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Ben Shahn, An Artist's Life

Greenfeld, Howard

7 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0679419322 / ISBN 13: 9780679419327
Published by Random House, 1998
Condition: As New Hardcover
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The book is in perfect mint condition. It is the second printing of the first edition. Size: 6x9. Bookseller Inventory # 000790

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Ben Shahn, An Artist's Life

Publisher: Random House

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition:As New

Dust Jacket Condition: As New

Edition: First Edition.

About this title


   Beginning in the thirties, he created bold and powerful paintings of often controversial subjects, and in particular his portraits of Sacco and Vanzetti caused a storm whenever they were exhibited. After working as an assistant to Diego Rivera on the ill-fated Rockefeller Center mural, he began creating his own arresting murals--in Washington, New York, and New Jersey--which are among the finest such works ever painted in this country. He also excelled as a photographer as one of the distinguished group known as the FSA photographers, which included Dorothea Lange and his close friend Walker Evans. His life  crossed the paths of many others, too, including Albert Einstein, Alexander Calder, William Carlos Williams, Archibald MacLeish, and S. J. Perelman.

During World War II, he produced some of the most striking and effective propaganda posters, before returning again to painting, always choosing subjects that touched a nerve and were just as often politically powerful.
Shahn also entered the world of advertising, but completely on his own terms, and was respected for it. His life was always involved directly with his times, and he was a member of the intellectual community throughout his career, as well as a courageous political activist. His unique, unforgettable work won him shows in museums all over America, including the Museum of Modern  Art.
Ben Shahn is the first complete life of the artist, and it is illustrated throughout with his photographs, pictures, and paintings.


There was a time when nearly everyone recognized Ben Shahn's scathing pictures from his most famous series, The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti, 1932. Sacco and Vanzetti, two working-class anarchists convicted on trumped-up murder charges, lie dead in their coffins. Behind them stand the top-hatted men of the old, Anglo establishment, hypocritically mourning the poor immigrants whose lives they destroyed.

These days, it may be hard to understand how vital such storytelling artists were to the political life of their times. In Ben Shahn: An Artist's Life, Howard Greenfeld does justice to those heady days, placing both Shahn and his work in the context of the Great Depression, the rise of unions and social relief programs, and the beginnings of the civil rights movement. With uncommon fairness, Greenfeld also chronicles the difficult, contradictory personal life of this brilliant artist, who, for example, began and ended his career working on Jewish themes but cruelly abandoned his first wife, Tillie, and their two children to marry a Christian woman.

Greenfeld adeptly traces Shahn's development as one of the 20th century's most important illustrators and narrative artists, comparable to Daumier and even to Goya. Carefully researched, this biography is simultaneously respectful and objective. Greenfeld, who has also written biographies of Puccini, Caruso, and art collector Albert C. Barnes, has a gift for seeing a densely complicated life as an understandable, admirable whole. --Peggy Moorman

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