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Political artist Jack Levine, whose realistic, slightly cartoonish paintings “skewered plutocrats, crooked politicians and human folly,” according to the New York Times, died at 95 on this date in 2010. Levine was a WPA painter and printmaker whose 1937 work, “The Feast of Pure Reason,” showing a police officer, a capitalist, and a politician seated together at a table with an American flag in the background, generated tremendous controversy before and after it was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. A similarly-themed painting completed in 1946, “Welcome Home,” was denounced in 1959 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower when it traveled to the USSR. “I took my place in the late 1930s as part of the general uprising of social consciousness in art and literature,” Levine said. “We were all making a point. We had a feeling of confidence in our ability to do something about the world.” He also painted numerous biblical scenes, but his lifelong focus was on social-justice issues, including the civil rights movement, war and armaments, and political democracy. His work is featured in the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Hirshorn and the National Gallery, and the Vatican, among many other treasure-houses.
“The satirical direction I have chosen is an indication of my disappointment in man, which is the opposite way of saying that I have high expectations for the human race.”—Jack Levine