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 Israel Jack Levitan  (1912 - 1982)

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Lived/Active: New York/Michigan/Massachusetts      Known for: abstract sculpture

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Randolph Maxted, who wrote: "Israel Jack Levitan died May 17, 1982. I was married to his widow, Idee, who died June 10, 1997. Idee, who was also an artist, was a great archivist, so fortunately I have all the information on Levitan that anyone would want or need."

Israel Levitan was born June 13, 1912, in Lawrence Massachusetts. He was of Polish-Russian extraction. His grandfather was a Russian rabbi. Levitan left home at age 13. During his years of traveling the U.S., Canada and Mexico, he took odd jobs and at one point settled near the Blackfoot Indian Reservation in Montana, where he became blood brother to a chief and was given the name, "Little Rock."

In 1934 he settled in Detroit to work on the Plymouth Motor Assembly Line. He also boxed, and in 1935 became a Golden Gloves welterweight champion for Detroit Motors. He went under the moniker "Jackie Myers." (This was so his mother wouldn't find out!)

Levitan began his art career with the study of painting in Detroit in 1938 at Cass Technical School. In 1939 he attended the Arts & Crafts School, also in Detroit. Levitan volunteered for the U.S. Navy in 1941 and served as Chief Pharmacist's mate in the South Pacific. He was honorably discharged in 1946.

As a result of his naval training and experience, Levitan became a qualified physiotherapist. He attained a license to practice massage, which he did, along with sculpting, for the rest of his life.

He moved to New York and studied painting under Amedee Ozenfant, 1946-7. He and his wife, Idee, studied with Hans Hofmann in New York, 1947-50. Hofmann suggested Levitan take up sculpture because "his drawings were popping off the page."

The Levitans went to Paris, France, in 1950-1951, where, on the GI bill, Jack studied under Ossip Zadkine.

Levitan returned to New York to set up his studio there. He had six one-man shows from 1952 through 1964 and was included in over 30 group shows during the same period. In 1956 he received a MacDowell Fellowship to study at the MacDowell Colony in N.H.

The 1960 Jan. edition of Art News voted his one-man show at the Barone Gallery, NYC, as one of the ten best for 1959.

It was about this time (mid-sixties) he made the decision to stop showing and selling (he did not like the competition in the art world), and with his wife pursued a spiritual path more in keeping with his inner dictates.

However, he did not stop sculpting.

Since his death Levitan's work has been in one group show: Philadelphia, 1985 and had one solo show: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1990.

In 1993 the SBMA acquired two sculptures of Levitan's, The King and The Queen, donated by his widow.

He is listed in the 1980 edition of Who's Who in American Art.

Levitan had many years of teaching at various educational institutions, mostly in NYC, but also one summer at Berkeley in S.F.

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