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.
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).