Peasant paintings first became popular in China in the late 1950s, during a nationwide peasant painting movement that began during China’s Great Leap Forward. Chairman Mao Zedong was a proponent of artistic expression among his people proclaiming “Everyone may participate in artistic creation. Peasants, you may paint.”
Today, painting continues to be an important means of expression for Chinese peasants. Most of the artists work the agricultural farms during daylight and paint at night. Predominant in the Mayacamas Ranch collection are paintings that originated in Jinshan County, a farm community near Shanghai. Other paintings came from Huxxian County, a rural area several hours outside of the city of Xian. These are the primary peasant art colonies in Mainland China.
The Huxxian County art colony preceded the one in Jinshan County, organized shortly after the Cultural Revolution. Jinshan County's colony was created a decade later. While the media of gouche on paper are common between the two colonies, the composition and style of the Huxxian County paintings differ dramatically from the art created in Jinshan County. Also, paintings created in Huxxian County tend to be one-of-a-kind, meaning that there is no copying or printing done of these images. In contrast, paintings in Jinshan County tend to be recreated by the artist on multiple occasions, so that multiple versions of essentially the same paintings are created. Each painting, however, differs due to the evolution of the artists' vision of the painting.