Brooklyn-born artist David Levine, whose caricatures of everyone from John Keats to Martha Stewart have graced the pages of The New York Review of Books (among other publications) died today from prostate cancer and a combination of other illnesses. He was 83.
Levine had a penchant for pouncing on politicians, who he once told Time magazine “should be jumped on as often as possible.” His sharp and satirical eye for chief executives is on display in American Presidents (Fantagraphics). Published last year, the book is a collection of Levine’s caricatures and anecdotes that chronicle the highs and lows (especially the lows) of five administrations.
Writer Bruce Weber has composed an elegant tribute to Levine for The New York Times, but it’s hard to improve upon the words of the late John Updike, a favorite Levine subject, who had this to say about Levine more than 30 years ago:
Besides offering us the delight of recognition, his drawings comfort us, in an exacerbated and potentially desperate age, with the sense of a watching presence, an eye informed by an intelligence that has not panicked, a comic art ready to encapsulate the latest apparitions of publicity as well as those historical devils who haunt our unease. Levine is one of America’s assets. In a confusing time, he bears witness. In a shoddy time, he does good work.