Ruth Gikow (1915
Ruth Gikow was born in the Russian Ukraine, the daughter
of Boris and Lena Gikow. When she was five, her family emigrated
to the Lower East Side of New York. With a zest for living she never
lost, she overcame the language barrier quickly and survived the
teeming streets, diverting her tough cronies with chalk drawings
on the sidewalk. She won distinction for her artwork at Washington
Irving High School, which had one of the strongest art departments
in New York City.
At age 17, Gikow entered Cooper Union Art School and
studied under two well known regional artists, Austin Purvis, Jr.
and John Steuart Curry. She continued her studies under Raphael
Soyer and held an impromptu showing of her earliest paintings in
the lobby of the Eighth Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village. After
art school, she received funding for four years from the WPA's Federal
Arts Project. In 1939, she was commissioned to paint murals for
the children's ward at Bronx Hospital, Riker's Island and Rockefeller
Center. With some associates, she helped found the American Serigraph
Society, which turned out a volume of original graphics within the
range of people of modest means.
Following World War II, after a brief career in commercial
art, she met and married Jack Levine. Challenged by his dedication
and commitment, she returned to her own painting and drawing with
renewed vigor. She illustrated Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment"
and began to exhibit at New York's Weyhe Gallery, Grand Central
Galleries, Nordness Gallery, Forum Gallery and the Kennedy Galleries.
Her endless quest to find humanity in a turbulent and sometimes
hostile environment led art critic Henry-Russell Hitchcock to describe
her as one of the country's "ten outstanding women painters."
Her own figurative style was nurtured when she and her husband traveled
Europe, studying Old Master works, the wall paintings of Pompeii
and the Byzantine mosaics at Ravenna.
Gikow's work is represented in numerous private and
public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum
of Modern Art in New York, Smithsonian Institution, Washington,
DC, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art,
New York, Portland Museum of Art, Maine, National Institute of Arts
and Letters, New York, Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Massachusetts,
Hartford Arts Foundation, Connecticut, and the Butler Art Institute,