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Depression-Era Painter Is Still Vigorous, Still Sells Well

During the first week of his upcoming show at New York’s DC Moore Gallery (Jan. 6-29), painter Jack Levine will turn 90. He still paints—the most recent work in the exhibition is Self-Portrait with Women that he completed this year—and climbs three flights of stairs to his studio in Manhattan, according to gallery director Bridget

NEW YORK—During the first week of his upcoming show at New York’s DC Moore Gallery (Jan. 6-29), painter Jack Levine will turn 90. He still paints—the most recent work in the exhibition is Self-Portrait with Women that he completed this year—and climbs three flights of stairs to his studio in Manhattan, according to gallery director Bridget Moore.

However, most of the 20 oil-on-canvas paintings, as well as some drawings and prints (etchings and drypoints), on display are from earlier points in his long career, and most of the paintings are borrowed from private or public collections.

Those paintings on sale range in price from $20,000/250,000, depending upon size and what Moore calls their “degree of complication.” The drawings, often studies for paintings, are priced at $2,000/18,000, while the prints cost $1,500/6,500.

Levine developed his signature style and reputation very early on, never wavering stylistically or thematically since the 1930s. It may come as a surprise to those who have seen Levine’s work from 50 and 60 years ago, in the collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of American Art, that he is still alive or that he was so accomplished at such a young age.

Moore noted that Levine “was never that prolific,” in part because his paintings are often so large and he took years to create them. The largest and most complicated work on exhibit is a 62-by-144- inch diptych from 1978, entitled Panethnikon that is on loan from the Columbia Museum of Art, South Carolina. Self-Portrait with Women, 2004, which took the artist four years to complete, is for sale, priced at $45,000.

Levine’s works, mainly his later pictures, have come up at public sale periodically. Moore noted that the paintings for which Levine is best-known—such as Gangster Funeral, 1952-53, or The Feast of Pure Reason, 1937—became part of museum collections early on.

The highest auction price to date is $93,500 for The Great Society, 1967, a 56-by-64-inch oil on canvas that Sotheby’s had estimated at $50,000/75,000 for a 1988 sale. On Dec. 1 the 32-by-28-inch oil Inauguration II, 1958, fetched $84,000 at Sotheby’s, bettering its $30,000/50,000 estimate.

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