A nice illustrated cover by Ben Shahn (1898-1969). “Chicago Style Jazz” on Columbia.
Art, as I saw it one day when I helped hang a National Academy show while I was a student there, was about cows. In those days, early in the twenties, there were many cow paintings. More than that, the cows always stood knee-deep in purple shadows. For the life of me I never learned to see purple where there was no purple — and I detested cows. I was frankly distressed at the prospects for me as an artist.
But there came a time when I stopped painting, stopped in order to evaluate all these doubts. If I couldn’t see purple where there was no purple–I wouldn’t use it. If I didn’t like cows, I wouldn’t paint them. What then was I to paint? Slowly I found that I must paint those things that were meaningful to me–that I could honestly paint in the shapes and colors I felt belonged to them. What shall I paint? Stories. – Ben Shahn
In 1956-57, Ben Shahn was the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University (poetry was broadly defined as “all poetic expression in language, music, or the fine arts.”) During that time he gave a series of lectures, later collected and published by Harvard University Press. The Shape of Content has been in print and widely read since its publication in 1957. In fact, many people come into contact with Shahnâ€™s writing before they are aware of his art.