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Oral history interview with Ben Shahn, 1964 April 14

Interviewee:
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Interviewer:
Doud, Richard Keith  Search this
Subject:
Evans, Walker  Search this
Lange, Dorothea  Search this
Stryker, Roy Emerson  Search this
Rosskam, Edwin  Search this
Rothstein, Arthur  Search this
United States. Farm Security Administration. Historical Section  Search this
New Deal and the Arts Oral History Project  Search this
Type:
Sound recordings
Interviews
Topic:
Federal aid to the arts  Search this
Photographers  Search this
Painters  Search this
Documentary photography  Search this
Record number:
(DSI-AAA_CollID)12760
(DSI-AAA_SIRISBib)213825
AAA_collcode_shahn64
Theme:
Photography
New Deal
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_oh_213825
Additional Online Media:

Ben Shahn papers, 1879-1990, bulk 1933-1970

Creator:
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Subject:
Wolcott, Marion Post  Search this
Martin, John Bartlow  Search this
Robbins, Jerome  Search this
Ferry, W. Hawkins  Search this
Nakashima, Marian  Search this
Lee, Russell Werner  Search this
Nakashima, George K.  Search this
Rodman, Selden  Search this
Rivera, Diego  Search this
Smith, David  Search this
Delano, Jack  Search this
Vachon, John  Search this
Baskin, Leonard  Search this
Sheeler, Charles  Search this
Rothstein, Arthur  Search this
Dugan, Alan  Search this
Soby, James Thrall  Search this
Lange, Dorothea  Search this
Gusten, Theodore  Search this
Lionni, Leo  Search this
MacLeish, Archibald  Search this
Evans, Walker  Search this
Kingman, Dong  Search this
Francis, Arlene  Search this
Friendly, Fred W.  Search this
Osborn, Robert Chesley  Search this
Williams, William Carlos  Search this
Odets, Clifford  Search this
Mydans, Carl  Search this
Hirsch, Joseph  Search this
Soyer, Raphael  Search this
Zorach, William  Search this
Type:
Photographs
Prints
Drawings
Awards
Motion pictures (visual works)
Interviews
Sketches
Sound recordings
Transcripts
Sketchbooks
Video recordings
Topic:
Printmakers  Search this
Photographers  Search this
Painters  Search this
Illustrators  Search this
Record number:
(DSI-AAA_CollID)6935
(DSI-AAA_SIRISBib)209064
AAA_collcode_shahben
Theme:
Art Movements and Schools
Photography
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_coll_209064
Additional Online Media:

Ben Shahn letter, 1958

Creator:
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Subject:
Halpert, Edith Gregor  Search this
Topic:
Painting, American  Search this
Illustrators  Search this
Painters  Search this
Record number:
(DSI-AAA_CollID)7024
(DSI-AAA_SIRISBib)209157
AAA_collcode_shahbel
Theme:
Art Movements and Schools
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_coll_209157

Bernarda Bryson Shahn papers

Creator:
Bryson, Bernarda  Search this
Names:
Calder, Alexander, 1898-1976 -- Photographs  Search this
Hayes, Helen, 1900-1993  Search this
Javitz, Jacob  Search this
Knight, Gwendolyn  Search this
Lionni, Leo, 1910-  Search this
Lynes, Russell, 1910-1991  Search this
Osborn, Robert Chesley, 1904-1994  Search this
Robbins, Warren M.  Search this
Rockefeller, Nelson A. (Nelson Aldrich), 1908-1979  Search this
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Shahn, Jonathan, 1938-  Search this
Extent:
14.6 Linear feet
5.88 Gigabytes
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Gigabytes
Sound recordings
Scrapbooks
Sketches
Diaries
Photographs
Drawings
Sketchbooks
Watercolors
Date:
1872-2004
bulk 1904-2004
Summary:
The papers of painter, printmaker, and illustrator Bernarda Bryson Shahn measure 14.6 linear feet and 5.88 GB and date from 1872 to 2004, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1904-2004. Found within the papers are family and biographical materials, correspondence, writings including sound recordings of lectures by the Shahns, some in digital format, voluminous notebooks, five diaries, exhibition files, personal business records, printed material, seven scrapbooks, one sketchbook and other art work, and photographs. Although the bulk of the collection documents Bernarda's work, there are materials about or created by Ben Shahn scattered throughout the collection. There is a 2.7 linear foot unprocessed addition to this collection donated in 2011 that includes administrative files regarding Bernarda Shahn's work on the board of Skowhegan correspondence of both Bernarda and Ben Shahn; an inventory ledger with names of works of art by Ben Shahn; a scrapbook regarding Ben Shan's work in Japan; photographs of Ben and Bernarda Shahn and images of works of art by Ben Shahn; sketchbooks and notebooks by Ben and Bernarda Shahn; and printed material.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of painter, printmaker, and illustrator Bernarda Bryson Shahn measure 11.9 linear feet and 5.88 GB and date from 1872 to 2004, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1904-2004. Found within the papers are family and biographical materials, correspondence, writings including sound recordings of lectures by the Shahns, voluminous notebooks, five diaries, exhibition files, personal business records, printed material, seven scrapbooks, one sketchbook and other art work, and photographs. Although the bulk of the collection documents Bernarda's work, there are materials about or created by Ben Shahn scattered throughout the collection. There is a 2.7 linear foot unprocessed addition to this collection donated in 2011 that includes administrative files regarding Bernarda Shahn's work on the board of Skowhegan correspondence of both Bernarda and Ben Shahn; an inventory ledger with names of works of art by Ben Shahn; a scrapbook regarding Ben Shan's work in Japan; photographs of Ben and Bernarda Shahn and images of works of art by Ben Shahn; sketchbooks and notebooks by Ben and Bernarda Shahn; and printed material.

