Shahn, Bernarda Bryson 1903-2004

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SHAHN, Bernarda Bryson 1903-2004

(Bernarda Bryson)


See index for CA sketch: Born March 7, 1903, in Athens, OH; died December 12, 2004 (some sources say December 13, 2004), in Roosevelt, NJ. Artist, illustrator, journalist, and author. Shahn was known as a children's book author and illustrator who later gained acclaim for her realistic lithographs. She originally studied printmaking, attending Ohio University, Ohio State University, and Case Western Reserve University in the 1920s. She then began a career in journalism, working as an editor for the South Side Advocate in Columbus, Ohio, and then as an art critic for the Ohio State Journal. After a year spent teaching lithography and etching at the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts from 1930 until 1931, she was secretary and founder of the Artists Union in New York City. She met muralist Ben Shahn in 1931, and the two of them spent time during the Great Depression traveling the country and documenting the lives of rural people for the federal government's Resettlement Administration. During the Depression, she also helped found the Unemployed Artists Association. She and Ben Shahn became devoted to each other, though they did not marry until shortly before his death in 1969. By the mid-1950s, Shahn began illustrating children's books, starting with Charlton Ogburn's The White Falcon (1955), and by 1960 she was both writing and illustrating books. Her first, The Twenty Miracles of Saint Nicholas (1960), won the Book of the Year Award from the American Institute of Graphic Arts. She later published The Zoo of Zeus (1964) and Gilgamesh, Man's FirstStory (1967). After the 1960s, Shahn focused more on her artwork, creating realistic images that were also known for a certain mysterious style. She also published the monograph Ben Shahn (1972) and a record of her 1930s travels, The Vanishing American Frontier: Bernarda Bryson Shahn and Her Historical Lithographs Created for the Resettlement Administration of FDR (1995). A retrospective of her art was exhibited in 2002 at the Ben Shahn Galleries in Wayne, New Jersey.



Chicago Tribune, December 16, 2004, Section 3, p. 9.

Los Angeles Times, December 18, 2004, p. B21.

New York Times, December 16, 2004, p. C14.

Washington Post, December 22, 2004, p. B6.


Atlanticville Web site, (December 29, 2004).

San Diego Union-Tribune Online, (December 24, 2004).