Ben Shahn Biography and Artwork

Born in Lithuania in 1898, Ben Shahn was a leading American social realist artist of the 1930s. He studied at New York University and City College during the 1920s before gaining major recognition for his series The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti in 1932. Shahn’s expressive figurative paintings, murals, and posters were inexorably tied to his pursuit of social justice and lifelong activism within leftist political beliefs.

Shahn’s work displayed a combination of realism and abstraction, addressing various social and political causes. He had a deep affection for American workers, immigrants, and disenfranchised communities, often expressing an abhorrence for injustice and oppression. One of his most notable works is his mural in Jersey Homesteads (now Roosevelt), New Jersey. Commissioned by the United States government as part of the New Deal art programs during the Great Depression, it depicts scenes from rural life with an emphasis on immigration to America.

Shahn was also known for his left-wing political views and his series of lectures published as The Shape of Content. His work has been offered at auction multiple times with prices ranging from $5 USD to $95,000 USD. Despite passing away in 1969, he remains a significant contributor to American Social Realism today due to his unique style combining artistic expression with politics as well as tackling real-world subjects that resonate today like labor laws reform incrimination among other topics related to worker rights.

All Ben Shahn Artwork on Artchive

Artwork Name Year Medium
Handball 1939 Tempera on paper over composition board
The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti 1931 - 1932 tempera,Canvas
Blind Accordion Player 1945 Tempera on board
Vacant Lot 1939 Watercolor and gouache on paper mounted on plywood panel
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