Vintage 1940's Framed Print of Ben Shahn's "The Red Stairway"

  • Sale
  • Regular price $295.00
  • 1 available


Vintage 1940's Framed Print of Ben Shahn's "The Red Stairway" 

Ben Shahn (1898-1969) was a Jewish-American painter of the Social Realist style, also known for his left-wing politics. Shahn was born in the Pale, in what is now Lithuania, but his family emigrated to the United States in 1906 and settled in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Among Shahn's most common themes is an exploration of the indomitable spirit of humanity. 

The Red Stairway depicts a crippled man with only one leg as he climbs a very steep staircase. He climbs away from rubble and devastation, but if he follows the stairs back down on the other side, he will only find the same destruction. Nevertheless he keeps climbing, keeps moving forward, striving to reach a better place. He doesn't see the destruction on the other side of the stairs, and because of that his fate remains uncertain. As he overcomes his handicap, this man's final destination has not been decided. 

The painting is considered a reaction to the destruction of World War II, when senseless violence wrought so much destruction. Nevertheless, humanity has no choice but to keep moving forward. Shahn wrote that this painting was about "both the hope and fate of man," and also spoke people's inability to communicate. The disconnect between the man climbing the stairs and the figure on the right is palpable; they may be able to help each other but there is a gulf between them. 

The painting is done in tempera, which accounts for the sense of flatness in the canvas. This gives the piece an interesting sense of space, wherein the other side of the staircase is both so far away and just in front of us. Shahn created a painting that is deliberately ambiguous, reflecting the extreme uncertainty that pervaded the world as World War II swept Europe and the Pacific.

Approximate Frame Dimensions: 33.25" wide x 25.5" high x 1" deep

Approximate Print Dimensions: 26.5" wide x 18" high

Approximate Weight: 9 lbs.

Condition consistent with age and history. Please use zoom feature to check item condition, and contact us with any questions prior to purchasing. 

Please note: Our pictures are not stock photos. All of our pictures are personally taken by us, in our studio, under diffused lighting using professional photography studio diffused-light softboxes with full spectrum CFL photo-video 5500K daylight bulbs. Additionally, we enhance the brightness, contrast and exposure of our pics to fully reveal the details of our items. We do not photo-edit the condition or adjust the color of our pictures. When viewing our items, please be aware that the colors reflected on different computer monitors are not absolutely consistent and vary widely. Also, the color of a particular item may appear slightly different in subdued home lighting as opposed to studio lighting. 


HP-082117-18