Ben Shahn

Lute and Molecules


Ben Shahn 1898–1969
Screenprint and watercolour on paper
Support: 689 x 1022 mm
Frame: 775 x 1110 x 60 mm
Purchased 1959

Not on display

Catalogue entry

Ben Shahn 1898-1969

T00314 Lute and Molecules 1958

Inscribed 'Ben Shahn' b.r.
Screenprint hand-coloured in watercolour, 27 1/8 x 40 1/4 (69 x 102.5)
Purchased from the artist through the Leicester Galleries (Grant-in-Aid) 1959
Exh: Graphic Work of Ben Shahn, Leicester Galleries, London, November 1959 (13) as 'Lute and Molecules I'

The artist wrote of this work: '23 copies were made, all are approximately alike in color.

'The juxtaposition of the two objects resulted from the simple fact that both the lute and the model of molecules happened to be in my studio in the Fogg Museum at Harvard; I daresay I was somewhat struck by their dissimilarity in use as well as by the similarity between the keys of the lute and the atomic structure of the molecule. All this was, of course, entirely fortuitous and I am sure that nothing of the sort will again take place in my work, for I doubt that I shall again be in an environment where the two objects could conceivably be in one place' (letter of 24 May 1960).

A watercolour reproduced in J.T. Soby, Ben Shahn: Graphic Work (London 1957), p.72, was the first and less stylised version of this composition: it was made in 1957. Another, somewhat differently-coloured screenprint is reproduced in Art News, LVIII, April 1959, p.13.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.686, reproduced p.686