Presenting the People’s Artist: "The Art of Symeon Shimin"

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Tonia Shimin spent decades collecting stories, art, and photographs for "The Art of Symeon Shimin", published by Mercury Press International (Nov. 1, 2019). This beautiful fine art book is available now, with an author interview on KZSB AM 1290 on Friday, 12/20 at 10 am, 8 pm and on 12/22 at 11 am

“Symeon 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.” --- Research Editor Lauren Kinsley

"The Art of Symeon Shimin" ( ), created by the artist's daughter, Tonia Shimin, presents for the first time a collection of the fine art of Symeon Shimin, who was recognized as a superlative award-winning illustrator of more than 50 children’s books, as well as one of the highest-paid artists of his time, creating posters for Hollywood films, including painting the now iconic original poster for "Gone With the Wind", among many other films. He wove his American dream for peace, justice and liberty into his work, perhaps best showcased by his impressive masterpiece, the mural "Contemporary Justice and the Child", commissioned by the Public Works Arts Project in 1936-1940 for the Department of Justice Building in Washington, DC, where it hangs today.

The book presents a unique perspective of this expressive Mid-Century New York-based painter, considered a "People’s Artist"; as a Jewish immigrant whose family fled the Pogroms for Brooklyn, and as a child laborer himself, he understood and painted for common people, who he saw as "beautiful, exceptional, and equal."

“After my father’s death in 1984, I found a treasure trove of slides and photographs of fine art paintings that were spread in collections around the world. I felt these works of a master artist should not disappear and be lost. Thus began my dream of creating this book and of preserving his legacy.”

Born in Russia on the Caspian Sea, Symeon Shimin immigrated with his Jewish family to Brooklyn, New York at age 10. By age 16, he had apprenticed himself to a commercial artist to help support his family, attending night classes at Cooper Union Art School. At only 27 he was commissioned to do a cover for Vanity Fair magazine. Primarily self-taught, as a young artist he studied the works of master artists, spending time in Spain, France and Mexico. Later trips to Italy proved to be inspirational for his work.

The exquisitely-produced hardbound book includes more than 100 high resolution printed plates and archival photographs, including two by renowned photographer Berenice Abbott; an autobiography by the artist, on his early years in Russia and then in Brooklyn; and essays by Santa Barbara arts writers Josef Woodard and Charles Donelan.

With paintings held in collections including the Chrysler Museum of Art, this is the first complete collection of Symeon Shimin's fine art over his life from 1902-1984. As Tonia reported, “This passion project has taken more than 30 years to bring to fruition. As the whereabouts of only a fraction of the more than 70 paintings represented in the book are known, the book represents the archives and legacy that can now live on."

Renowned American sculptor Chaim Gross wrote in 1973, “Shimin is a painter who knows the craft of drawing and painting, which in his hands becomes great art.”

Get the book:

Tonia Shimin, author of "The Art of Symeon Shimin", and the artist's daughter, will be interviewed by Elizabeth Stewart on "Art & Antiques,” on Santa Barbara's KZSB AM 1290, this Friday, Dec. 20, 10- 11am (repeating on Friday evening 8 pm - 9 pm and on Sunday morning from 11 am to noon). Call in on Friday morning: 805-564-1290. Tune in online at

Tonia Shimin is a dance faculty member emerita at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she taught for 27 years. She lovingly curated the first-ever total collection of all known Shimin paintings and artworks, joining the personal family collection with images of paintings in private, museum and gallery collections. Only this year she discovered the gigantic painting for the film "Solomon and Sheba" that was exhibited at The Detour Gallery, in Red Bank, New Jersey where it had been stored for many years. 

Find out more:

Storytelling with purpose

Mercury Press International was founded in 1991 to create and distribute inspiring, informative and entertaining stories. Their work has been published in over 300 publications (including El Mundo, National Geographic Books, Geo, Focus, The Wall Street Journal and Stern); and is syndicated to millions through Tribune Content Agency (Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Miami Herald, Baltimore Sun, Seattle Times, AM New York, Newsday...); and translated into over 20 languages. With decades of journalistic experience, Mercury Press produces films, video, images and books for private, commercial and nonprofit clients. Their feature documentary film, "Better Together" (2019, ) has screened at four film festivals, winning two awards and finalist for two more. Mercury Press is proud to have won a World Press Photo award.

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Nancy Black
since: 03/2019
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