David Levine (1926-2009)
The painter and caricaturist David Levine is widely regarded as one of the most talented realist artists of the mid-twentieth century. His late-life struggle with macular degeneration reached public attention when Vanity Fair published an article about the change in quality of his post–macular degeneration caricatures and its impact on his career. Levine had been inextricably linked to the New York Review of Books from the time it started publication in 1963, and for the first time, the Review was rejecting his drawings. Levine’s last drawing, of the novelist Howard Norman, appeared in the Review in April 2007, by which point he was no longer getting assignments. At the same time as the Vanity Fair article appeared, C-SPAN aired a video interview with Levine to mark the release of his book American Presidents. Midway through, there was a breathtaking moment when Levine held a pen to demonstrate how he used to work: brushing the empty quill across the paper, turning the paper as he did so, authority in every gesture—though what he drew was no longer visible to us.
Further writing and a collection of some of David Levine's best watercolors can be found in our Archives section under Features.