Biographical material includes biographical accounts for Bernarda and Ben Shahn, identification cards, membership cards, awards, appointment books and calendars, address books, and a video recording.

Correspondence is primarily between Bernarda Bryson Shahn and publishers, educational institutions, and colleagues and friends including Leo Lionni, Russell Lynes, Robert Osborn, and Warren Robbins.

There are four linear feet of notes, notebooks, typescripts, and other writings by Bernarda Bryson Shahn and others, many of which concern Ben Shahn. Included are numerous files of research notes for published and planned books about Ben Shahn, notebooks concerning art-related topics, card files of art work, lists, sound recordings of lectures by the Shahns and Gwen Knight, some in digital format, and many typescripts of writings about art and Ben Shahn, among other topics. There is also a folder of notes by Ben Shahn for the Mural for the Rural Rehabilitation Program. Five of Bernarda Shahn's diaries contain very brief daily entries and some illustrations. The 1972 diary contains much more elaborate illustrations.

The exhibition files contain letters, notes, and printed material concerning exhibitions of art work by Ben Shahn.

Personal business records include files concerning property, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, miscellaneous contracts, files concerning publishing, art price lists, and other scattered legal and/or financial records.

Printed material includes clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs, press releases for Bernarda Bryson Shahn, Ben Shahn, and others, books including A Partridge in a Pear Tree, illustrated by Ben Shahn, and printed reproductions of art work. Seven scrapbooks also contain printed materials, notes, and photographs. Scrapbooks 1-4 document the creation of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial for which Jonathan Shahn created the large portrait bust. Scrapbooks 5-7 concern a book by Bernarda Bryson Shahn, and scrapbook 8 contains obituaries for Ben Shahn.

Art work includes a sketchbook with annotations, drawings, a portfolio of drawings, lettering designs, watercolor sketches, and layouts for publications.

Photographs are of unidentified and identified Shahn family members, Ben Shahn, Ben Shahn with friends and colleagues including Alexander Calder, Helen Hayes, Senator Jacob Javitz, and Nelson Rockefeller, Ben Shahn's studio, exhibition installations, and art work by Bernarda Bryson Shahn, Ben Shahn, and others. There are also travel photographs.
Arrangement:
The collection is arranged as 11 series:

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1937-1999 (Box 1, 13; 35 folders)

Series 2: Correspondence, 1934-2004 (Box 1-5, 13, OV 14; 3.6 linear feet)

Series 3: Notes and Writings, 1946-2001 (Box 5-9; 4.0 linear feet, ER01-ER09; 5.88 GB)

Series 4: Diaries, 1965-1985 (Box 9; 5 folders)

Series 5: Exhibition Files, 1955-2000 (Box 9; 5 folders)

Series 6: Personal Business Records, 1932-2001 (Box 9, 10; 0.8 linear feet)

Series 7: Printed Material, 1904-2004 (Box 10-11, 13, OV 14-15; 1.2 linear feet)

Series 8: Scrapbooks, 1945-1978 (Box 11, 13, OV 15; 30 folders)

Series 9: Art Work, 1970-2002 (Box 11-13, OV 14; 70 folders)

Series 10: Photographs, 1872-1985 (Box 12; 34 folders)

Series 11: Unprocessed Addition, circa 1904-2004 (Box 16-19, OV 20; 2.7 linear feet)
Biographical Note:
Bernarda Bryson Shahn (1903-2004) worked primarily in New Jersey as a painter, printmaker, and illustrator. She was married to Ben Shahn and often collaborated with him.

