At age twenty-two in 1937, the Museum of Modern Art purchased “Feast of Pure Reason” , and Jack Levine became known as the school of Boston Expressionism. It seems hardly justified that his work would fall almost totally out of favor with the advent of Jackson Pollock and abstract expressionism. However, he was unique; perhaps the only American artist who never stopped painting as a Social Realist, even when it went out of vogue in the 1950s and 1960s. “I am primarily concerned with the condition of man,” he said in 1952. “The satirical direction I have chosen is an indication of my disappointment in man, which is the opposite of saying that I have high expectations for the human race.”
“Art News went so far as to dub him the “dazzling newcomer.” In the years following the war, however, the art establishment’s consensus on Levine’s work went through a dramatic reversal. Just how complete was this turnaround is plainly visible in a review, also in Art News from 1955, where Levine’s painting was described as “unlikable … tired, thin and lacking in wit.” (Raverty)…
Michael McNay: Although he claimed his work was more closely related to El Greco than to any 20th-century painter, his most coruscating works were very close to the work of the bitter German satirist George Grosz. Levine did take the trouble to learn the abandoned techniques of Renaissance painters, and after personal crises, one following the death of his father, the other the death of Ruth, he deployed his technical knowledge in exploring his roots, with a sequence of deeply felt portraits of Jewish seers and of episodes from the Bible. One, of Cain and Abel, entered the Vatican collection in 1973 and, it was reported, received the personal approval of Pope Paul VI. He developed magisterial skill as a graphic artist, again in the older media of etching, aquatint and lithography…. Read More: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/nov/16/jack-levine-obituary
Read More: http://www.davidsutherland.com/films_levine_reviews.html
Seth Lipsky: Ms. Cembalest interviewed Levine for the Forward, in which she quoted the curator of the Hirschhorn in Washington, Judith Zilczer, as putting Levine in the tradition of Hogarth and Rowlands. “I’m not a child of Cezanne,” she quoted the painter himself as saying. “I’m a child of Daumier. I have a right to be. It’s a free country.” And she quoted another great painter named Levine — David — as noting not only what an extraordinary draftsman Jack Levine but adding: “If I could think of a painter who had as many ways of using paint I’d go back to Titian.” read more: http://www.nysun.com/arts/jack-levine-redoubtable-american-realist-is-dead/87133/
Unlike other social realists, he combined a style that seemed drawn from diverse influences. There is the Marc Chagall inflections of an Eastern European jewish mysticism; the crunch of a Picasso with regard to his representation of the “gaze” and his ability to skirt the vulgarities of objectification. In another sense, he is the father of, or early originator of American graphic illustration in the vein of a Harvey Kurtzman or Robert Crumb as there is a comic, subversive feel to his work that makes it quite distinct from a Hart Benton. As an artistic political narrative, Levine could coax out a delineation of sensory experience; touch the imperceptible within the politics of the sensible. Politics as defined as the the disruption of the aesthetic and Levine would repatriate this aesthetic within perhaps a limited range of contexts, but nonetheless worked as all great artists within the construct that something must be perceived that cannot be perceived. It was a bit of a bait and switch with the satire which was of secondary importance.