Cover image for Ben Shahn's New York : the photography of modern times
Ben Shahn's New York : the photography of modern times
Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, 2000.
Physical Description:
viii, 340 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
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Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TR820.5 .S4797 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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"Ben Shahn, painter, muralist, and graphic artist, was also a talented photographer who made documentary street photographs in New York City in the early 1930s. This book is the first to focus on his compelling New York images, showing how he used a camera to comment on many social issues of his day." "The book considers the immediate social history of Shahn's New York photographs and analyzes how his leftist politics and his interest in news photographs and film affected his photographic aesthetic. The authors assert the importance of analyzing Shahn's paintings and photographs together, explaining why the connections between the two have been ignored until now. The book reproduces not only Shahn's New York photographs but also his related paintings, prints, and drawings, and an appendix presents documents that speak to the impact of his photographic work."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Shahn is the subject of a fruitful reexamination launched by Howard Greenfeld's groundbreaking 1998 biography, which introduced discussion of a forgotten facet of the artist's work, his photographs. Now Kao and her coauthors present an in-depth study of the master draftsman and painter's Depression-era devotion to photography, a passion encouraged by his friend and studio mate, Walker Evans. Shahn took pictures throughout the rural South and Midwest for the Resettlement Administration/Farm Security Administration, but his New York City street photographs, 200 of which are published here, were personal works motivated by the same concerns with justice and compassion that inspired his paintings. Using a small Leica to unobtrusively record what he called the "living theater" of the city sidewalks, Shahn deftly captured the poignancy, irony, and humor of urban life. Through its fine reproductions and three illuminating and historically significant essays, this superb volume, the companion to a traveling exhibition, reveals the keenness of Shahn's eye and the power of his vision. --Donna Seaman

Library Journal Review

With a desire to promote social justice and a deep compassion for humanity, Shahn (1898-1969) was actively involved in social protests and leftist causes in New York City during the 1930s. Although better known for his paintings, murals, and satirical drawings, Shahn was also a talented photographer, influenced by filmmaking and documentary photography as well as his social concerns. Camera skills learned from close friend Walker Evans enabled Shahn to create candid images--of laborers, immigrants, children, the neighborhoods and storefronts of Manhattan, poverty, and unemployment--that became a potent sociopolitical statement during the Depression years. Over the next year the show will be traveling from the organizing institution, Harvard University Art Museums, to major venues in Washington, New York, and Chicago. The authors, who organized the exhibition, have written illuminating essays demonstrating meticulous scholarship. More than 200 duotones, many that Shahn integrated into his paintings, are brilliantly paired in this publication; an appendix with delightful memorabilia caps the work. A gem for both photography and fine arts collections.--Joan Levin, MLS, Chicago (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

In this brilliant book, which brings the many talents of Ben Shahn--painter, muralist, political activist, author, graphic designer, and photographer--into one crisp, clear, unified, astounding career, the primary focus is the exploration and explanation of the relationship between Shahn's paintings and photographs. Harvard University and its affiliate the Fogg Museum championed Shahn's work through a long and rich relationship during his lifetime, publishing his influential artist treatise The Shape of Content (1957) and exhibiting both his well-known paintings and his seldom-published photographs. Ultimately, Shahn's photographic archive--some 5,000 images--has come to reside at the Fogg, and is the primary source material for this traveling exhibition and accompanying book. The first half of the book consists of four exquisitely written essays by Kao, Katzman, and Webster, beautifully illustrated with superb reproductions of Shahn's photographs and related materials, including detailed notes. The second half is an exhibition catalog with a wealth of quality reproductions of his paintings and photographs. Appendix of relevant documents; selected bibliography; acknowledgments. All levels. J. Natal; Columbia College (IL)