Shahn, Ben


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Shahn, Ben

(Benjamin Shahn), 1898–1969, American painter and graphic artist, b. Lithuania. Shahn emigrated to the United States in 1906. After working in lithography until 1930, his style crystallized in a series of 23 paintings concerning the Sacco-Vanzetti trial, among them The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti (Whitney Mus., New York City). Shahn dealt consistently with social and political themes. He developed a strong and brilliant sense of graphic design revealed in numerous posters. His painting Vacant Lot (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Conn.) exhibits a poetic realism, whereas his more abstract works are characterized by terse, incisive lines and a lyric intensity of color. The Blind Botanist (Wichita Art Mus.) is characteristic of his abstractions. Shahn's murals include a series for the Bronx Central Annex Post Office, New York City. From 1933 to 1938 he worked as a photographer for the Farm Security Administration, producing masterful images of impoverished rural areas and their inhabitants. Shahn's later works are concerned with the loneliness of the city dweller.

Bibliography

See his writings, ed. by J. D. Morse (1972); biographies by his wife, B. B. Shahn (1972), and H. Greenfeld (1998); studies by J. T. Soby (1947 and 1957); K. W. Prescott, The Complete Graphic Works of Ben Shahn (1973).

Shahn, Ben

 

Born Sept. 12, 1898, in Kaunas, Lithuania; died Mar. 14, 1969, in New York City. American painter and graphic artist.

In 1906, Shahn was brought by his family to the USA. He studied at New York University, the College of the City of New York, and the National Academy of Design. Shahn’s work dealt with acute social problems, such as the injustice of the bourgeois world, the loneliness of urban man, and the strivings of simple people for peace. He expressed these themes in subjective, dramatic images closely related to the style of expressionism (The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti, 1931–32, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York). Shahn was a master of fresco work (mural in the Bronx County Post Office, New York, 1938–39) and poster art.

REFERENCE

Brysen, B. Ben Shahn. New York, 1972.

Shahn, Ben (Benjamin)

(1898–1969) painter, photographer, graphic artist; born in Kaunas, Lithuania. He emigrated with his parents to New York (1906), was a lithographer (1913–30), and studied at the National Academy of Design (1922). After study in Europe (1925–27), he became an activist painter in New York. A sequence of 23 gouaches based on the Sacco-Vanzetti case (1931–32) that ended in the execution of two political anarchists, and his series on the trial of labor leader Tom Mooney (1933), established his reputation. His style was semiabstract and boldly colored, and his posters for activist causes reflect his paintings. As a photographer he recorded the lives of farm workers for the Farm Security Administration (1935–38).
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