Jack Levine was born in Boston in 1915. Early renderings of his tough, immigrant South End neighborhood drew the attention of his teachers at the Boston Museum of Fine Art. His talent inspired Dr. Denman Ross of Harvard University to offer tutelage, studio space and weekly stipends to help nurture his development. Levine's drawings earned him a first exhibition at Harvard's Fogg Art Museum in 1932 when he was seventeen.
Mr. Levine's style was unique, raw and explosive. He became well known for his unflinchingly satirical eye and merciless portrayals of crooked politicians, corrupt cops, and other players on the urban stage. A formidable grasp of art history and technique enabled him to achieve qualities of opacity, transparency and luminosity that recalled the Old Masters he studied and greatly admired. By the late 1930's Levine's brand of Social Realism and Expressionism set him apart from his contemporaries and established him in the top rank of American painters.
While employed by the WPA (1935-1937), his paintings Card Game
and BrainTrust were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in
1936. A year later both the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan
Museum acquired major Levine paintings -The Feast of Pure Reason
and String Quartet. The artist's first one-man exhibition was
held at New York's Downtown Gallery in 1938.
A second retrospective of Levine's work opened in 1979 at the Jewish Museum in New York and then travelled to four other American Museums. In the 1980's Levine was the subject of the David Sutherland documentary film Jack Levine:Feast of Pure Reason and a monograph Jack Levine on Jack Levine published by Rizzoli Books. An exhibition of Mr. Levine's latest paintings was held in New York City at the Midtown Payson Gallery in the spring of 1993. Mr. Levine was recently elected President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Printmaking became an important facet of Levine's work in the 1960's. Using painterly techinques of layering and building up of image upon image within a work, Levine adds further character and depth to his prints by combining techniques of etching, drypoint, mezzotint and aquataint. These prints display the full range of Levine's imagination and give us another way to experience the impact of his sophisticated commentary on our collective social, political and spiritual lives.
"I am primarily concerned with the condition of man. The
satirical direction I have chosen is an indication of my disappointment
in man, which is the opposite way of saying that I have high
expectations for the human race." — Jack Levine
In 1978 a retrospective of Levine's work was held at the Jewish Museum in New York.
Levine was the subject of a 1989 film documentary entitled Feast of Pure Reason.
Levine died at his home in Manhattan, New York on November 8, 2010 at the age of 95.