jack levine

January 22, 2009

I have always had a drift towards caricature in the way I drew. At Spitting Image we caricaturists would debate, in the occasional quiet moment, whether you could teach someone to caricature or whether it was an innate way of seeing the world. I incline to the latter view. I was always- naturally it seemed- caricaturing anyone I drew from life. I didn’t consider myself a caricaturist then, I was just drawing what I saw.

When I got into Foundation my tutor John Baum spotted this tendency in my work and introduced me to the work of Jack Levine, in particular his paintings of gangsters.


Gangster Funeral 1952-3


studies for Gangster Funeral

Levine was born in 1915, in the rough part of Boston, Mass. He encountered a world of poverty, immigrants and bootleggers that would shape his politics and his work. At 20 he was hired then fired from the Federal Art Project because he was still living at home. Nevertheless the paintings he produced satirising Boston political life were huge successes.

Welcome Home, a satirical painting made on his discharge from the army  later led him to be subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee for supposed communist sympathies. But he was in Spain at the time and didn’t bother to attend.


Welcome Home 1946


The White Horse 1946

A trip in 1951 around Europe studying Old Masters resulted in his being influenced in particular by El Greco. Returning to the US he added biblical themes and explorations of his own Jewishness to the gangster and political themes he explored in his work.


King Saul 1952

He is still alive and apparently still painting.

Please click on the thumbnails below to see larger images.


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