“The Art of Symeon Shimin” offers a tender look into the late artist’s oeuvre; it is a compelling love letter to Shimin and his pivotal contributions to the medium.
Edited and curated by his daughter, Tonia Shimin, “The Art of Symeon Shimin” is an intimately curated collection of over 65 works created by Shimin including oil paintings, illustrations and more. Organized by collection, era, and (in one case) type, the work is presented more or less chronologically and includes pieces from Shimin’s most notable work, “Contemporary Justice and the Child”; “The Pack”; and various other pieces from his early career, his “Italian Period”, and his late career. Preceding the collection is a set of essays about Shimin’s life and work including his own short autobiographical essay, “Metamorphosis”, all of which are illustrated with photographs from throughout his life. Finally, the book ends with a list of his awards, exhibitions and collections; a chronology of his life and works; his bibliography; a list of books that he illustrated; and some final thoughts and acknowledgements from Tonia.

Despite excluding some of his works, “The Art of Symeon Shimin” offers a complete and compelling look into not only the artist’s achievements but the principles underlying his career. While the resplendent work itself is presented rather straightforwardly, it is the essays and photographs that proceed the display, the look into Shimin’s life and values, which make for a deeper, more gratifying viewing and interpretation of it. The knowledge that the book is curated lovingly by his daughter makes it that much more rewarding. So, too, does the organization of the material elevate his art and the presentation of it; whereas many similar collections intersperse commentary throughout, the choice to frontload the essays and reviews on Shimin set the reader up to digest them and reflect on them and then shift our focus entirely to the art, allowing the work to speak for itself. The reader can then appreciate Shimin’s work with a new understanding without having to switch back and forth between reading and viewing.

The choice to order Shimin’s work mostly chronologically, though not an uncommon one, does make for a pleasurable viewing as well. On one hand, you can see the artist deepen in his craft through the years and make sense of how the work evolved over time according to the context presented in the essays. But, on the other hand, you can also see the consistency of Shimin’s signature style that persists through time even as his work changes and makes his work so profoundly unique and powerful. This, combined with the incredible photographs of Shimin and his family and his autobiographical account of his calling to art, creates a thorough and poignant portrait of a man who gave himself entirely to his work and the message that he set out to convey with them.

Symeon Shimin’s work is, itself, astounding; this thoughtful collection and presentation of it makes the art that much more meaningful and that much more enjoyable.