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Shahn, Ben (12 September 1898–14 March 1969), painter and graphic artist  

Frances K. Pohl

Shahn, Ben (12 September 1898–14 March 1969), painter and graphic artist, was born Benjamin Shahn in Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania, the son of Hessel Shahn, a carpenter and woodcarver, and Gittel Lieberman. Kovno was located in the area of czarist Russia known as the Pale of Settlement, where Russian Jews were legally allowed to settle. In 1906 the family was forced to flee the pogroms, government-sponsored massacres of Jews, that swept through the Pale at the turn of the century. They took refuge in the United States and settled in Brooklyn. In 1913 Shahn was taken out of school and began an apprenticeship as a lithographer at Hessenberg’s Lithography Shop in Manhattan. During the next four years he not only mastered the skill of lettering but also developed a distinctive, incised line that would become a hallmark of his later work as a painter and graphic artist. During his apprenticeship he also attended night school in order to complete his high school diploma and enrolled briefly, in November 1916, in classes at the Art Students League in New York....