Bernarda Bryson was born on March 7, 1903 in Athens, Ohio, the daughter of the owner-editor of newspaper The Athens Morning Journal. After receiving early drawing and painting lessons from her mother, Bryson attended a private girls' school where she continued her studies in art and art history.

At Ohio University, Bryson majored in philosophy and attended art classes in which David Smith was a classmate. She later attended the Cleveland Art School where she studied printmaking.

Following graduation, Bryson taught etching and lithography at the art school of the Columbus Gallery of Fine Art. She also wrote for The Ohio State Journal and became editor of community paper The South Side Advocate. While in New York City to interview Diego Rivera, she met Ben Shahn who was assisting Rivera in painting the mural at Rockefeller Center. Bernarda Bryson and Ben Shahn were married in 1935.

Bernarda Bryson Shahn moved to New York and helped organize the Artists' Union and exhibited at the Whitney Gallery on Eighth Street. She then went to Woodstock to study lithography with Bolton Brown and was invited to set up a lithographic shop for the Resettlement Administration in Washington, D.C.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Bernarda Bryson Shahn executed illustrations for Harper's Magazine, Scientific American and Fortune in addition to random assignments from Life, Sports Illustrated and other publications. She illustrated many books including Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice as well as writing and illustrating her own books Gilgamesh, The Twenty Miracles of Saint Nicolas, and The Zoo of Zeus. Following the death of her husband in 1969, she wrote and designed a large monograph Ben Shahn, published by Abrams.

In the mid-1970s, Bernarda Bryson Shahn won further recognition when she returned to painting.

Bernarda Bryson Shahn died on December 12, 2004 in Roosevelt, New Jersey.
Related Material:
Also found in the Archives of American Art are two oral histories with Bernarda Bryson Shahn, one completed in 1983 by Liza Kirwin and another in 1995 by Pamela Meecham. The Archives also holds the Ben Shahn papers.
Provenance:
Donated 1983 by Bernarada Bryson Shahn and in 2005 and 2011 by Bernarda Brsyon Shahn estate via Jonathan Shahn and Abigail Shahn, co-executors.
Restrictions:
Use of original papers requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Rights:
The Bernarda Bryson Shahn papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Topic:
Women painters -- New Jersey -- Roosevelt  Search this
Illustrators -- New Jersey -- Roosevelt  Search this
Painters -- New Jersey -- Roosevelt  Search this
Printmakers -- New Jersey -- Roosevelt  Search this
Women artists -- New Jersey -- Roosevelt  Search this
Genre/Form:
Sound recordings
Scrapbooks
Sketches
Diaries
Photographs
Drawings
Sketchbooks
Watercolors
Citation:
Bernarda Bryson Shahn papers, 1872-2004, bulk 1904-2004. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
AAA.brysbern
See more items in:
Bernarda Bryson Shahn papers
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-brysbern

Managing editor Russell Lynes correspondence with artists

Creator:
Lynes, Russell, 1910-1991  Search this
Names:
Berger, Oscar, 1901-1997  Search this
Bryson, Bernarda  Search this
Osborn, Robert Chesley, 1904-1994  Search this
Perlin, Bernard, 1918-  Search this
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Warhol, Andy, 1928-  Search this
Extent:
1 Linear foot
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Illustrated letters
Date:
1946-1965
Summary:
Correspondence with artists kept by Russell Lynes in his capacity as managing editor of Harper's Magazine, measures one linear foot and dates from 1946 to 1965. The files consist primarily of correspondence with young artists and illustrators wishing to submit material to the magazine. Biographical notes from the magazine's "Personal and Otherwise" column about the artists whose material was accepted, clippings, scattered original artwork, and printed reproductions of artwork, are also included.
Scope and Contents:
Correspondence with artists kept by Russell Lynes in his capacity as managing editor of Harper's Magazine, measures one linear foot and dates from 1946 to 1965. The files consist primarily of correspondence with young artists and illustrators wishing to submit material to the magazine. Biographical notes from the magazine's "Personal and Otherwise" column about the artists whose material was accepted, clippings, scattered original artwork, and printed reproductions of artwork, are also included.

