Not many authors leave such a deep mark among cartoonists and readers of sucessive generations as David Levine did. World Press Cartoon honorary president, Master Levine died last 29 December.
He was 83 and lived in Brooklyn. The New York Times obituary remembers his words: «I might want to be critical, but I don’t wish to be destructive. Caricature that goes too far simply lowers the viewer’s response to a person as a human being.
REMEMBERING OUR FIRST HONORARY PRESIDENT I have discovered David Levine in the mid-Seventies on the pages of the Portuguese daily Diário de Notícias. It was such a revelation that he became my very major influence at a time when I was beginning my career as a cartoonist. Born in Brooklyn on the 20th December 1923, Levine did his studies at the Philadelphia School of Fine Arts and at the Pratt Institute in Brooklin. He started through Painting with oils and watercolours. On his paintings, a Herald Tribune art critic wrote: «Without being imitative or an anachronism, Levine´s way of painting is ready to push a revival of 19th century pictorial language with character and intensity». When moving onto caricatures, he carried over that classicism to his drawings, as if the painter would permanently keep an eye on the caricaturist, something that led so many to see him as the heir to Honoré Daumier and Thomas Nast. By the late 1950´s he was collaborating to the Esquire and Atlas magazines, and from 1963 he began publishing his caricatures in the New York Review of Books. Since then, he published about ten to twelve caricatures monthly until 2007, the year when an eye condition was diagnosed that would put an end to his collaboration to the New York magazine. During such working time he created over 3800 drawings. In his long career, he collaborated also to the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, New Yorker and Rolling Stone as well as to innumerable newspapers and magazines all over the world, thus leading so many of his caricatures to become a part of the iconography of the 20th century. In 2005, during a short visit of his to Lisbon, I have had the privilege to get to know him in person through a common friend – the great Uruguayan artist Hermenegildo Sábat. When, in 2006, we asked him to become Honorary Chairman of the World Press Cartoon that we had just launched in Sintra, he immediately agreed thus lending us the weight of his name and immense prestige. In gratitude, we have since been making every effort to live up to such an honour and such responsibility. Opinions on his remarkable career are unanimous: for the editor of the New York Review of Books, Levine was «the greatest caricaturist of his time»; for Steve Bell, cartoonist from The Guardian, «his caricatures are sheer art»; for Jules Feiffer, caricaturist and scenery designer, he is the author of «extraordinary drawings of extraordinary perception» and «the greatest illustrator of the 20th century´s second half». The example of exceptional quality and independence we have inherited from David Levine shall long go on influencing the ways of the World Press Cartoon. Farewell, Master.