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Bernarda Bryson Shahn papers, 1872-2004, bulk 1904-2004

Biographical Note

Bernarda Bryson Shahn (1903-2004) worked primarily in New Jersey as a painter, printmaker, and illustrator. She was married to Ben Shahn and often collaborated with him.
Bernarda Bryson was born on March 7, 1903 in Athens, Ohio, the daughter of the owner-editor of newspaper The Athens Morning Journal. After receiving early drawing and painting lessons from her mother, Bryson attended a private girls' school where she continued her studies in art and art history.
At Ohio University, Bryson majored in philosophy and attended art classes in which David Smith was a classmate. She later attended the Cleveland Art School where she studied printmaking.
Following graduation, Bryson taught etching and lithography at the art school of the Columbus Gallery of Fine Art. She also wrote for The Ohio State Journal and became editor of community paper The South Side Advocate. While in New York City to interview Diego Rivera, she met Ben Shahn who was assisting Rivera in painting the mural at Rockefeller Center. Bernarda Bryson and Ben Shahn were married in 1935.
Bernarda Bryson Shahn moved to New York and helped organize the Artists' Union and exhibited at the Whitney Gallery on Eighth Street. She then went to Woodstock to study lithography with Bolton Brown and was invited to set up a lithographic shop for the Resettlement Administration in Washington, D.C.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Bernarda Bryson Shahn executed illustrations for Harper's Magazine, Scientific American and Fortune in addition to random assignments from Life, Sports Illustrated and other publications. She illustrated many books including Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice as well as writing and illustrating her own books Gilgamesh, The Twenty Miracles of Saint Nicolas, and The Zoo of Zeus. Following the death of her husband in 1969, she wrote and designed a large monograph Ben Shahn, published by Abrams.
In the mid-1970s, Bernarda Bryson Shahn won further recognition when she returned to painting.
Bernarda Bryson Shahn died on December 12, 2004 in Roosevelt, New Jersey.