Top 25 Social realism artists who changed its history

The social and economic realities of the time are depicted in the art produced during the early 20th century’s Social Realism movement. The movement’s motivation was to advocate for social justice and reform while drawing attention to the suffering of the working class and the impoverished. The goal of social realist painters was to upend the status quo and reveal the terrible truths of many people’s lives.

Mexican painter Diego Rivera, who is most known for his murals that highlight the problems of the working class and the poor, was one of the most significant Social Realist artists. Rivera frequently combined political and social themes into his artwork, and he used his work to honour the working class’s dignity and fortitude as well as to advance revolutionary ideas.

1. Ben Shahn

Social realism artists

Born: 12 September 1898, Kaunas, Lithuania

Died: 14 March 1969, New York, New York, United States

Periods: Social realism, Modern art

Full name: Benjamin Shahn

  • Ben Shahn was an American artist from the United States. Most famous are his social realism works.
  • His father was deported to Siberia in 1902 for possible revolutionary activity 1902.
  • After 1906 the Hessel family emigrated to America. United States, where they rejoined Hessel.
  • His younger brother drowned when he was age 17.
  • While Shahn was a student at New York University as a biology student in 1919, he later went on to study the art field at City College in 1921.


2. Thomas Hart Benton

Social realism artists

Born: 15 April 1889, Neosho, Missouri, United States

Died: 19 January 1975, Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Periods: Modern art, Regionalism, Social realism, American Realism, American modernism, Synchromism

Spouse: Rita Piacenza (m. 1922–1975)

  • Thomas Hart Benton was an American painter, muralist and printmaker.
  • Alongside Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry, He was in the front of the Regionalist art movement.
  • His work is closely linked to that of the Midwestern United States.
  • He also attended school in Paris. He also was a resident of New York City for more than 20 years and painted numerous works in New York.
  • Benton was born in Neosho, Missouri, into a prominent family of politicians.


3. David Alfaro Siqueiros

Social realism artists

Born: 29 December 1896, Camargo, Mexico

Died: 6 January 1974, Cuernavaca, Mexico

Periods: Mexican muralism, Social realism

Spouse: Blanca Luz Brum (m. 1929–1935), Angélica Arenal Bastar (m. ?–1974)

  • David Alfaro Siqueiros was a Mexican social realist artist.
  • He was an active member of the Mexican Communist Party and was a Stalinist and defender of the Soviet Union who led an unsuccessful plot in the attempt to kill Leon Trotsky in May 1940.
  • The finding of his birth record in the year 2003 by a Mexican art historian was revealed the following year by art reviewer Raquel Tibol.
  • Siqueiros changed his initials to “David” after his first wife called him “David” in reference the Michelangelo’s David.
  • Siqueiros was born in Chihuahua in 1896.


4. José Clemente Orozco

Social realism artists

Born: 23 November 1883, Ciudad Guzmán, Mexico

Died: 7 September 1949, Mexico City, Mexico

Periods: Mexican muralism, Social realism

  • Jose Clemente Orozco was a Mexican artist and caricaturist.
  • From 1922 to 1948, Orozco created murals for Mexico City.
  • Orozco was an activist artist who fought for the cause of the peasants and workers.
  • He got married to Margarita Valladares. They had three children.
  • At age 21, Orozco lost his left hand as he worked with gunpowder to make fireworks.


5. Gerard Sekoto

Social realism artists

Born: 9 December 1913, Botshabelo, South Africa

Died: 20 March 1993, Nogent-sur-Marne, France

Period: Social realism

Books: Gérard Sekoto, MORE

Nationality: South African

  • Gerard Sekoto was a South African musician and artist.
  • He is regarded as the artist who pioneered urban black art and social realism.
  • His work was displayed throughout Paris, Stockholm, Venice, Washington, and Senegal.
  • The son was Andreas Sekoto, a leading participant in the new Christian conversions.
  • As the son of a missionary, the musician was an aspect of his existence, and he was exposed to the harmonium of his family from a young age.
  • Sekoto would draw with chalk or paper and coloured pencils as a youngster.


