The Art of Symeon Shimin

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Product Details

Mercury Press International
Publish Date
9.6 X 11.7 X 0.7 inches | 2.7 pounds

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About the Author

Symeon Shimin was born in Astrakhan, Russia, on the Caspian Sea, in 1902. His family immigrated to the United States ten years later, living in two small rooms behind their delicatessen. Already interested in drawing for a living, Shimin apprenticed himself to a commercial artist at age 16 to help support his family. He attended art classes at Cooper Union Art School at night and briefly at the studio of George Luks. Primarily self-taught, as a young artist he studied the works of the master artists spending time in Spain, France and Mexico. Later trips to Italy proved to be inspirational for him and his work.

In 1936 he was awarded a contract by the PWAP, Public Works Arts Project, to paint the mural "Contemporary Justice and the Child, " for the Department of Justice Building, Washington, DC, which won wide acclaim. Taking four years to complete it can still be seen today. His paintings have been exhibited by the Whitney Museum in New York and many other museums throughout the United States. Shimin's work in children's books began in 1950 and he subsequently became a greatly respected illustrator of more than 50 books for children, including two that he also authored. Among other work early in his career, Shimin painted large-scale murals for Hollywood films, creating the original poster for "Gone with the Wind." He died in New York in 1984.

About Tonia Shimin
As a dancer Tonia Shimin performed in the companies of Martha Graham, Jose Limón, Pearl Lang, The Ypsilanti Greek Theater and as a soloist with Anna Sokolow's Player's Project, Mary Anthony Dance Theater and Repertory West Dance Company. She has had an extensive teaching career in the United States and abroad. Her choreographic works have appeared in the United States, the Czech Republic, Russia, Germany, Turkey, Switzerland, Greece, Italy and Mexico. An award winning dance filmmaker, for among others the documentary Mary Anthony: A life in Modern Dance, her awards have included support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Santa Barbara Dance Alliance. Currently she is Professor Emerita of the Department of Theater Dance at the University of California, Santa Barbara and continues her creative work in the USA and abroad. Most recently she has curated, edited and with Mercury Press International published the award winning book, The Art of Symeon Shimin, on the remarkable work of her father, whose fine art is here shown in a collection for the first time.


This coffee-table style volume is an impressively informative presentation that clearly and effectively showcases the life and work of one of the 20th Century's most gifted artists -- and should be considered an essential and core addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university fine arts collections.

-- "The Midwest Book Review"

"As we seek to understand and express the value and significance of human experience as such, there will be a place for artists such as Shimin."

-- "Sam Ben-Meir"

"The incomparable emotion of Shimin's drawings and paintings are on full display in this beautiful collection. Humanity is the subject, presented in humble iconic imagery and complex gestures alive with every turn of the page."

-- "Eric Hoffer Awards "

"A social realist."

-- "Time Magazine"

His name will "mean something in the long history of painting."

-- "The Architectural Forum"

"Shimin was a vessel for the unheard voices of his time. Those who were shunned, he highlighted; for those who were unseen, he provided a stage. He saw the common man for what he was -beautiful, exceptional, and equal."

-- " Lauren Kinsley, Research Editor"

Editor Tonia Shimin assembles essays and images that span the rich career of her late father, the painter Symeon Shimin.
The book's opening section is a brief autobiographical essay that Symeon Shimin wrote before his death in 1984. In it, he spends little time on the subject of painting, focusing instead on his family life. He was born in Astrakhan, Russia, in 1902 and wanted to be a musician as a child; he idolized his uncle Eli, who was a composer. In 1912, the family moved to New York City. As he pursued his art, representational drawing came to him easily, and his first studies were on paper bags from his father's new delicatessen. The second essay, by critic Josef Woodard, provides a fine portrait of Shimin's artistic life and takes time to appreciate the artist's illustrations for movie posters and children's books. But to Woodard, these finely executed projects prevented Shimin from pursuing more worthwhile works like his Contemporary Justice and the Child, "a landmark mural" in the U.S. Department of Justice building. In the final essay, arts journalist Charles Donelan fastidiously moves through Shimin's oeuvre, presenting a notion of the artist as a "passionate observer" and "humanist" whose representational paintings were underappreciated when abstract works dominated art markets. Together, the three essays achieve an edifying balance with Shimin's intimate reflection, Woodard's steady survey, and Donelan's academic appreciation. The rest of the book consists of reproductions, ably arranged to showcase Shimin's virtuosity and beautifully highlight his career-spanning fascination with the human form. The reprints of studies for Contemporary Justice are a highlight, revealing the minute strokes of brilliance that contributed to a coherent whole. A glowing reprint of Shimin's later painting The Pack shows the artist's knack for chaotic ensemble, as does Discussion Group (I), reprinted across two facing pages. In her acknowledgments, Tonia Shimin says that she intended the book as a "tribute to the work of my father"; it is, and it also underscores the skills of its editor.
A loving survey of an artist's varied career.


Complete with detailed artwork and powerful photographs, The Art of Symeon Shimin offers poignant insight into the life and mind of Symeon, an artist whose life story spans multiple continents. Born in Russia, he moved to New York as a child, where he discovered his artistic talent. Symeon's fascinating life and surreal talent are shown in high quality images that provoke raw emotions and demonstrate his knack for exploring the human condition in a way that is both intriguing and insightful. He is known for exploring themes of poverty and violence, as well as more positive aspects of life, such as music and movement. Possessed of a generous soul, Mr. Shimin bares his heart in an autobiographical account of childhood follies, interactions with family members and notable friends, chance meetings with strangers, and many notable incidents that shaped his personality into a conscientious individual capable of seeing the world from its many complex angles. These personal tales have been thoughtfully compiled by his daughter after his death. Overall, The Art of Symeon Shimin beautifully showcases the life and work of one of the 20th Century's most gifted artists. It is at once both a portrayal of a life and a statement of the impact one man's art can have on the lives of others. -Book Excellence, FULL REVIEW

-- "Book Excellence"