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Ben Shahn

[Lithuanian-born American Social Realist Painter and Photographer, 1898-1969]

• Relationships: Father of Abby Shahn.
• Browse all:  Lithuanian artists / American artists  /  photographers

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Art, as I saw it one day when I helped hang a National Academy show while I was a student there, was about cows. In those days, early in the twenties, there were many cow paintings. More than that, the cows always stood knee-deep in purple shadows. For the life of me I never learned to see purple where there was no purple -- and I detested cows. I was frankly distressed at the prospects for me as an artist.
But there came a time when I stopped painting, stopped in order to evaluate all these doubts. If I couldn't see purple where there was no purple--I wouldn't use it. If I didn't like cows, I wouldn't paint them. What then was I to paint? Slowly I found that I must paint those things that were meaningful to me--that I could honestly paint in the shapes and colors I felt belonged to them. What shall I paint? Stories.

- Ben Shahn, quoted by Katherine Kuh (found at


    Ben Shahn Works Online    
Categorized & Annotated
Commercial Galleries:  Galleries: We invite you to register and list your site (no charge for this service)
Original works by Ben Shahn available for purchase at art galleries worldwide
Museums and Public Art Galleries Worldwide:
Notable SiteArt Institute of Chicago   NEW!

Notable SiteFine Arts Museums of San Francisco   NEW!
Many works online

Notable SiteMetropolitan Museum of Art, New York City   NEW!

Notable SiteMuseum of Modern Art, New York City

Notable SiteNational Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.   NEW!
Includes a biography of the artist

Notable SiteNational Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Works from the Kenneth Tyler Collection of international prints

Notable SiteSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Notable SiteBen Shahn at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.

Notable SiteTate Gallery, London, UK

Notable SiteThe Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.
4 works online

Notable SiteU.S. Library of Congress, Washington D.C.
Over 1,000 photographs by Ben Shahn, created for the U.S. Farm Security Administration

Notable SiteWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City

Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts

Amon Carter Museum, Texas
World's Greatest Comics

Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, Illinois
Four Tunisian Soldiers, watercolor, 1938

Brauer Museum of Art at Valparaiso University, Indiana

Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences, Charleston, West Virginia

Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio

Currier Gallery of Art, New Hampshire

Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma

Grey Art Gallery at New York University
Ben Shahn's New York

Guilford College Art Gallery, North Carolina
Note that the JPG image for "Michael Schwerner" is displayed smaller than its actual size

Harvard University Art Museums, Massachusetts
Harvard have works in their collections, but unfortunately you have to type in the search yourself

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.   NEW!

Hofstra University Museum, Hempstead, New York
Flash slideshow; Click "Works on Paper" and navigate to work #31

Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington
Main Street, Lancaster, Ohio, 1938

Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Scorn, 1952

Los Angeles County Museum of Art   NEW!

Maier Museum of Art at Randolph-Macon Woman's College, Virginia
(Note: Click the title to view the artwork details, not the thumbnail image.)

Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas

Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College, Chicago

Museum of the City of New York

Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, New York
Sunday Painting, 1938

National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.   NEW!
Works from the Gemini G.E.L. prints online catalogue raisonné

National Gallery of Victoria, Australia
2 works online

Ben Shahn at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C.
J. Robert Oppenheimer, drawing, 1954

New Art Gallery, Walsall, England
Psalm 133 - Dove with Painted Text

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma
To Roads in Unknown Regions, 1968

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia

Philadelphia Museum of Art   NEW!

Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey

San Diego Museum of Art, California   NEW!

Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, Nebraska

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
(Images are zoomable; click on the "expand" icon below the detail image)

University of Delaware Museums
Study for mural, 1955-57

University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City

University of Kentucky Art Museum

Walker Art Center, Minnesota

Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Wichita Art Museum, Kansas
6 works online

Williams College Museum of Art, Massachusetts
Portrait of Walker Evans, 1931

National Art Databases and Museum Inventories:

Smithsonian American Art Museum National Art Inventories
List of works nationwide from two sources: the Inventory of American Paintings Executed before 1914 and the Inventory of American Sculpture (only a few percent of listings have an accompanying image)

Art Market:
(e.g. records of past sales at auction; sites providing examples of the artist's signature)
Art Signature Dictionary   NEW!

Christie's Past Sale Archive
(database goes as far back as 1991; images go about as far back as 1999)

Sotheby's Sold Lot Archive
(database goes as far back as 1998; images where permitted by copyright go about as far back as 2001)

Pictures from Image Archives:
Bildindex der Kunst und Architektur (in German)  
(a welcome screen is displayed for a couple of seconds before the search results appear)

California State University WorldImages Database

Ciudad de la Pintura (in Spanish)  

New York Public Library Digital Gallery

USC Annenberg School for Communication

Additional Image Search Tools:
(SafeSearch set to "strict"; go to Advanced Search (Flickr/Google) or Preferences (Bing) to change)

           Flickr: "Ben Shahn"   
Google Images: "Ben Shahn"   
Bing Images: "Ben Shahn"   
Miscellaneous Sites:
Mistica info (in Italian)  
Menorah, 1965

Information from the documentary Ben Shahn: Passion for Justice

Photography @ Temple University Online

Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Massacusetts
Lot #206 in this 2008 fundraising auction was a lithograph by Ben Shahn

Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Massacusetts
Lot #61 in this 2007 fundraising auction was a lithograph by Ben Shahn

Time Magazine Cover Archive
Martin Luther King, 1965

Time Magazine Cover Archive
Johann Sebastian Bach, 1968

Articles and Reference Sites:
Notable SiteEncyclopedia Britannica complete article on Ben Shahn  
Note: The full version of the article is available only if you follow this link. If you bookmark the article and return later, or if you navigate directly to the Britannica website, you will see a 100-word preview only. Troubleshooting

Notable SiteUnion List of Artist Names (Getty Museum)  
Reference sheet with basic information about the artist and pointers to other references.

Resource Library Magazine
Ben Shahn's New York: The Photography of Modern Times

Resource Library Magazine
Common Man, Mythic Vision: The Paintings of Ben Shahn

Ben Shahn at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Washington D.C.
1964 interview from the Oral History project

Ben Shahn at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Washington D.C.
1965 interview from the Oral History project

Ben Shahn at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Washington D.C.
1968 interview from the Oral History project

Spartacus Educational Books
War Artists of W.W.I.

Antiques Roadshow (PBS) Appraisals
"World War II Propaganda Posters"

"Look Inside" and "Search Inside" Books at Amazon
Look Inside Books:Selections from the books listed below are scanned in, in high res. Text is clearly readable and art reproductions vary from so-so to excellent. Don't miss the fact that you can usually zoom in via the "View" drop-down menu, along the top row of Amazon's Online Reader.            
Search Inside Books:Same as "Look Inside", except that the entire book is scanned in, and the text is fully searchable. This is an unbelievable resource, for research and especially for previewing a book when making the decision to buy.
Note: Some "Search Inside" features are limited to people signed in to an account which has previously made a purchase at Amazon.
look inside

Ben Shahn's New York: The Photography of Modern Times

look inside

Common Man/Mythic Vision: The Paintings of Ben Shahn


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