Identification and Creation
Object Number
Ben Shahn, American (Kovno (now Kaunas), Lithuania 1898 - 1969 New York, NY)
Other Titles
Series/Book Title: The Mooney Case, 1932-1933
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States, New York State, New York City
Physical Descriptions
Gouache on paper mounted to masonite
image: 40.1 x 56.3 cm (15 13/16 x 22 3/16 in.)
framed: 58 × 74.6 × 2.5 cm (22 13/16 × 29 3/8 × 1 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.l. in red paint: Ben Shahn
  • inscription: recto, lower left, red gouache, English, signed, in artist's hand: Ben Shahn
Ben Shahn, created 1933; by descent to Judith Shahn and Ezra Shahn; [James Reinish & Associates, Inc., NYC], sold; to Harvard Art Museums, 2011.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Richard Norton Memorial Fund
Artwork © Estate of Ben Shahn / Licensed by VAGA, NY
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art
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Label Text: 32Q: 1320 Social Realism , written 2014
Throughout the Great Depression, workers regularly assembled in New York City’s Union Square, the epicenter of the radical labor movement in America, to demonstrate for relief, jobs, and social justice. Ben Shahn participated in these actions as he tested new approaches to making art relevant to the masses. Lively scenes of civic dissent like this one became prominent in his work during this time. This gouache is one of sixteen panels from a seminal series commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the trial and incarceration of radical labor leader Tom Mooney. The international workers’ movement exalted Mooney as a political martyr, and in Demonstration, Shahn immortalizes the solidarity of a group agitating for Mooney’s exoneration. Shahn based the scene on a newspaper photograph depicting a May Day rally in Union Square. Critics of the day hailed Shahn’s Mooney series as a new type of history painting that combined reportage aesthetics with leftist morals.

Exhibition History

Ben Shahn: Cross Media Artist, Photograph, Painting and Graphic Art, The Museum of Modern Art, Hayama, Kanagawa, 12/03/2011 - 01/29/2012; Nagoya City Art Museum, Nagoya, 02/11/2012 - 03/25/2012; The Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art, Okayama-shi, 04/08/2012 - 05/20/2012

Recent Acquisitions, Part II: Building the Collection, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 06/19/2012 - 09/29/2012

32Q: 1320 Social Realism, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014 - 04/29/2015

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