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Identifier: GA 12

Bernarda Bryson Shahn Etchings


  • 1935-1990; bulk 1970-1990

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of twenty three etchings and a lithograph by Bernarda Bryson Shahn, which were donated by the artist’s family. Though most etchings are undated, many appear to be from the 1970s, a period when the Susan Teller Gallery in New York describes her work as showing hooded figures in barren landscapes or forests, and from the 1980s, which the Susan Teller Gallery identifies as a period where her work focused on the mythology of Malta. Dated etchings are from 1935, 1975 and 1980. Many are signed Bernarda Bryson, though one is signed using her married name Bernarda B. Shahn. Descriptive information includes title, printing technique, number, artist signature if any, date if any, size, and any included notations. Measurements are of the plate mark or the edge of the printed area, in millimeters (width x height).

The Rutgers University Libraries, Special Collections has other material by Bernarda Bryson Shahn, including her Vanishing American Frontier series, created as part of her work for the Resettlement Administration (Special Collections, Sub location SNCLNJ, call number N6537.B82A4 1995).


“Bernarda Bryson Shahn.” The Annex Galleries. 4/16/2014. 4/16/2014

“Bernarda Bryson Shahn.” International Fine Print Dealers Association. 4/16/2014.

“Bernarda Bryson Shahn.” Lehman College Art Gallery. 4/16/2014.

“Bernarda Bryson Shahn.” Wikipedia, 30 November 2013. 4/16/2014.

De Nicola, Linda. “Artist leaves legacy of creativity spanning century: Bernarda Shahn, 101, recalled for friendship & prolific body of work.” Tri-Town News. December 22, 2004. 4/16/2014.

Fitzgerald, Jean. “Bernarda Bryson Shahn: A Finding Aid to the Bernarda Bryson Shahn Papers, 1872-2004, bulk 1904-2004, in the Archives of American Art,” September 07, 2011. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 4/16/2014.

Fox, Margalit. “Bernarda Bryson Shahn, Painter, Dies at 101.” New York Times, December 16, 2004. 4/16/2014.

“Oral history interview with Bernarda Bryson Shahn, 1983 Apr. 29.” Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 4/16/2014.

“Oral history interview with Bernarda Bryson Shahn, 1995 July 3.” Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 4/16/2014.

“Susan Teller Gallery: Bernarda Bryson Shahn.” Susan Teller Gallery. 4/16/14.


1 Oversized Flat Box

Language of Materials



This collection consists of twenty three etchings and a lithograph by Bernarda Bryson Shahn.

Biographical Sketch

Bernarda Bryson Shahn was an artist and writer whose artistic work ranged from prints to painting and illustration, and whose writing career began in journalism, but included art criticism and books for children. In addition to her art, she was also active in social causes and served on local boards. Born in Athens, Ohio in 1903, she was the child of a newspaper owner and a former Latin professor. She attended various universities in Ohio, then studied painting and lithography at the Cleveland School of Art, and etching and lithography at the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts School. She worked both as an instructor in etching and lithography and as a journalist. As a journalist, she became exposed to the New York art world during a 1933 interview with Diego Rivera, a Mexican mural painter. Moving to New York the following year, she created lithographs for the Graphics Division of the Public Works of Art Project, became a founding member of the left-leaning Artists Union, and edited an art-related newspaper. In the mid-1930s, she spent time in Washington, D.C., where she established a lithography studio and worked for the Resettlement Administration to document rural poverty before returning to the Northeast and settling in Roosevelt, NJ. During the middle portion of her career, from the 1940s through the 1970s, she focused on illustration. She created illustrations for magazines and books, as well as writing and illustrating her own children’s books. In the 1970s and beyond, she returned to painting, etching and lithography, exhibiting her works in a number of venues in New York and New Jersey. One of these exhibitions was a retrospective of her work in 1987 at the Mabel Smith Douglass Library of Rutgers University. In 1989, the Women’s Caucus for Art recognized her work with the Outstanding Achievement in the Visual Arts Award. She died in 2004.

She was married to artist Ben Shahn and the two often collaborated on their work. The two lived and worked in Roosevelt, New Jersey, from 1939 until their deaths, and formed the nucleus of an artist’s community that settled there.

Arrangement Note

Etchings are in seven folders, broadly by size and subject, and are listed alphabetically within each folder.

Guide to the Bernarda Bryson Shahn Etchings
Edited Full Draft
Elizabeth M. Phillips
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.
Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.