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Word Count: 485
The Miners Wives by Ben Shahn takes a bitter look at one of the lifestyles of the early 20th century - that of the down-trodden coal miner In the foreground of the picture we see the miners wife referenced in the title She carries a bleak expression her back turned to an older woman and a child presumably her mother and her offspring Two men walk away into the distance and one set of clothing hangs above unclaimed by its owner The woman has just been informed of the mining accident which claimed her husbands life Shahn says much about the mining life through the composition of his painting His focus is on the woman who has just lost her husband She stands off-center not crying or hysterical but with an expression of shock and numbness This isnt the first time shes experienced this kind of pain The presence of her mother suggests that she has lost a loved one before presumably her father Even the method he uses to paint her distorted inproportionate and unidealized emphasizes her station in life She has lived a hard life and her face shows it The red brick wall behind her expresses the anger and torment shes feeling It has to because she must remain stoic for both her child and the world at large She cant rage at the mining company and she must not let her child see fear so Shahn gives this wall the most brilliant angry color he can muster to express what shes feeling The wall is also a divider separating the wives miserable lonely existence from that of the mining bosses who calmly walk away Having given her the news they feel theyve done all that needs to be done for this woman Their facelessness emphasizes the fact that these men are interchangeable in the minds of the women all alike They rob the women of everything their
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