Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ben Shahn in the SEAA

In 1949, United States Gypsum Company art director Ione Shriver hired social-realist artist Ben Shahn (1898-1969) to illustrate its promotional journal, Popular Home. The late spring issue was dedicated to "small homes" and to suggest that theme, Shahn painted two carpenters putting up framing. The painting became the basis for the cover image shown above. The son of a carpenter, Shahn began to work as a commercial artist after the Second World War.
U.S. Gypsum distributed its journal to various regional dealers, including the E.A. Enochs Lumber Company in Natchez, Mississippi. The Southeastern Architectural Archive's copy was printed for Enochs and mailed to the Monteigne Plantation.

After the Second World War, the U.S. Gypsum Company leased 15 acres from the Dock Board along the Industrial Canal. In 1956, it built a $40 million plant on the site. Utilizing calcium hydrous sulphate imported from Jamaica, the New Orleans operation produced sheet rock wallboard, Rocklath plaster base and gypsum sheathing.

Images above: Front and back cover. Popular Home: Small Homes Review Issue  6:3 (Late Spring 1949). Architectural Trade Catalogs, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

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