Memoir

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China and The Coronation

In a juxtaposition characteristic of Topolski, this section of the Century contrasts revolutionary China with the pomp and ceremony of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1959, Prince Philip commissioned Topolski to turn the sketches he had made at the Coronation six years earlier into a large-scale painting at Buckingham Palace, where it still hangs. This film shows scenes from the painting, with accompanying soundtrack. Topolski travelled to China during the Second World War, and returned in 1966. The Chinese leader Mao Zedong had just launched the Cultural Revolution, a power struggle within the Chinese Communist Party which resulted in chaos across the country and the death of around 1.5 million people.

Topolski was one of the very few Europeans in the country at the time, and was literally witnessing, and drawing, a revolution in progress. He returned to London with hundreds of drawings and for a whole year filled the fortnightly editions of his Chronicle purely with Chinese material.

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