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Ben Shahn

Artwork Details

Ben Shahn
tempera on cardboard
26 11/16 x 18 3/16 in. (67.7 x 46.1 cm);35 7/8 x 27 7/8 in. (91.12 x 70.8 cm)
Museum Purchase

On Display

Not currently on display


* Gallery Rotation Fall 2010
Ben Shahn
United States, 1898–1969
Tempera on cardboard
Museum purchase, 1950/1.203
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ subsequent entry into the Second World War, Shahn moved from New York to Washington, DC, to work as a graphic designer for the Office of War Information. Having been politically active throughout his life, he also volunteered as an artist for the Congress of Industrial Organizations Political Action Committee (CIO-PAC), which was supporting Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1944 reelection bid. During this time he created images such as Boy that conveyed the brutality of the war and the Holocaust, often depicting children and other innocent victims; many of these images were used as posters for the CIO-PAC as the government deemed them too disturbing to use in its own campaigns. Shahn, who often combined historical images with his personal childhood memories, sought to universalize Jewish suffering. He said that his work did not attempt to create an image of a specific event but rather conveyed “the emotional tone that surrounds disaster; what you might call the inner disaster.”

Subject Matter:

Jewish boy and woman standing.

Physical Description:

A boy stands at the front of the painting, arms crossed and face solemn. He is wearing an oversized white shirt that comes down to his knees. A figure, most likely a woman, stands behind him with her back turned. Her head is covered in a long black headscarf that is traditional to Jewish culture. Behind them is a blue horizon.

Usage Rights:

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