Medicine Show

Jack Levine

Steeped in social realism, Levine's work is fueled by moral outrage at political and commercial corruption. Hailing from the South End of Boston, Levine was from an immigrant family and endured poverty in his youth. His artistic talent drew the notice of Denman Ross, a Harvard professor. Through Ross, Levine acquired an excellent knowledge of art history, becoming an admirer of Rembrandt, Daumier, Goya, and Grosz. One of the first American-born artists to explore Judaic themes, Levine increasingly turned toward Old Testament imagery in the 1980s, exploring his own identity as a Jew after several trips to Israel. "Medicine Show" is one in a series of paintings that focus on a sideshow huckster, replete with a band and burlesque performers. Set against an urban landscape drawn from Levine's childhood neighborhood, this work combines direct observation with social commentary. As the artist explained, "I've always tried to make some point about charlatans - in this case, a medicine show...I've always been trying to make a kind of indictment of mysticism, and people being fooled." Levine has a distinguished professional career, teaching at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Pennsylvania Academy, while also serving as president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Date of Birth
Oil on canvas
40 1/8 x 45 1/4 in. (101.9 x 114.9 cm.)
Accession #
Credit Line
Henry D. Gilpin Fund and John Lambert Fund