6. George Tooker

Social realism artists

Born: 5 August 1920, Brooklyn, New York, United States

Died: 27 March 2011, Hartland, Vermont, United States

Nationality: American

Education: Harvard University, The Art Students League of New York

  • George Tooker was an American painter of figurative art.
  • His work is closely associated with Magic realism, Social realism, Photorealism, and Surrealism.
  • The subjects are shown naturally in photographs; however, the pictures employ neutral tones, an undefined perspective, and alarming juxtapositions that create a dreamlike or phantom reality.
  • He was not a fan of the connection between his work of Magic realism or Surrealism.
  • In 1968 He received an election to his position at the National Academy of Design and was an active member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
  • Tooker was among nine recipients to receive the National Medal of Arts in 2007.


7. Reginald Marsh

Social realism artists

Born: 14 March 1898, Paris, France

Died: 3 July 1954, Dorset, Vermont, United States

Artworks: Coney Island Beach, The Bowery, In Fourteenth Street, MORE

Period: Social realism

  • Reginald Marsh was an American painter from America.
  • He painted with egg tempera, as well as oils. He created many watercolours, ink and wash drawings, and prints.
  • The second child was born to an American father and mother who both were the artist.
  • Marsh was a student at the Lawrenceville School and graduated in 1920 from Yale University.


8. H. A. Brendekilde

Social realism artists

Born: 7 April 1857, Odense, Denmark

Died: 30 March 1942, Jyllinge, Denmark

Awards: Eckersberg Medal

  • Hans Andersen Brendekilde was a Danish painter from Denmark.
  • brendekilde was raised in Braendekilde, a tiny village near Odense on the Danish island Funen.
  • The man was a distant relative to Hans Christian Andersen.
  • His mentors were the sculptures Jens Adolf Jerrichau and Harald Conradsen.
  • At the academy, he met several friends loyal to one another throughout their lives.
  • In 1881, he graduated from the academy with distinction.


9. L. A. Ring

Social realism artists

Born: 15 August 1854, Denmark

Died: 10 September 1933, Sankt Jørgensbjerg, Roskilde, Denmark

Spouse: Sigrid Kähler (m. 1896–1923)

Children: Ole Ring, Ghita Hempel

  • Laurits Andersen was among the greatest Danish painter of the period.
  • The Ring is a child of Laurits Andersen in the village called Ring, situated in Southern Zealand.
  • In 1873 during his time in Copenhagen, Laurits decided to attend lessons in painting.
  • He wasn’t content with the university and was not a fan of the rigorous training required in classical disciplines.
  • When he resided in Copenhagen, He became an intimate acquaintance of the lawyer’s family and amateur artist Alexander Wilde.
  • He spent summer and Christmas with his family and developed an intimate relationship with his partner, Johanne.


10. Jack Levine

Social realism artists

Born: 3 January 1915, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Died: 8 November 2010, Manhattan, New York, United States

Artworks: Gangster Funeral, Election Night, The Art Lover

  • Jack Levine was an American Social Realist painter and printmaker.
  • The author is most well-known for his satires of contemporary life, political corruption and biblical stories.
  • Then, at Harvard University from 1929 to 1933, Levine and their classmate Hyman Bloom studied under Denman Ross.
  • From 1935 until 1940, he worked for his employer, the Works Progress Administration.
  • His first show of his paintings of his work in New York City was at the Museum of Modern Art.


11. Chua Mia Tee

Social realism artists

Born: 25 November 1931 (age 90 years), Shantou, China

Spouse: Lee Boon Ngan (m. 1961–2017)

Education: Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA)

  • Chua Mia Tee is a native Chinese Singaporean artist.
  • He is well-known for his social-realist oil paintings that depict the political and social conditions that characterized Singapore and Malaya during the 50s and 60s.
  • Chua is also famous for his paintings of historical events and portraits of notable Singaporeans and politicians.
  • Its work has been shown worldwide in countries like Australia, Belgium, Germany and many more.
  • Chua was born in 1931 in Shantou, Guangdong, China.


12. Lewis Hine

Social realism artists

Born: 26 September 1874, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, United States

Died: 3 November 1940, Dobbs Ferry, New York, United States

Spouse: Sara Ann Rich (m. 1904–1939)

  • Lewis Wickes Hine was an American sociologist and muckraker photographer.
  • His photos were crucial in introducing the first laws governing child labour throughout the United States.
  • Hine was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on September 26, 1874.
  • He was a teacher in New York City at the Ethical Culture School, where he urged his students to utilize photography as an educational tool.
  • Hine made over 200 photos and concluded the possibility of documentary photography being used as a means of social transformation and change.


13. Jacqueline Hick

Social realism artists

Born: 8 December 1919, Adelaide, Australia

Died: 11 May 2004, Adelaide, Australia

Artworks: Dark mourning, Lazarus, Card players

  • Jacqueline Hick was an Australian artist whose work is included in the permanent collections of several museums across Australia.
  • She is well-known for her paintings of human figures, and her work depicts the Australian landscape.
  • From 1968 to 1976, Hick served as a trustee of The Art Gallery of South Australia.
  • She frequently highlighted the suffering of Indigenous Australians and the adverse effects of urban life on the inhabitants of its lands.
  • The work of Hick is part of the collection of permanent collections in numerous museums.


14. Joseph Hirsch

Social realism artists

Born: 25 April 1910, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Died: 21 September 1981, Manhattan, New York, United States

Artworks: Nine Men, The Naked Man, Lynch Family, Hero

Education: Philadelphia Museum of Art (1928–1931), Central High School, Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art

  • Joseph Hirsch was an American artist, illustrator, muralist, and educator.
  • Social commentary was at the heart of Hirsch’s work, mainly work that dealt with corruption in the civic sphere and racial inequity.
  • In the latter part of the 30s of the 1930s, Hirsch was employed at Philadelphia for a time as an art director for the easel painting department in the Works Project Administration.
  • He was part of a U.S. Army Medical Corps in North Africa and Italy.
  • Hirsch sometimes delved into Christian themes.


15. Noel Counihan

Social realism artists

Born: 4 October 1913, Albert Park, Australia

Died: 5 July 1986, Melbourne, Australia

Artworks: In the waiting room, A soldier on leave, At the start of the march 1932

Education: Caulfield Grammar School

  • Noel Counihan was an Australian social realist artist from Australia.
  • He is considered one of Australia’s most significant artists of this Century.
  • Charles Wheeler was a part-time student at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School in Melbourne between 1930 and 31.
  • In the Great Depression, Counihan participated in the “free speech” fights in Brunswick organized through the Communist Party.
  • On July 5, 1986, Counihan was killed in Melbourne, aged 72.


16. Charles de Groux

Social realism artists

Born: 25 August 1825, Comines, France

Died: 30 March 1870, Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Belgium

Artworks: The expulsion, The drunkard, Prayer for the food, MORE

Children: Henry de Groux

  • Charles de Groux was a French painter from France.
  • His portrayals of the daily life of the poor and less fortunate people of his day mark his work as the very first Belgian social realist artist.
  • Charles was the seventh of 10 children.
  • The family moved to Brussels in November 1833. He was living a Bohemian lifestyle.
  • The Belgian government of the time encouraged massive art to encourage nationalism and increase the popularity of the arts within the newly formed Belgian state.


17. Alba Calderón

Social realism artists

Born: 27 July 1908, Esmeraldas, Ecuador

Died: 1992, Guayaquil, Ecuador

Spouse: Enrique Gil Gilbert (m. 1934–1973)

Period: Social realism

  • Alba Calderon de Gil was an Ecuadorian painter who was a social realist, leftist activist, and feminist.
  • She founded the movement to recognize women’s right to rights in Ecuador.
  • Alba Calderon was born in Esmeraldas and passed away in Guayaquil.
  • Between 1961-1963 she was the Provincial Counselor of Guayas.
  • Alba Calderon was a social realist artist whose work included sketches, watercolours, paintings and sketches.


18. Aaron Bohrod

Social realism artists

Born: 21 November 1907, Chicago, Illinois, United States

Died: 3 April 1992, Monona, Wisconsin, United States

Artworks: Landscape Near Chicago, MORE

Award: Guggenheim Fellowship (Fine Arts, 1936)

  • Aaron Bohrod was an American artist from America.
  • 1930, he returned to Chicago 1930. He painted images of Chicago and the working class.
  • He later earned Guggenheim Fellowships, which allowed him to travel across the country.
  • He passed away due to liver cancer inside his house located in Madison, Wisconsin, on April 3 1992, aged 84.
  • Bohrod’s artifacts can be found within the collection of various American museums, including Bohrod’s works in the collections of museums like the Art Institute of Chicago.


19. Carlos Alonso

Social realism artists

Born: 4 February 1929 (age 93 years), Tunuyán, Argentina

Nationality: Argentine

Periods: Nouveau réalisme, Social realism

Awards: Konex Award

  • Carlos Alonso is an Argentine contemporary artist, draftsman, and printmaker.
  • He is most well-known as a New Realist.
  • He was born in Tunuyan, where he grew up until he was seven years old. He later relocated together with family members to Mendoza.
  • He was the first to discover the art of acrylic painting. His Don Quixote illustrations were published on postcards throughout the Soviet Union in 1963.
  • His work is distinguished by the power of expression and social engagement.


20. Alfred Stevens

Social realism artists

Born: 11 May 1823, Brussels, Belgium

Died: 24 August 1906, Paris, France

  • Alfred Stevens was a Belgian painter from Belgium.
  • He enjoyed public and critical success through his portrayals of middle classes Parisian life.
  • Stevens was born in Brussels. He was from an extended family that was involved in the visual arts.
  • Following the passing of his father in 1837, Stevens dropped out of middle school and studied at Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels.
  • The year was 1843. Stevens moved to Paris to join Joseph, his older brother. Joseph, who was already there.
  • The award was a third-class award in the Paris Salon in 1853.


21. Bruno Caruso

Social realism artists

Born: 8 August 1927, Palermo, Italy

Died: 4 November 2018, Rome, Italy

Movies: Mafioso

  • Bruno Caruso was an influential Italian artist from Italy.
  • Caruso’s writings focused on the moral, political, and ethical shortcomings in this 20th Century.
  • He fought against the influence of the Sicilian Mafia within Italian political life.
  • Throughout his career, He has created more than 25 drawing collections.
  • Bruno Caruso was born in Palermo on August 8 1927. He was the son of Giuseppe Caruso and Maria Cucco.


22. Ivan Kliun

Social realism artists

Born: 1 September 1873, Moscow, Russia

Died: 13 December 1943, Moscow, Russia

  • Ivan Vasilievich Kliun was a Russian Avant-Garde painter, sculptor and art theorist.
  • He was a part of the Suprematist movement.
  • His father was a carpenter.
  • He began his training in the arts through The Society for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts in Warsaw.


23. Emmy Lou Packard

Social realism artists

Born: 15 April 1914, El Centro, California, United States

Died: 22 February 1998, San Francisco, California, United States

Books: Emmy Lou Packard: 1914-1998

  • Emmy Lou Packard was a Californian post-war artist from California post-war.
  • Her father was the founder of an agricultural cooperative located in the Imperial Valley and was an internationally renowned Agronomist.
  • Her mother introduced her to the artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.


24. Jerome Witkin

Social realism artists

Born: 13 September 1939 (age 83 years), Brooklyn, New York, United States

Education: University of Pennsylvania (1968–1970), The Cooper Union, High School of Music & Art

Siblings: Joel-Peter Witkin

Children: Christian Witkin

  • Jerome Witkin is an American artist who works in a figurative style.
  • Later, he worked at Manchester College of Art in England.


25. Edith Kramer

Social realism artists

Born: 29 August 1916, Vienna, Austria

Died: 22 February 2014, Austria

Period: Social realism

Known for: Painting; Art therapy

  • Edith Kramer was an Austrian social realist artist.
  • At 13, Kramer began his art lessons with Friedl Dicker.
  • Dicker was a graduate of The Bauhaus located in Weimar, Germany and was an artist and art instructor not to be missed.
  • Kramer was born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary, in 1916.
  • Then, in New York City, she was a teacher for three years, and a sculpture at a progressive school known as Little Red School House. Little Red School House.

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