lunedì 2 settembre 2013


Pulaski County, Arkansas, October 1935
clip_image001 Cotton pickers, Arkansas.

clip_image002 Cotton pickers, Arkansas

clip_image003Cotton pickers 6:30 a.m., Alexander plantation, Pulaski County, Arkansas.

Ben Shahn was born in Kaunus, Lithuania in 1898. He emigrated to New York with his family in 1906. He became a lithographer's apprentice after completing his schooling. He later attended both New York University and the National Academy of Design from 1917 to 1921.

clip_image004 Cotton on porch of sharecropper's home, Maria plantation, Arkansas.

clip_image005 Picking cotton on Alexander plantation, Pulaski County, Arkansas.

clip_image006 Young cotton picker, Pulaski County, Arkansas. Schools for colored children do not open until January 1st so as not to interfere with cotton picking.

In the 1920s Shahn became part of the social realism movement. Social Realism is a term used to describe the works of American artists during the Depression era who were devoted to depicting the social troubles of the suffering urban lower class: urban decay, labor strikes, and poverty. His early work was concerned with political issues of the time, while his later work portrayed the loneliness of the city dweller. Text and lettering formed an integral part of his designs and his work was often inspired by news reports. After working in lithography until 1930, his style crystallized in a series of 23 paintings concerning the Sacco-Vanzetti trial. Shahn came to prominence in the 1930s as with "The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti". Shahn dealt consistently with social and political themes. He developed a strong and brilliant sense of graphic design revealed in numerous posters. His painting Vacant Lot (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Conn.) exhibits a poetic realism, whereas his more abstract works are characterized by terse, incisive lines and a lyric ic intensity of color. The Blind Botanist (Wichita Art Mus.) is characteristic of his abstractions. Shahn's murals include series for the Bronx Central Annex Post Office, New York City.

clip_image007 Weighing in cotton.

clip_image008 At the end of the day.

clip_image009 Tally at the weigh station.

From 1933 to 1938 he worked as a photographer for the Farm Security Administration, producing masterful images of impoverished rural areas and their inhabitants. Shahn used photographs throughout his career for both composition and content. The photographer position at the FSA was a dream job for Shahn because it provided him the opportunity to travel though Depression-era America taking pictures. He later used those photographs for his paintings years later. Critics in his time felt that using photographs for paintings diminished the value of a painting. However, Shahn's work became the most popular artist of his age. His work was on the cover of Time and well as the Museum of Modern Art.

clip_image010 Going home.

clip_image011 Sharecropper at home on Sunday.

clip_image012 Sharecropper's family.

Shahn has been described as a man of uncompromising beliefs and an artist who spoke to the world. Shahn continuously adopted new themes and mediums to define the human condition of his time. Active until the end of his career, Shahn was also a distinguished lecturer, teacher, and writer.

clip_image013 Sunday on the porch.

clip_image014 Mother and child.

clip_image015 After church.

All images  © Ben Shahn

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