Friday, January 08, 2010

Arty Farty Friday ~ David Levine

My husband handed me a newspaper article the other day, it reported the death of caricaturist David Levine: "Here's someone for your Arty Farty blog". "Never heard of him", I responded.

In spite of my ignorance about this particular artist, I'm always a fan of anybody who can draw portraits, either straight or caricature fashion. It takes a very special type of observation and insight to produce a close facial likeness, be it photographic or satirical. David Levine was an American Master of this art. He drew presidents, politicians, the powerful, the celebritous, all with an acute insight and not a little jaundice. He was no lover of the great and the bad. He came from a background of radical left-wing activism. From an excellent article in Vanity Fair, 2008, by David Margolick: Levine in Winter I learned that Mr. Levine
"grew up in a proletarian, politicized world. His father ran a small clothing factory. His mother was a left-wing rabble-rouser, the type to approach the most menacing cop at a protest and say, “Do you know you’re a Cossack?” Levine handed out the Daily Worker by the Brooklyn docks and watched May Day marches around Union Square. "
He considered himself a communist - though I suspect he was of the mildest variety . He began drawing and painting early - but all his work, large oil paintings sketches - all were lost in a fire. He started again, producing smaller works.
"Many are of his favorite subject: Coney Island. What better way to study humanity than observing them half nude on a beach, all posing for him? Many others are of garment workers: pressers and cutters and finishers, muscular and sweaty, beleaguered and dignified. All of the characters, even the women bent over their sewing machines, are really him, he says. Those paintings are as tender and affectionate as his caricatures are withering—Levine reserved all of his respect and pity for common folks—and of all his artwork are clearly what mattered, and matter, to him most. The caricatures, by contrast, were commissions. They paid the bills and, Levine says, gave him a chance to unload. Few of them hang at his house, though he’s fond of them too. “I love my species,” he says. “I love looking at their faces.” "
It was sad that his eyesight seriously declined during his last years.

I'm going to like David Levine!

He was born on 20 December 1926 in Brooklyn, New York. I can find no time of birth for him, so set the chart for 12 noon. Rising sign and Moon degree will not be accurate.

Sun in late Sagittarius, along with Mercury and Saturn close together in earlier degrees of the sign. Mercury conjunct Saturn can equal sarcasm (I know, because the husband has this in his chart!) Sarcasm is a close relative of satire, and satire is a tool of caricaturists! Mercury/Saturn links to Venus, the artists' planet by helpful semi-sextile too.

Sun harmoniously trines Neptune (planet of creativity) in Leo, and helpfully sextiles Jupiter (planet of exaggeration) in rebellious Aquarius, also squares ruler of Aquarius, Uranus. That combination of creativity and exaggeration describes the art of caricature exactly!

Moon would be in Cancer whatever Levine's time of birth, and reflects a sensitivity, so valuable in affording insight which a caricaturist needs to come up with work instantly recognisable to the masses, in spite of its exaggerations and acid satire.

From a selection of his caricatures available at Google Image, I've picked a few examples of the best known characters.




Amelia Earhart






Cheney & Bush

McCain & Obama


Genevieve said...

Hello, just visiting from somewhere in blogland.

I like the pictures you found, and the astro commentary too.


Wisewebwoman said...

I hadn't heard of him either. Good spot and marvellous portraits talk of capturing the essence!!

anthonynorth said...

I've never heard of him either, but there's some great caricatures there. He was talented.

Twilight said...

Genevieve, WWW and anthonynorth ~~~
Hi, and thanks for looking in and commenting. Glad you found something of interest. :-)

Discord said...

the man was a genius, and you should see his watercolors.

Twilight said...

Discord ~ I shall look out for them. I agree with you - he was!

Fritzfibbenz said...

Where have you people been for the last couple of centuries? Sorry about that, but I just figured that everyone outside of Appalachia would have grown up with his caricatures since they seemed to be ubiquitous... Nice article though. He has many good books discounted on Amazon too...

Twilight said...

Fritzfibbenz ~~~ Hi there!

LOL! Some of us have led sheltered lives outside of the USA. In my own case in England for most of it. Levine isn't well-known there, or he wasn't in my neck of the woods.

The other commenter who wasn't familiar with his work is not USA-grown either - so that might account for our ignorance.

Thanks for coming by to comment, and for the hint about discounted books. will look into that. :-)