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Print - Alphabet


  • Object:


  • Date:

    ca. 1954 (printed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Shahn, Ben, born 1898 - died 1969 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Screen print on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr S. S. Spivak

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D, case E8A

The Jewish artist Ben Shahn (1898-1969) was born in Lithuania and went to the USA as a child. At fourteen he was apprenticed to a lithographer's shop, where his training included endless drawing of the alphabet until the forms were good enough to be printed. The discipline and craft learned then stayed with him. This design is based on the letters of the Hebrew alphabet - a similar design was used for the cover of his book The Alphabet of Creation, after a 13th-century text that celebrates the divine origin and mystic value of letters. The balance of black and white recalls his workshop training, which stressed the importance of space around the letters as well as the shapes themselves. Serigraphy is different from screenprint in that rather than using a stencil on the screen the artist paints directly and un-'guided' onto the screen.

Physical description

Print in black on paper. Abstract image formed with letters of the Hebrew Alphabet.


ca. 1954 (printed)


Shahn, Ben, born 1898 - died 1969 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Screen print on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Ben Shahn'
Signed in ink


Height: 102 cm sheet, Width: 69.3 cm sheet

Object history note

This design embodies the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The drawing on which it is based is in the Sachs Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, and is reproduced on p.80 of Ben Shahn His graphic art by J. T. Soby, New York, 1957. A similar design was used on the front cover of the artist’s The Alphabet of Creation, New York, 1954, and for the cover of Print, Vol IX, No.3, October-November, 1954.

Descriptive line

'Alphabet'. Print with a design formed from letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Screen print by Ben Shahn, ca.1954.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Victoria and Albert Museum Department of Prints and Drawings and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1959 . London: HMSO, 1964.




Screen printing



Production Type

Limited edition


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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