American (born in Lithuania), 1898–1969
25 13/16 x 20 inches
Wichita Art Museum, Museum purchase, Burneta Adair Endowment Fund
Not Currently on Display
About the Artwork
The painter Ben Shahn may be classified as a social Realist, one of those American painters of the 1930s and 40s who created images with a social message; for the most part the Social Realist identified with the working man and directed his/her protests against social injustice suffered by American’s lower classes. In the 1950s and 60s Shahn continued to address social issues such as the cold war and the threat of nuclear destruction.
The Blind Botanist is typical of the artist’s imagery; it is an allegory employing distortion of form and symbolic objects whose meaning belongs more to the artist’s private imagination than to communal experience. When asked about this image, Shahn, who didn’t like to explain his work, said that it spoke to that “curious quality of irrational hope that man seems to carry around with him,” and to the “unpredictable, miraculous vocations which man pursues.” Critics have observed that all of Shahn’s work explored the sufferings and foibles of humankind and that this image “states the artist’s deep sympathy for man’s groping effort to understand his present world.”