Although brief, the exchanges found in this collection offer a glimpse into the early careers of the artists represented, who often penned introductions to their work, and provided biographical information. Some of the letters are illustrated. Artists represented include Edmond Amateis, Benny Andrews, Irene Aronson, Oscar Berger, Marvin Bileck, Isabel Bishop, Carlyle Brown, Claire Burch, Ivan Chermayeff, Richard E. Davis, Robert J. Day, Eldon Dedini, Harvey Dinnerstein, Dean Ellis, Joseph Farris, Helen Frank, Frank Gallo, William D. Gorman, Douglas W. Gorsline, William Gropper, John Groth, Albert Hirschfeld, Carl Holty, Anne M. Jauss, Hans Jelinek, Kay Kato, Ted Key, Bernard Krigstein, Joseph Low, Loren MacIver, Jack Markow, Reginald Marsh, Charles E. Martin, William Mauldin, Richard Mayhew, Edward Melcarth, Glen Michaels, Nicolas Mordvinoff, Robert Osborn, David Pascal, Bernard Perlin, Ben Shahn, Bernarda Bryson Shahn, Aaron Sopher, Saul Steinberg, Susanne Suba, Peter Takal, Tony Walton, Andy Warhol, and Robert J. Wolff.

In addition to correspondence with artists there are notes on telephone calls to artists used for updating information in the Harper's Magazine files, reference letters written by Lynes on behalf of some artists, correspondence and memoranda with others regarding publishing logistics, and printed material featuring artwork.
Arrangement:
Records are arranged as one series due to the small size of the collection.

Series 1: Managing Editor Russell Lynes Correspondence with Artists, 1946-1965 (1 linear foot; Box 1)
Biographical / Historical:
Russell Lynes (1910-1991) joined Harper's Magazine as an assistant editor in 1944, and served as managing editor from 1947-1967. As an essayist, social historian, photographer, and arbiter of taste, Lynes served informally as art editor and corresponded with many artists regarding submissions to the magazine.

In addition to gaining renown for the thoughtful articles published in Harper's under his stewardship, Lynes was known for his satirical commentary on American tastes and preferences, particularly in architecture and decoration, in such books as Highbrow, Lowbrow, Middlebrow (1949), The Tastemakers (1954), and later works including The Art-Makers of Nineteenth Century America (1970).
Provenance:
The collection was donated to the Archives of American Art in 1967 by Harper & Row via Russell Lynes.
Restrictions:
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center.
Rights:
Managing editor Russell Lynes correspondence with artists is owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Topic:
Magazine illustration--20th century  Search this
Illustrators  Search this
Genre/Form:
Illustrated letters
Citation:
Managing editor Russell Lynes correspondence with artists, 1946-1965. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
AAA.harpmaga
See more items in:
Managing editor Russell Lynes correspondence with artists
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-harpmaga

Ben Shahn papers

Creator:
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Names:
Baskin, Leonard, 1922-2000  Search this
Delano, Jack  Search this
Dugan, Alan  Search this
Evans, Walker, 1903-1975  Search this
Ferry, W. Hawkins  Search this
Francis, Arlene  Search this
Friendly, Fred W.  Search this
Gusten, Theodore, 1899-1978  Search this
Hirsch, Joseph, 1910-1981  Search this
Kingman, Dong, 1911-  Search this
Lange, Dorothea  Search this
Lee, Russell, 1903-1986  Search this
Lionni, Leo, 1910-  Search this
MacLeish, Archibald, 1892-1982  Search this
Martin, John Bartlow, 1915-1987  Search this
Mydans, Carl  Search this
Nakashima, George, 1905-  Search this
Nakashima, Marian  Search this
Odets, Clifford, 1906-1963  Search this
Osborn, Robert Chesley, 1904-1994  Search this
Rivera, Diego, 1886-1957  Search this
Robbins, Jerome  Search this
Rodman, Selden, 1909-  Search this
Rothstein, Arthur, 1915-1985  Search this
Sheeler, Charles, 1883-1965  Search this
Smith, David, 1906-1965  Search this
Soby, James Thrall, 1906-1979  Search this
Soyer, Raphael, 1899-1987  Search this
Vachon, John, 1914-1975  Search this
Williams, William Carlos, 1883-1963  Search this
Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910-1990  Search this
Zorach, William, 1887-1966  Search this
Extent:
24.8 Linear feet
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Awards
Sketches
Transcripts
Motion pictures (visual works)
Sketchbooks
Video recordings
Drawings
Photographs
Prints
Sound recordings
Interviews
Date:
1879-1990
bulk 1933-1970
Summary:
The papers of social realist painter, photographer, illustrator, printmaker, and teacher Ben Shahn (1898-1969) measure 24.8 linear feet and date from 1879-1990, with the bulk of the material dating from 1933-1970. The bulk of the collection consists of over 14 linear feet of incoming letters from artists, writers, colleagues, publishers, art organizations, galleries, and universities and colleges. Also found are biographical materials, project and source files, printed material, artwork by Shahn and others, photographs taken of and by Shahn, interview transcripts, sound recordings of interviews and a motion picture film.
Scope and Contents note:
The papers of social realist painter, photographer, illustrator, printmaker, and teacher Ben Shahn (1898-1969) measure 24.8 linear feet and date from 1879-1990, with the bulk of the material dating from 1933-1970. The bulk of the collection consists of over 14 linear feet of incoming letters from artists, writers, colleagues, publishers, art organizations, galleries, and universities and colleges. Also found are biographical materials, project and source files, printed material, artwork by Shahn and others, photographs taken of and by Shahn, interview transcripts, sound recordings of interviews and a motion picture film.

