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Shahn was a socially engaged artist who used photos, paintings, scetches to portray his messages. He always identified with the outsider.
Crucifixion is a common theme in art. Shahn believes Sacco and Vanzetti did not have a fair trial, because they were immigrants.
Shahn's style shows his concern with content. Shahn focused on justice and the immigrant experience in America.
Born in Lithuania, Shahn immigrated to New York as a child, where he was eventually reunited with his father, a political exile. Shahn taught himself photography.
Shahn's first job was in a lithography workshop where he learned to draw. He and his wife travelled to Europe where he studied and ultimately found his personal style.
Back home they lived in poverty on Cape Cod. Shahn developed a partnership with photographer Walker Evans.
In 1931 he painted portraits of the Dreyfus case and developed his own figurative style.
Shahn was chosen to be an assistant by Rivera on the Rockefeller mural, learning, in the process, the limits of patronage. He met Bernarda, for whom he left his wife.
Shahn was offered a job to photograph the true conditions of poverty in the South during the depression.
Shahn was able to make contact with people, because he liked them. Moved by injustice. he was a social realist, who turned personal realist.
Shahn used an angle-finder, so that his subjects would be less self-conscious when their pictures were being taken. His intent was to document the need for social reform, but he was also gathering materials for future paintings.
Shahn came to feel prisoner to his camera; painting was his first love, his means of expressing himself. A German architect gave him the opportunity to paint a mural for an immigrant community.
The Shahns settle in this community of Irish, Polish and German immigrants, where he dedicates himself to painting.
Shahn was a supporter of Roosevelt and the New Deal. His mural shows life with and without social security.
Shahns posters were not upbeat enough for the OWI. Creating paintings from remembered war photographs, he paints aloneness and the spirit of man.
Children in his paintings represent social outrage. He made posters for the AFL-CIO.
After the war, Shahn synthesizes his experiences and styles in paintings like "Allegory". Shahn saw no distinction between commericial and other art.
A bad review of Shahn's exhibition impacts him critically. While he remained commercially successful, Shahn also wanted critical acclaim.
Modern artists were considered Communists. By combining art and politics, Shahn lost many contracts, until Morrow exposed McCarthy.
After Bikini atomic testing, Shahn produced artwork protesting atomic energy. He opposed the cult of "scientism".
In the 1960s Shahn tried to create messages that spoke across time and place. He searched for a new medium to express himself in a new way.
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