the former courtyard of Liu Wencai’s residence. The sculptures tell a story of class struggle in the days before the Communists took control of the nation; they depict the exploitation of poor peasants as they try to pay their rent and the greed and cruelty of their landlord. Blending the styles of realism and romanticism, the figures were intended to elicit a strong emotional response from the viewer. Shortly after the Rent Collection Courtyard’s debut, the figures were rearranged and edited to include a final scene of the peasants’ armed revolt as they overthrow the landlord and his cronies through the help of the Communist Party.
The Rent Collection Courtyard was a huge success and copied across the nation— both in large and small scale. Similar life-size, multi figure tableaux were installed not only in Beijing, but also in distant regions, such as Tibet, and were adjusted to reflect local traditions and tastes. Ceramicists at Jingdezhen and other kiln sites similarly capitalized on the popularity of the Rent Collection Courtyard and produced small-scale reproductions of the sculpture in ceramic.
In this section, we see the Rent Collection Courtyard reproduced as sets of small, table-top sculptures that could be rearranged by the viewer to form a tableau. We also see the work reproduced by a ceramic factory in Sichuan as a series of four plaques, which can be read like a comic strip detailing the suffering of the peasants. While the small sculptures do not include the scenes of revolt, the final plaque depicts the peasants, with the assistance of the People’s Liberation Army, struggling against the landlord.