Biographical material and family records include a 1924 passport for Shahn and his first wife, Tillie, biographical sketches of Shahn, and award certificates received by him.

Letters are primarily written to Shahn from family members, artists, writers, colleagues, publishers, art organizations, galleries, and universities and colleges. Notable correspondents include Leonard Baskin, Alexander Calder, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Joseph Hirsch, Leo Lionni, John Bartlow Martin, George and Marian Nakashima, Clifford Odets, Charles Olson, Robert Osborn, Diego Rivera, Jerome Robbins, Selden Rodman, James Thrall Soby, Raphael Soyer, and William Carlos Williams. A small number of scattered letters from Shahn can also be found throughout the series.

Project files document approximately twenty-one of Shahn's commissions, including murals for the community center at Jersey Homesteads, the Bronx Central Annex Post Office, the Social Security Building in Washington D.C. , and the William E. Grady Vocational High School. The files also document his involvement in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Roosevelt, in addition to projects for schools, temples and private homes.

Financial and legal records include consignment records, loan agreements, royalty statements and receipts for artwork sold.

Notes and writings are by Shahn and others including Alan Dugan, W. H. Ferry, Theodore Gusten, and John Bartlow Martin. They include lists of artwork, many of which are annotated.

Artwork includes a sketchbook and several unbound sketches and lettering by Shahn, in addition to drawings and prints by others including Shahn's children, Mario Casetta and Stefan Martin.

Source files contain printed material and photographs relating to topics depicted by Shahn in his artwork such as children, dams, farming, houses, industry, mines and miners, slums, war and workers. These files also contain scattered photographic prints by FSA and OWI photographers including Shahn, Jack Delano, Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Carl Mydans, Marion Post Wolcott, Arthur Rothstein, and John Vachon.

Printed material includes news clippings covering Shahn and his career as well as subjects of interest to Shahn. Also found are exhibition catalogs and announcements for exhibitions for Shahn and others, and reproductions of Shahn's artwork including publications illustrated by him.

Photographs are of Shahn, his family and friends and colleagues including Alexander Calder, Jerome Robbins, Charles Sheeler, David Smith and William Zorach. Also included are photographs taken by Shahn of New York City and for the FSA in the 1930s, as well as photographs of artwork by Shahn. Photographs by others include one photo each by Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee and Arthur Rothstein.

The collection also contains transcripts of eight radio, television and motion picture interviews of Shahn and a reel of 16mm motion picture film from the BBC-TV program "Monitor," in addition to sound recordings of interviews of Shahn by Tony Schwartz and Arlene Francis. Artifacts include a Christmas greeting in the form of a sock.
Arrangement note:
The collection is arranged as 12 series:

Series 1: Biographical and Family Records, 1879-1984 (Box 1, OV 36; 0.2 linear ft.)

Series 2: Letters, 1929-1990 (Boxes 1-25, 35, OVs 36-38; 14.4 linear ft.)

Series 3: Project Files, 1933-1975 (Boxes 25-26; OVs 36-37; 1.03 linear ft.)

Series 4: Financial and Legal Records, 1934-1988 (Boxes 26-27, 35; 0.81 linear ft.)

Series 5: Notes and Writings, circa 1933-1988 (Boxes 27-28; 1.62 linear ft.)

Series 6: Artwork, circa 1930s-1965 (Boxes 28, 35; 11 folders)

Series 7: Source Files, circa 1900s-1960s (Boxes 28-30, 35; 1.81 linear ft.)

