Given all of the crevices, hooked or bulbous noses, receding hair lines, beady eyes, bulging guts, rodent teeth, gimpy legs, outsized tucheses, and small penises he inflicted on various people over the years, it’s hard to believe David Levine considered himself a humanist and a healer. But he did.
The very point of caricature, Levine told me, was to teach. He wanted whomever he drew—but particularly all those politicians and tyrants and scoundrels—to behold themselves anew, warts and all, and in Levine’s lexicon “all” encompassed the full panoply of blemishes, physical and characterological. After that, he hoped, they’d repent, or at least pick up a hint of humility. All those thousands of portraits Levine created for the New York Review of Books and others, then, weren’t only for fun. They were to heal the world.