David Levine was one of the great caricaturists of the 20th Century. He is best known for his drawings of notable figures published in The New York Review of Books over the course of more than 40 years.
The NYRB web site has a gallery of over 2,500 of his drawings that can be browsed by year or category.
Unlike caricaturists whose subjects are largely drawn from one or two sections of public life, Levine’s position called on him to portray a wide variety of figures from history as well as the present.
I’ve always been particularly fond of his caricatures of artistic figures, both historic and contemporary. The images above show Levine’s interpretation of Rembrandt, Rubens, Valázquez, Titian, Andrew Wyeth and John Singer Sargent (links to Lines and Colors articles on those artists).
Levine took the “large head small body” style of caricature and made it his own, giving emphasis to the faces. His pen and ink approach could be intricately detailed, wonderfully loose, or both simultaneously.
He studied painting at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and at Tyler School of Art here in Philadelphia. His work as a painter is less well known than his illustrations, but you can find galleries of his paintings on his web site and a few examples elsewhere on the web.
His caricatures were often searingly on target, focusing on the foibles and flaws of politicians and other public figures; sometimes definitively so, as in the case of his famous portrayal of Lyndon Johnson lifting his shirt to show his Vietnam-shaped operation scar.
There have been several collections of his work published, like his collection of American Presidents.
David Levine died today at the age of 83.
[Via Art Knowledge News]