Art: Baffling Ben

Though the public generally is unaware of him, Ben Shahn is considered by a majority of critics to be one of America's best living painters. The baffling thing about big Ben is that he has played the field, from near-realism to near-abstraction.

Last week bookstores were peddling a new and thorough biographical study of Shahn by Poet-Critic Selden Rodman (Portrait of the Artist as an American; Harper, $6.50). Rodman got most of his material from the horse's mouth, but could not make Shahn a horse of a definite color. What the book captures is the brilliant shimmer of a man too seldom...

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