The Passover Haggadah
  Modern Art in Dialogue with an Ancient Text
      Ben Shahn
     
     

Ben Shahn was born in Kovno, Lithuania on September 12, 1898 to Joshua Hessel and Gittel (Lieberman) Shahn and died on March 14, 1969. A Jewish-born artist, muralist, social activist, photographer and teacher, he is best known for his works of Social realism. Shahn's father was exiled to Siberia for alleged revolutionary activities in 1902, at which point Shahn, his mother, and his three younger siblings moved to Vilkomir (Ukmerge). In 1906, the family emigrated to America where they rejoined Hessel. In New York, Shahn was trained as a typographer. This early education is evident in his later prints, which often include a combination of text and image. Shahn's primary medium was egg tempera, a medium that was popular among Social Realists. He was recommended by Walker Evans, a friend and former roommate, to Roy Stryker to join the photographic group at the Farm Security Administration (FSA), and traveled with Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange throughout the American South, documenting Southern society and citizens. From May to June of 1933, Shahn served as an assistant to Diego Rivera while the artist executed the infamous Rockefeller Center mural. By circulating a petition among the workers to keep the mural on display, Shahn played an important role in fanning the controversy. Shahn left the FSA in 1938, and that same year he and his wife Bernarda moved to the new town of Jersey Homesteads, which is now Rooesevelt, New Jersey.

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