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I had the opportunity to meet Levine when he invited me to his home. Not only did he confirm that a young man’s hero was actual flesh and blood, but he looked at and commented on every page (about 100 of them) of the sketchbook I brought of copies of his work. He paid me the compliment of saying he preferred one of mine to his own version, although of course there was no comparison. Writing a memorial piece to Levine after he passed was very difficult, and the glimpse I got of him from family and friends who knew him well only confirmed what a special person he was.

Levine would have been the first to admit that he wasn’t a “practicing Jew,” but he once told a reporter, when asked what (medium) he drew in, that he drew in Yiddish. Jewish art, you see, comes in all sizes, shapes, colors, compositions, media, and temperaments. If something declares itself to be Jewish art, it shouldn’t always be believed, and the reverse is true as well. The question of what is Jewish art—which may be unanswerable, and in fact, I certainly hope it’s unanswerable—is worth wrestling with for a long, long time.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed our correspondence and eight-and-a-half year dialogue as much as I have. And if you ever see me in a museum or gallery, please do come over and say hi. I promise not to talk your ear off except if we’re discussing Van Gogh. Incidentally, there’s a whole lot about religious art (and Judaism) in a fantastic new biography of Van Gogh, but let’s leave that story for a different time and a different place.

Menachem Wecker is based in Northern Virginia. He blogs for the Houston Chronicle at http://blog.chron.com/iconia , and welcomes readers’ comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

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