Series 8: Printed Material, 1912-1988 (Boxes 30-33, 35, OV 39; 3.22 linear ft.)

Series 9: Photographs, circa 1900-1969 (Boxes 33-35; 0.86 linear ft.)

Series 10: Interview Transcripts, 1943-1968 (Box 34; 0.25 linear ft.)

Series 11: Audio and Video Recordings, 1959-1968 (Box 34; 0.25 linear ft.)

Series 12: Artifacts, circa 1930s-circa 1960s (Box 34; 2 items)
Biographical/Historical note:
Ben Shahn (1898-1969) was a social realist painter, muralist, printmaker, photographer, illustrator, and teacher who worked primarily in Brooklyn, New York and New Jersey. He was most active in the 1930s through the 1950s and worked on several federally funded arts projects, including the Farm Security Administration's photographic documentation project of rural America during the Depression.

Ben Shahn was born in Kovno, Lithuania and immigrated with his family to the United States in 1906 where he settled in Brooklyn, and later Roosevelt, New Jersey, after becoming a naturalized citizen in 1918.

Following an apprenticeship as a lithographer from 1913-1917, Shahn studied at New York University, the City College of New York, and the National Academy of Design from 1919-1922. He married Tillie Goldstein in 1922 and they had two children, Judith and Ezra.

Two years after Shahn's first solo exhibition at the Downtown Gallery in 1930, his Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti, a series of 23 gouaches about the Sacco and Vanzetti trial of the 1920s, was exhibited at the Downtown Gallery to critical and public acclaim. The exhibition marked the beginning of Shahn's reputation as one of the most important social realist painters in America. Shahn's commitment to social and political justice found a natural outlet in mural painting when, in 1933, he was hired to assist Diego Rivera on the labor and industry mural Man at the Crossroads, for New York City's Rockefeller Center. The mural was destroyed amid controversy in 1933 before it was completed, but Shahn had learned much about the art of fresco painting during the project and was inspired by the potential of the mural as a unique art form for presenting life's struggles and stories to a large public audience. Between 1933 and 1937 Shahn worked on various murals for other buildings, including New York's Central Park Casino (circa 1934) and Riker's Island Prison (1934), none of which saw completion. In 1937, however, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) commissioned Shahn to execute a mural for the Community Center in the town of Jersey Homesteads, later Roosevelt, New Jersey, which Shahn completed in 1938. Shahn settled in Jersey Homesteads the following year and remained there for the rest of his life. Other important mural commissions followed for the Bronx Central Post office (1939) and the Social Security Building in Washington DC (1942).

One of Shahn's assistants on the Jersey Homesteads mural was Bernarda Bryson, whom he had met in 1933 when she came to New York to interview Rivera about the Rockefeller Center mural controversy for an Ohio newspaper. Shahn and Bryson became lifetime companions and had three children, Susanna, Jonathan and Abigail, although they did not marry until shortly before Shahn's death in 1969. Shahn and Tillie Goldstein were divorced in 1944.

Shahn had enrolled with the federal Public Works of Art Project in 1934, and between 1935 and 1938 he and Bryson travelled across country as Shahn photographed poverty-stricken areas and documented rural life for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and the Resettlement Agency. Shahn's interest in photography developed in the early 1930s when, encouraged by his friendship with Walker Evans, he began photographing street scenes and people in New York City. He later used the images as the basis for many of his prints and paintings.

In 1942 Shahn began working for the Office of War Information (OWI) and was instructed to produce posters and pamphlets explaining to citizens the necessities of wartime, such as the need for secrecy and food rationing. Ultimately, only two of Shahn's posters were ever used; the rest were rejected as being too harsh for their intended audience. Shahn later worked for the Congress of Industrial Organization Political Action Committee (CIO-PAC), producing posters for the 1944 campaign to re-elect Roosevelt, who he believed in deeply. He was promoted to director of the CIO's Graphic Arts Division for the 1946 congressional campaign following Roosevelt's death, but that job ended when the election went poorly for the Democratic party.

Shahn returned increasingly to painting and a retrospective of his work was held at the Museum of Modern Art in 1947. He also became more active in academia as an accomplished writer, teacher and lecturer. He received honorary doctorates from Princeton University and Harvard University, and become the Charles Eliot Norton professor at Harvard in 1956. Shahn's Norton lectures were collected and published as the influential The Shape of Content in 1957. He also began to work as a commercial artist for a variety of companies and publications including CBS, Time, Harper's, and the Container Corporation of America. Shahn believed, however, that the artist's ideas and integrity must always be reflected in his commercial art. He refused to compromise on this point and was very selective in his choice of commercial commissions. Shahn illustrated many books and articles, designed sets for stage productions such as New York Export: Opus Jazz, choreographed by Jerome Robbins, and designed mural mosaics for synagogues, universities and private homes.

