There are a lot of good editorial cartoonists but – as with any other art form – there are very few great ones. The great ones are the ones whose work we still look at long after that moment in time has passed. These include Brits like Hogarth, Scarfe, Steadman to name a few – and Americans like Thomas Nast and the wartime work of Bill Mauldin. David Levine is in that group. His pen dripped so much acid he must have had to draw on metal plates.
Levine, who died last week at 83, was the house illustrator for The New York Review of Books to which he contributed 3,800 drawings. His drawings were always the mot juste that The Review’s writers needed.
As Jules Feiffer said, “They were extraordinary drawings with extraordinary perception. In the second half of the 20th century he was the most important political caricaturist. When he began, there was very little political caricature, very little literary caricature. He revived the art.”
If Levine had one weakness it was that he gave more depth to some of his subjects – our last president, for example – than they actually had. Idiocy, it seems, can daunt even the greatest talents.