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Ben Shahn (1898–1969)
Container Corporation of America
You Have Not Converted a Man Because You Have Silenced Him, 1968
offset lithograph
114.2 x 76.2 cm (45 x 30 in.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of the Container Corporation of America
© 1998 Estate of Ben Shahn/Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y.

In this poster, Shahn brings his distinctive style of creating a figure with black crayon line into balance with his extensive interest in lettering and typography. It was produced as part of the "Great Ideas of Western Man" series issued by the Container Corporation of America. Here Shahn illustrates a quotation from John Viscount Morley, an English Member of Parliament and Secretary of State of India. This poster joins an artist known for his liberal views with a politician remembered as an outspoken pacifist.

Detail 1
Detail 2




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Biography of Ben Shahn

Born in Lithuania, Ben Shahn immigrated to the United States in 1906. In his early teens he was apprenticed to a lithographer, but went on to study biology at New York University. Shahn later changed course, studying at the Art Students League and, in 1925, at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. Returning to the United States in 1929, he worked as a photographer for the Farm Security Administration from 1935 to 1938. Over the years, Shahn experimented with silkscreening and created magazine illustrations and advertisements.

During his lithography apprenticeship Shahn grew to appreciate the relationships of lettering. "I enjoyed a year or so of complete infatuation with type," he stated. "I set everything that I could in types with which I was beginning to be familiar; I did posters all in type—a strange turn for an artist—or posters in which type boldly predominated." Shahn designed posters for the Office of War Information in 1942 and for other government departments from 1944 to 1946.

Shahn was a teacher and lecturer at many institutions, ranging from the Universities of Colorado and Wisconsin to Black Mountain College and Harvard University. Named one of the ten best American painters by Look magazine in 1948, he had many solo exhibitions during his career.

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