{David Levine} ~ RIP

The world of Arts and Letters lost a great luminary on Tuesday: David Levine, the gifted caricaturist and artist died. Levine is renowned for his caricatures, really, visual essays, which graced the pages of the New York Book Review for almost half a century and transformed that publication from its humble origins to a must-read. His popularity and influence quickly spread and his work would be seen in the New Yorker and on the covers of Time. It is hard to overstate his influence on caricature in the later half of the last century. The artistry and craftsmanship were plain for all to admire: a cross-hatch technique so crisp and measured but never stale or mechanical and an obvious command of anatomy and portraiture that spoke of his academic training. What frequently went unnoticed amid all those strokes of genius was Levine's commentary and gift for metaphor. Like a crucible, Levine could take the sentiments expressed in thousands of words by Op-Ed essayists and Editorials and produce in one iconic image the Zeitgeist for an era: Lyndon B. Johnson exposing his scar for all to see following gall bladder surgery, only in Levine's hands, the scar is drawn as the map of Vietnam; Richard Nixon as the Godfather; or Nixon again, shaving his infamous five-0-clock shadow only for the viewer to realize that the 'hairs' were in fact missiles as evidence of Nuclear Arms proliferation. This ability was much more difficult to mimic for the thousands of Levine imitators and made Levine truly exceptional. With his death we mourn an era when print publications could have such a profound influence on Letters and Culture, and the question begs: will there ever be another Levine? Even if the talent was there, alas, the venue may be found wanting in order to sustain such a vision. For examples of Levine's work visit: David Levine: American Presidents and Selected Paintings at Forum Gallery


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