China 1948-49 | 1958

February 18th – July 3rd, 2022

The exhibition is produced by 24 ORE Cultura – Gruppo 24 ORE and promoted by the Comune di Milano-Cultura, was realized thanks to the collaboration of the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson and it brings together an exceptional corpus of photos and documents of the French photoreporter: over 100 original prints together with negatives, publications of magazines of the time, documents and letters coming from the collection of the Fondation HCB.

An unprecedented excursus describing two key-moments in the history of China: the fall of the Kuomintang and the establishment of the communist regime (1948-1949) and Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward” (1958).
An important moment in the history of world photojournalism, lived through the personal approach of the master Cartier-Bresson, who was the first to highlight – through the eye of his lens – important themes of the changes in contemporary Chinese history, being also able to present to the Western world aspects hidden by the regime’s propaganda such as the exploitation of human resources and the omnipresence of militia.

On November 25th, 1948, Henri-Cartier-Bresson was commissioned by Life magazine to shoot a story on the “last days of Beijing” before the arrival of the Maoist troops. Having gone for two weeks, we would stay for ten months, mainly in the Shanghai area, witnessing the fall of the city of Nanjing held by Kuomintang, then forced to stay in Shanghai under Communist control for four months, leaving China a few days before the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China (October 1st, 1949).

Press Kit

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China Welfare, Madame Sun Yat-sen’s charity work: children wait for rice distribution.
Shanghai, March 1949
Gelatin silver print, 1970s

© Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

At the end of the day, people in the queue are still hoping to buy gold.
Shanghai, 23 December 1948
Gelatin silver print, 1970s

© Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos