Symeon Shimin, noted artist and illustrator of children’s books, 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 in Brooklyn, New York.
Already interested in drawing for a living, he 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.
He worked as a freelance commercial artist and briefly studied in the studio of artist George Luks, although he was primarily self taught. Traveling to Europe for a year and a half, he studied the great works of art at museums in Spain and France as well as in America.
Early in his career, Shimin painted large scale posters for Hollywood films, including creating the original poster for the film Gone With the Wind. In 1936 he was awarded a contract by the Public Works Arts Project to paint a mural, Contemporary Justice and The Child, in the Department of Justice building in Washington, D.C. It took four years to complete, has received wide acclaim, and can still be seen today.
At various times in his life he traveled to Italy and France for extended periods of painting. His work Discussion Groups- Rome won the second place prize at The Provincetown Art Festival in 1958 and is in the collection of the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia. His fine art works have been exhibited at The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and in galleries in the USA. In 1961 he had a solo exhibit, Drawings on Canvas, at The Sidney Frane Gallery, New York.
Shimin's well known award-winning work in children's books began in 1950. Subsequently he illustrated 57 books for children, including two that he also authored. In 1973-1974 he won two Christopher Awards for Gorilla, Gorilla and A New Baby a New Life. He died in 1984 in New York City.
Photograph by Berenice Abbott, Courtesy of Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics/Getty Images