On View

Integration, Supreme Court

Photo Credit: Rich Sanders, Des Moines

Integration, Supreme Court

Artist: Ben Shahn (American, born Lithuania, 1898 - 1969)
Date: 1963
Medium: Tempera on paper mounted on Masonite
Frame: 43 7/8 × 56 × 1 5/8 in. (111.4 × 142.2 × 4.1 cm.)
Image (visible): 35 1/2 × 47 1/2 in. (90.2 × 120.7 cm.)
Credit Line: Des Moines Art Center Permanent Collections; Purchased with funds from the Edmundson Art Foundation, Inc., 1964.6
Accession number: 1964.6
Classification: work on paper
Label TextBen Shahn was motivated by a passion for social justice and human dignity. His art frequently addressed critical events in public life. Integration, Supreme Court, honors the Supreme Court’s school desegregation decision, Brown v. the Topeka Board of Education. The viewer’s point of view is that of a plaintiff pleading a case before the court. The black-robed justices are shown seated on their dais. Each Justice is an individual with a distinct physiognomy and personality, and appears to listen intently. The four Ionic columns behind them represent the classical architectural setting of the Supreme Court and its ideals of justice, as well as functioning compositionally by emphasizing the centrally-placed Chief Justice, Earl Warren. The shimmering sky seen through the columns perhaps symbolizes a new world beyond the courtroom. Shahn’s distinctive painting technique combines areas of opaque color with white lines or scratch work, as in the delicate drawing of the capitals of the columns and the woodwork.
The work of Ben Shahn has been so widely exhibited and reproduced over a period of years that he is well known throughout the country. He is one of the few American painters to develop themes of social commentary into a distinctive personal idiom and style; a combinatin that has reached a wide popular audience, and has been achieved with such success that it has br0ught a continuing succession of awards, exhibitions, and museum purchases. The "Integration, Supreme Court" is one of the few major paintings on a current theme that Shahn has done in recent years. ... It is the first significant social commentary painting to enter the Art Center collection, joining the earlier watercolor and graphic works by Shahn. Source: Bulletin, April 1964.
InscriptionBen Shahn (lower right edge)
Exhibition History"African Americans and American Jews: Struggles for Justice" or "Bridges and Boundaries: African Americans and American Jews," The Jewish Museum, N. Y., Feb. 20, 1992 - July 27, 1992

"The Kirsch Years: 1936-1958," Des Moines Art Center, a testimonial exhibition, Jan. 7 - Feb. 10, 1974, and the University of Nebraska Art Galleries, Lincoln, Feb. 25 - Mar. 31, 1974

"Seventy-five Master Works," Portland Art Association, OR, Dec. 12, 1967 - Jan. 21, 1968

"Ben Shahn, Paintings and Graphics," Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA, July 30 - Sept. 10, 1967, and La Jolla Museum of Art, Oct. 5 - Nov. 12, 1967

"Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting," Whitney Museum of American Art, N.Y., 1963; (Circulated to: Insitute of Contemporary Arts, Washington, D.C., 1964)
Published ReferencesJerome R. Reich and Edward L. Biller, UNITED STATES HISTORY, Holt, Rinehart and Winston Inc., 1988, ill. p.640 & 641

THE GUIDE TO AMERICAN LAW, Vol. 9 of a legal encyclopedia, West Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1984, color ill. fig. no.26 (ill. in reverse)

Emery Grossman, ART AND TRADITION, N.Y., 1967, ill.

"The United States and Its People" by Addison-Wesley Publication, Co., Inc., 1995, b/w ill. p.755, credit p.972

Jack Salzman, Adina Back & Gretchen Sullivan Sorin, BRIDGES AND BOUNDARIES: AFRICAN AMERICANS AND AMERICAN JEWS, Jewish Museum, N. Y., 1992, b & w ill. p.217

James Thrall Soby, BEN SHAHN - HIS GRAPHIC ART, George Braziller, Inc., N.Y., 1957, ill. p.102

ART VOICES, Jan. 1964, p.9

James P. Shenton, Judith R. Benson and Robert E. Jacoubek, THESE UNITED STATES (a history textbook), Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1978, color ill. p.632

Bernarda Bryson Shahn, BEN SHAHN, Harry Abrams, N.Y., 1972, color ill. p.202

Allan G. Johnson, HUMAN ARRANGEMENTS: AN INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLOGY (Second Edition), Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1989, 1986, color ill.

"Ben Shahn, Paintings and Graphics," Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA, 1967, exh. cat. ref. no.73, ill.

"The American Experiment: E Pluribus Unum," POLITICAL IDEALS, POLICY DILEMMAS, National Field-test Edition for EDC School and Society Programs, Newton, Ma., 1981, ill. p.28

THE VINCENT PRICE TREASURY OF AMERICAN ART, Country Beautiful Corp., 1972, color ill. p.296

Sam Robbins, ed., LAW: A TREASURY OF ART AND LITERATURE, Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, Inc., distributed by Macmillan Publishing Co., N. Y., 1990, color ills. pp.332 & 333

AN UNCOMMON VISION: THE DES MOINES ART CENTER, Des Moines Art Center, 1998, ref. & color detail p.252, color ill. p.253

ADVANCING PHILANTHROPY, Fall 1995, b/w ill. p.31

George S. Grossman, THE SPIRIT OF AMERICAN LAW, Westview Press, Boulder, CO, 2000, b/w ill. p.364

"The Kirsch Years: 1936 - 1958," Des Moines Art Center and University of Nebraska Art Galleries, Lincoln, 1974, exh. brochure no.64

DMAC Bulletin, Apr. 1964, ill.

DMAC News, Nov./Dec. 1991, p.8

"The American Experiment: E Pluribus Unum," EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY: EQUAL FOR EVERYONE?, 1981, ill. credits p.107, ill. p.62
entirely unexpected