Master Illustrator David Levine is Losing His Vision

Posted by Michael Pinto on Oct 14, 2008 in Comic Books |

David Levine 1972 caricature of Humphrey Bogart

As a visual artist I think one of the most scary things that I can imagine would be to go blind — so I’m feeling some what devastated because I read today that one of my favorite illustrators David Levine is suffering from macular degeneration. The artwork above is a 1972 caricature of Humphrey Bogart, but it doesn’t do David justice as a computer screen just doesn’t have the resolution to show off his amazingly deft draftsmanship. In fact the first time I was introduced to his work it was because my father gave me a book on him when I was a kid — and I was just blown away. It showed me that cartoons can be humorous but intelligent at the same time:

Levine in Winter
For four decades, David Levine’s acid-tipped portraits of everyone from Castro to Cheney gave The New York Review of Books its visual punch. Now that the greatest caricaturist of the late 20th century is going blind, is he owed more than a fond farewell?

“Simultaneously, two more dramas were under way. One was on Henry Street in Brooklyn Heights, where Levine, now 81 years old, had long lived and worked. Gradually, his universe had grown darker and fuzzier. He could no longer see very clearly without strong light and magnification, or rely upon his hand: the lines that had always been his friends, the spare, crisp ones that defined someone’s shape, and the elaborate cross-hatchings that gave him soul, he could no longer control. His ophthalmologist had put it bluntly. “Mr. Levine, you don’t look your age,” he said. “But your eyes do.” His diagnosis: macular degeneration. Medications and injections didn’t help. Levine worked on, but laboriously. He abandoned pen and ink for pencil, which, as he puts it, “was more forgiving if I made a mistake.” But the results were plain enough. For the first time—except for those very few instances when it had been too tart for the publication’s taste—the Review rejected his work.”

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