Jack Levine


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Painter and printmaker. Typically sympathizing with the poor or satirizing the powerful, his expressionistic works contributed in the 1930s to the social realist tendency within the American Scene movement. He also painted portraits, scenes of Jewish life, and religious themes. Born in Boston, he studied there at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and, from 1929 to 1931, with Denman Ross, who encouraged his interest in old master painting. Levine developed his own rich variation on traditional techniques he admired in the emotionally charged works of such painters as Rembrandt, Goya, and Daumier, as well as modern expressionists including Chaim Soutine and Georges Rouault. His indistinctly defined forms and flickering, painterly surfaces suggest indeterminacy and mutability, providing a generalizing tone that suggests larger meanings inherent to the specific situations he depicts. In 1935 Levine joined a federal art project, through which he came to national attention for his morally informed social protest. Between 1942 and 1945, he served in the U.S. Army. Levine's best-known work, the derisive Gangster Funeral (Whitney Museum, 1952–53), portrays political and law enforcement bigwigs gathered respectfully beside an underworld leader's coffin. Levine died in New York, where he had lived for many years. His wife, figurative painter and printmaker Ruth Gikow (1915–82), was born in Ukrainian Russia, emigrated to New York as a child, studied art at Cooper Union, and worked for a federal art project. She painted humanistic themes, often incorporating social criticism. She died in New York.

Subjects: Art.

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