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Ben Shahn (1898–1969)
The Progressive Party (New York)
A Good Man Is Hard to Find (depicting Truman and Dewey), 1948
color lithograph
115.6 x 76.2 cm (45 1/2 x 30 in.)
Collection Merrill C. Berman
photographed by Jim Frank
© 1998 Estate of Ben Shahn/Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y.

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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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