"I come to San Francisco because it's too damn hot in Greenwich Village in August"
For the past ten years New York's loss has been San Francisco's gain when Jack Levine makes his annual visit to our gallery. We are both pleased and honored to present a selection of rare and seldom seen works on paper, many of them from the artist's personal collection and studio archives.
In 1929, the artist was a young genius, whose drawing talent was discovered and encouraged by Dr. Denman Ross and later Paul Sachs at Harvard. The WPA Federal Arts Project, for a very short time, nurtured Jack Levine's talent, and he developed into one of the leading forces of Figurative Expressionism. As Judith Bookbinder has written in Boston Modern, Levine has "a lifelong commitment to art based on his personal response to human issues... He sets up a Modernist oscillation between polished technique and the rough and tumble imagery of the city streets."
Gaining inspiration from Old Masters and Renaissance paintings, Brecht's Three Penny Opera, classical literature, and memories of his native Boston neighborhoods, Levine creates a tableau of unforgettable images.
As his career progressed, printmaking became an interest to Levine and he described the process as "four handed versions of symphonies." One of his first lithographs was created in John Muench's shop on 14th Street in Manhattan. He later collaborated on etchings with Emiliano Sorini, a master printmaker, and traveled to Parisian Ateliers, Le Blanc et Cie and Mourlot. After working with Old World printmakers on color etchings, using the lift ground technique, he abandoned that medium because of "all of the cookery involved". A consummate draftsman, Levine noted, "The real pleasure in doing lithography is the pleasure of drawing on limestone. It gives me a much more sensual and beautiful feeling than drawing on paper."
Whether it is in his lithograph of Maimonides, the 12th century sage and social philosopher, the classical literary reference in Pygmalion, or the dramatic depiction of a man in a top hat, in Thought, Levine shares his extraordinary skill, satire, and pathos in all of his artworks. He is an iconic figure in American art, and we are proud to exhibit these great works on paper in our gallery.