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November 9, 2010 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Jack Levine, Realist Artist, Dies at 95. Mr. Levine burst onto the American art scene in 1937 with a scathing triple portrait remarkable for its bravura brushwork and gleeful vitriol. Titled “The Feast of Pure Reason,” it depicted a police officer, a capitalist and a politician seated at a table, their bloated faces oozing malice and evil intent. His painting Cain and Abel hangs in the Vatican. Upon his discharge from service he painted Welcome Home, a lampoon of the arrogance of military power; years later the painting would engender political controversy when it was included in a show of art in Moscow, and along with works by other American artists, raised suspicions in the House Un-American Activities Committee of pro-Communist sympathies. You can see some of The Complete Graphic Work of Jack Levine (1984) via Google books. Online gallery.
posted by chavenet (12 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Big Soutine fan. Which is fine by me.

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posted by fire&wings at 2:54 PM on November 9, 2010


It depicted a police officer, a capitalist and a politician seated at a table, their bloated faces oozing malice and evil intent

They were probably planning a hit-and-run on a cyclist.
posted by Artw at 3:05 PM on November 9, 2010


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posted by psylosyren at 3:09 PM on November 9, 2010


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posted by Iridic at 3:34 PM on November 9, 2010


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posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 3:49 PM on November 9, 2010


It depicted a police officer, a capitalist and a politician seated at a table, their bloated faces oozing malice and evil intent

I think that's wrong. I'd argue the title (The Feast of Pure Reason) supports a view of their moral indifference rather than malice. This is who they are, they have worked out the moral kinks, they are at peace with themselves, it is what it is. Which is frankly more unnerving than boring old malice and evil intent.

But that's just me. Did Mr Levine himself comment on the work?
posted by IndigoJones at 4:13 PM on November 9, 2010


Call Jack Levine whatever you want, but a "realist?" Pulpy, purplish flesh oozing sweat represents only a fraction of what most people would call reality. Nothing against Levine, who has earned his niche among the niche miners of 20th century American art.
posted by Faze at 5:00 PM on November 9, 2010


I'm with Faze. "Realist" doesn't just mean "not abstract".
posted by kenko at 5:06 PM on November 9, 2010


I think by realist, they're referring to "social realism" ( I.e. Ben Shahn, etc.) than "photo-realism." At least that's my take.
posted by Sreiny at 5:08 PM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


On this page of the Google books link Levine is quoted as saying: "The Feast of Pure Reason depended for its motivation on the bitter assumptions of a boy of 22."

On the next page, it says that Levine wrote, in 1942, that: "It is my privilege as an artist to put these gentlemen on trial, to give them ever ingratiating characteristic they might normally have, and then present them ... in my own terms ... leaving it up to the spectator to judge the merits of the case."
posted by chavenet at 2:02 AM on November 10, 2010


What Sreiny said. In art terms, "realist" refers more to subject matter and intent than it does to how true-to-life (realistic) the depiction is. Levine is most certainly a realist. Damned great one, too.

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posted by Thorzdad at 5:07 AM on November 10, 2010


Thanks, Chavenets!
posted by IndigoJones at 2:53 PM on November 11, 2010


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