Since the 1930s Shahn had been represented by Edith Halpert at the Downtown Gallery, but his relationship with her was always contentious on the subject of payments Shahn received for commercial work, and became increasingly so as his income from such sources increased. Finally, in 1968, Shahn wrote to Halpert telling her that after ten years of "an accumulation of ill-feeling, discomfort and recrimination between us" he felt compelled to end their dealer-artist relationship.

By the time of Shahn's break with Halpert his health had begun to fail. He died of a heart attack following surgery in a New York City hospital on March 14, 1969.
Related Archival Materials note:
The Archives of American Art holds four oral history interviews with Ben Shahn: 1964 Apr. 14 interview conducted by Richard K. Doud for the Archives of American Art New Deal and the Arts Project in which Shahn speaks of his travels and work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and the American image as portrayed by FSA; 1965 Jan. 17 interview; 1965 Oct. 3. interview conducted by Harlan Phillips for the Archives of American Art New Deal and the Arts Project; and 1968 Sept. 27 interview conducted by Forrest Selvig. Most of these interviews have transcripts available online.

The Archives also holds the Bernarda Bryson Shahn papers, circa 1947-2005, and two oral history interviews with Bernarda Bryson Shahn: 1983 Apr. 29 and 1995 July 3.
Separated Materials note:
The Archives of American Art also holds material lent for microfilming (reel N70-6) including addresses and essays by Shahn, seven royalty statements, and three letters from publishers. Many of the writings found on this reel were included in subsequent donations. All other lent material was returned to the lender and is not described in the collection container inventory.
Provenance:
The Ben Shahn papers were donated to the Archives of American Art in several installments between 1967-1991 by Shahn's widow, Bernarda Bryson Shahn who also lent materials for microfilming in 1969. Jean Shahn, Ben Shahn's daughter-in-law and estate representative, donated one additional sketch in 2018.
Restrictions:
Access to original papers requires an appointment. Access to audiovisual recording with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Rights:
The Ben Shahn papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Topic:
Printmakers -- United States  Search this
Illustrators -- United States  Search this
Photographers -- United States  Search this
Painters -- United States  Search this
Genre/Form:
Awards
Sketches
Transcripts
Motion pictures (visual works)
Sketchbooks
Video recordings
Drawings
Photographs
Prints
Sound recordings
Interviews
Citation:
Ben Shahn papers, 1879-1990, bulk 1933-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
AAA.shahben
See more items in:
Ben Shahn papers
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-shahben
Additional Online Media:

A, First Names Only

Collection Creator:
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Container:
Box 3, Folder 10
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
circa 1956-1967
Collection Restrictions:
Access to original papers requires an appointment. Access to audiovisual recording with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Collection Rights:
The Ben Shahn papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Collection Citation:
Ben Shahn papers, 1879-1990, bulk 1933-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Ben Shahn papers
Ben Shahn papers / Series 2: Letters
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-aaa-shahben-ref100

Yamada Art Gallery (Ayako and Tetsuo Yamada)

Collection Creator:
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Container:
Box 25, Folder 7
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1960-1970
Scope and Contents note:
(includes Christmas card from the Yamadas with original artwork)
Collection Restrictions:
Access to original papers requires an appointment. Access to audiovisual recording with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Collection Rights:
The Ben Shahn papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Collection Citation:
Ben Shahn papers, 1879-1990, bulk 1933-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Ben Shahn papers
Ben Shahn papers / Series 2: Letters
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-aaa-shahben-ref1000

Yivo Institute for Jewish Research

Collection Creator:
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Container:
Box 25, Folder 8
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1962-1963
Collection Restrictions:
Access to original papers requires an appointment. Access to audiovisual recording with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Collection Rights:
The Ben Shahn papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Collection Citation:
Ben Shahn papers, 1879-1990, bulk 1933-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Ben Shahn papers
Ben Shahn papers / Series 2: Letters
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-aaa-shahben-ref1002

Yochelson, Kathryn M.

