PHOTO: Herbert Mitgang



Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Artist Illustrated

David Levine remembered, in the Sunday New York Times, by Walter Bernard.

“Hands down, he’s the greatest modern-day caricaturist and one of the great artists of the last half-century,” wrote Michael Kimmelman in The Times after David Levine died almost a year ago. And it’s true: he was. As wonderful (and occasionally brutal) as his caricatures were, however, painting was David’s truest passion. In 1958 he founded the Painting Group with the artist Aaron Shikler, and for more than 50 years it met every Wednesday evening to work from a live model. For the last 35 years, I was a member of the group. • Watching David work was a revelation. He handled watercolors unlike anybody else. He liked to experiment and, as he put it, “play.” He would draw, redraw, “schmeer,” sponge out and paint again. It was not uncommon to see him rub out a work we’d been marveling over, saying, simply, “I didn’t get what I was going after.” • Three years ago, Levine’s eyesight began to fade rapidly. He lost his ability to see the model, to draw those beautifully crosshatched caricatures for The New York Review of Books, to spend summer days painting the bathers at Coney Island. “I always knew I was a degenerate,” he said, “but I didn’t know it was macular.” • He still came to class every Wednesday and sat among us talking about Degas, Sargent and Daumier. After giving a precise critique, he always offered encouragement. “Keep playing,” he’d say.

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