Ben Shahn (1898-1969)
Ben Shahn (1898-1969)

Double Self Portrait in Truro

Ben Shahn (1898-1969)
Double Self Portrait in Truro
signed 'Ben Shahn' (lower right)
ink on paper
10 x 15 in. (25.4 x 38.1 cm.)
Executed circa 1932.
Irv Fischer Gallery, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Suttons Bay Galleries, Suttons Bay, Michigan.
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
K.W. Prescott, Ph.D., Ben Shahn: A Retropsective Exhibition, exhibition catalogue, Trenton, New Jersey, 1969, n.p., no. 23.
L.A. Fleischman, The Drawings of Ben Shahn, exhibition catalogue, 1976, n.p., no. 1, illustrated.
(Possibly) Trenton, New Jersey, New Jersey State Museum, Ben Shahn: A Retrospective Exhibition, September 20-November 16, 1969, no. 23.
New York, Kennedy Galleries, Inc., The Drawings of Ben Shahn, May 14-June 4, 1976.

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Lot Essay

After the much publicized Sacco and Vanzetti trial, in which two Italian immigrants were believed to have been wrongly convicted of murder, Shahn's work became ever more politicized. Not surprisingly, this shift in artistic focus coincided with the artist's personal shift in attitude towards the federal government.

According to Laura Katzman, noted Shahn scholar, "Shahn represented himself as a radical independent in his self-portraits of 1932 and 1933. In th[is] earlier work a young Shahn is casually dressed, playfully dancing with a makeshift scarecrow, both positioned between two worlds. At the left is a smaller, more serious Shahn, juxtaposed with a dog and a house--signs of security, domesticity, companionship, and loyalty. At the right are frowning politicians, conservatively attired, crowned by what looks like the U.S. Capitol--an icon of democratic governmentShahn wittily positioned his backside in front of the top-hatted man--irreverence in the face of establishment and authority." (L.R. Katzman, The Politics of Media: Ben Shahn and Photography, Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, 1998, p. 81)

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