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Ben Shahn

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Ben Shahn

American, (1898–1969)
Ben Shahn was a Lithuanian-born American artist and member of the Social Realist movement. His expressive figurative paintings, murals, and posters were inexorably tied to his pursuit of social justice and lifelong activism within leftist political beliefs. Shahn unflinchingly critiqued the government and society, as seen in his The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti (1931–1932), a painting which condemned the controversial conviction of two Italian-American immigrants who were sentenced to death in 1927. Born in Kaunas, Lithuania into an Orthodox Jewish family, he and his family emigrated to New York in 1906. Shahn went on to study at the National Academy of Design in New York and traveled throughout Europe during the 1920s. Upon his return to the United States, he assisted Diego Rivera in 1933 for the painting of his Man at the Crossroads fresco in Rockefeller Center. During the latter part of his career, the artist’s paintings became more symbolic of his own emotional state rather than a description of social injustices.

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