Collection Creator:
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Container:
Box 25, Folder 9
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1955-1958
Collection Restrictions:
Access to original papers requires an appointment. Access to audiovisual recording with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Collection Rights:
The Ben Shahn papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Collection Citation:
Ben Shahn papers, 1879-1990, bulk 1933-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Ben Shahn papers
Ben Shahn papers / Series 2: Letters
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-aaa-shahben-ref1003

Yoshi (name illegible)

Collection Creator:
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Container:
Box 25, Folder 10
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1957-1963
Collection Restrictions:
Access to original papers requires an appointment. Access to audiovisual recording with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Collection Rights:
The Ben Shahn papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Collection Citation:
Ben Shahn papers, 1879-1990, bulk 1933-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Ben Shahn papers
Ben Shahn papers / Series 2: Letters
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-aaa-shahben-ref1004

Y, Miscellaneous

Collection Creator:
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Container:
Box 25, Folder 11
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1945-1969
Collection Restrictions:
Access to original papers requires an appointment. Access to audiovisual recording with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Collection Rights:
The Ben Shahn papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Collection Citation:
Ben Shahn papers, 1879-1990, bulk 1933-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Ben Shahn papers
Ben Shahn papers / Series 2: Letters
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-aaa-shahben-ref1005

Y, Miscellaneous, Posthumous

Collection Creator:
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Container:
Box 25, Folder 12
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1970-1988
Collection Restrictions:
Access to original papers requires an appointment. Access to audiovisual recording with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Collection Rights:
The Ben Shahn papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Collection Citation:
Ben Shahn papers, 1879-1990, bulk 1933-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Ben Shahn papers
Ben Shahn papers / Series 2: Letters
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-aaa-shahben-ref1006

Zetzel, Louis

Collection Creator:
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Container:
Box 25, Folder 13
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
circa 1957-1964
Collection Restrictions:
Access to original papers requires an appointment. Access to audiovisual recording with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Collection Rights:
The Ben Shahn papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Collection Citation:
Ben Shahn papers, 1879-1990, bulk 1933-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Ben Shahn papers
Ben Shahn papers / Series 2: Letters
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-aaa-shahben-ref1007

Z, Miscellaneous

Collection Creator:
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Container:
Box 25, Folder 14
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1944-1969
Collection Restrictions:
Access to original papers requires an appointment. Access to audiovisual recording with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Collection Rights:
The Ben Shahn papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Collection Citation:
Ben Shahn papers, 1879-1990, bulk 1933-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Ben Shahn papers
Ben Shahn papers / Series 2: Letters
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-aaa-shahben-ref1008

Z, Miscellaneous, Posthumous

Collection Creator:
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Container:
Box 25, Folder 15
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1970-1982
Collection Restrictions:
Access to original papers requires an appointment. Access to audiovisual recording with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Collection Rights:
The Ben Shahn papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Collection Citation:
Ben Shahn papers, 1879-1990, bulk 1933-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Ben Shahn papers
Ben Shahn papers / Series 2: Letters
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-aaa-shahben-ref1009

Baker, Hollis S.

Collection Creator:
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Container:
Box 3, Folder 11
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1953-1962
Collection Restrictions:
Access to original papers requires an appointment. Access to audiovisual recording with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Collection Rights:
The Ben Shahn papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Collection Citation:
Ben Shahn papers, 1879-1990, bulk 1933-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Ben Shahn papers
Ben Shahn papers / Series 2: Letters
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-aaa-shahben-ref101

Condolence Telegrams

Collection Creator:
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Container:
Box 25, Folder 16
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1969 March
Collection Restrictions:
Access to original papers requires an appointment. Access to audiovisual recording with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Collection Rights:
The Ben Shahn papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Collection Citation:
Ben Shahn papers, 1879-1990, bulk 1933-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Ben Shahn papers
Ben Shahn papers / Series 2: Letters
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-aaa-shahben-ref1010

Condolence Letters, A

Collection Creator:
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Container:
Box 25, Folder 17
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1969
Collection Restrictions:
Access to original papers requires an appointment. Access to audiovisual recording with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Collection Rights:
The Ben Shahn papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Collection Citation:
Ben Shahn papers, 1879-1990, bulk 1933-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Ben Shahn papers
Ben Shahn papers / Series 2: Letters
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-aaa-shahben-ref1011

Condolence Letters, B

Collection Creator:
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969  Search this
Container:
Box 25, Folder 18
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1969
Collection Restrictions:
Access to original papers requires an appointment. Access to audiovisual recording with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Collection Rights:
The Ben Shahn papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Collection Citation:
Ben Shahn papers, 1879-1990, bulk 1933-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Ben Shahn papers
Ben Shahn papers / Series 2: Letters
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-aaa-shahben-ref1012

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