menu About Posters American Events Designed to Sell Advice to Americans Patriotic Persuasion Index of Posters
crop mark crop mark
Go Back Break Reaction's Grip—Register—Vote Go Forward
crop mark crop mark
23 of 33

Ben Shahn (1898–1969)
CIO Political Action Committee
Break Reaction's Grip—Register—Vote, 1946
offset lithograph
104.8 x 73.7 cm (41 1/4 x 29 in.)
Leslie, Judy, and Gabri Schreyer and Alice Schreyer Batko
© 1998 Estate of Ben Shahn/Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y.

Shahn, noted for such paintings as The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti, in which he expressed his reaction to an important and notorious case in American justice, was a remarkably effective photographer working for the Farm Security Administration in the 1930s. Increasingly in the 1940s, he also worked as an inspired postermaker. The immediacy of his drawing and his fervent messages for progressive causes and union issues define a substantial body of work. His designs are instantly recognized for their figurative style, strong outlines, and bright color planes.


| American Events | Designed to Sell |
| Advice to Americans | Patriotic Persuasion | Image Index |


Back to the top

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.

Back to the top