Ben Shahn

Ben Shahn
Ben Shahn was a Lithuanian-born American artist and member of the Social Realist movement. After emigrating to New York with his family in 1906, Shahn went on to study at the National Academy of Design in New York and traveled throughout Europe during the 1920s. His expressive figurative paintings, murals, and posters were inexorably tied to his pursuit of social justice and lifelong activism within leftist political beliefs. Shahn unflinchingly critiqued the government and society stating that, “The artist must operate on the assumption that the public consists in the highest order of individual—that he is civilized, cultured, and highly sensitive both to emotional and intellectual contexts,” he once stated. “And while the whole public most certainly does not consist in that sort of individual, still the tendency of art is to create such a public—to lift the level of perceptivity, to increase and enrich the average individual's store of values.” During the latter part of his career, the artist’s paintings became more symbolic of his own emotional state rather than a description of social injustices. Today,  Shahn’s works are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., among others.

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