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 H. Gilbert Levine  (1891 - 1966)

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About: H. Gilbert Levine


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Lived/Active: California/Illinois      Known for: painting, illustration

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
H. Gilbert "Gil" Levin/Levine (1891-1966)

The parents of H.Gilbert Levine, Harris Levin and Sarah Kuff, were married in Latvia where 3 children, Ephraim, Bessie and Emma were born.  Harris Levin left Latvia to come to America and start a new life. After settling in Chicago he sent for his wife and children.  They were poor and traveled storage, which was common in those days.  They moved from Chicago, Illinois to Lafayette, Indiana where the family ran a store for several years.  They then moved and settled in Johnstown, Pennsylvania and had their 4th child Ada.  Shortly after their move to Pennsylvania, they were forced out due to the Johnstown Great Flood on May 31, 1889, and moved on to Chicago where Gilbert was born on May 18, 1891.  Shortly after his birth in 1891, they returned to Lafayette, Indiana where their real roots were and opened a store that carried diversified goods.  In 1899, at the age of 8 his father died at an early age of 45 which left his mother and Gilbert's older siblings to run the store on their own.  H. Gilbert Levin attended school in Lafayette and graduated from the local High School in 1909. He always wanted to draw, and would tell stories of getting into trouble in school by "day-dreaming with a pencil" instead of doing his lessons.  Early in life he liked to draw cartoons and drew pictures of his teachers and classmates.

After leaving school he joined his brother, Ephraim in a retail clothing business in Lafayette and Indianapolis, Indiana.  It was this experience that directed his talents to men's apparel fashions.  With little or no extra money, he finally borrowed enough from the Cleveland Orphanage to enroll in the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago.  Although he liked cartoons, he developed in the direction of clothing fashion.  In the Academy, he met Harriet Leigh, who later became his wife on July 22, 1914.  Harriet Leigh was designing covers of candy boxes and small flower designs.  Gilbert Levine continued his studies until the money ran out. 

Before he started his career, he changed his last name and added an "e" to his name Levin due to professional reasons.  He obtained a position at the Chicago American Newspaper under Herman Black.  He also raised money selling war bonds with his cartoons.  He remained on the paper for four years, after which he joined the art staff of Lord and Thomas, an advertising agency, for another four years.  Since 1923, when he decided to free-lance, he did outstanding work for many men's apparel firms.  Hickok belts, Florsheim shoes, Arrow shirts, Stetson hats were among the many.  He finally became affiliated with Kuppenheimer clothes in 1924, and remained with them for 25 years in Chicago. 

In 1932, he and his wife and "darlink" daughter moved to New York where they lived in Forest Hills, Long Island, and then built a home in Greatneck, Long Island, New York.  While in Chicago and New York, he also produced illustrations for many leading magazines such as Saturday Evening Post, Liberty, Ladies Home Journal and Life.  It was this that associated him with the New York Illustrators Club, although he was not an illustrator as such.  They presented him with their one and only Honorary Membership.  In New York and Chicago his friends were numerous and varied: Burt Bacharach, Walter Winchell, Norman Rockwell, Otto Soglow (Little King), Norman Mingo (Mad Magazine), Elmore Brown (Illustrator for Saturday Evening Post), Jack Nelson (songwriter), Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden (Amos & Andy), and many, many more were his associates.  He organized and ran the Illustrator Costume Balls for many years.
H. Gilbert Levine had none of the eccentricity associated with artists.  He was practical, methodical, able, paradoxically firm in his convictions and open to persuasion, liked a good joke.  His energy, his immaculate appearance and personal force compensate well for his five feet, two inches of statue.

In his 50's, he decided to move to Los Angeles and became affiliated with Silverwoods through which he did Hart, Schnaffner and Marx men's art work.  Versatile, H. Gilbert Levine works were on canvas as well as with pen, dry brush, charcoal, crayon and other media.  He became famous for his full page figures in dry brush that appeared in papers all over the country. He also became very well known for his oils which were put on bill boards all over the country.  In 1943, he produced a folio of dry-brushed prints of the leaders of the Allies and the military leaders of the U.S. Armed forces of WWII which consisted of 18 leaders.  They were sold through the local newspapers and became very popular item during WWII.  He always maintained his own studio, 333 N Michigan in Chicago and Philharmonic Bldg in Los Angeles.  Always devoted to his wife, upon her becoming ill and in need of him, he moved in his last years to his home in the Park La Brea, Los Angeles, California, where he set up one room for a studio.  After suffering a stroke in 1957, he lived with his daughter, son-in-law and his grand-daughter Jody, in Westwood, until his death on April 24, 1966.

Written and submitted by Jody Ezell, Granddaughter to H. Gilbert Levine

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