Master of Caricature: David Levine
David Levine is America’s foremost political and literary caricaturist. Although his signature linear style has been copied by more illustrators for more decades than any other cartoonist, no one has equaled his acerbity and wit. He’s had more direct hits on presidents and prelates than any other contemporary. Who could forget his Lyndon Johnson showing the scar of Vietnam (above) or Richard Nixon as Captain Queeg from The Caine Mutiny or Henry Kissinger’s relations with the world (bottom)?
But as David Margolick writes in Vanity Fair: The 81-year-old Levine’s “universe had grown darker and fuzzier.” New work appears much less frequently because “He could no longer see very clearly without strong light and magnification, or rely upon his hand: the lines that had always been his friends, the spare, crisp ones that defined someone’s shape, and the elaborate cross-hatchings that gave him soul, he could no longer control. His ophthalmologist had put it bluntly. ‘Mr. Levine, you don’t look your age,’ he said. ‘But your eyes do.’ His diagnosis: macular degeneration. Medications and injections didn’t help. Levine worked on, but laboriously. He abandoned pen and ink for pencil, which, as he puts it, ‘was more forgiving if I made a mistake.’ But the results were plain enough. For the first time—except for those very few instances when it had been too tart for the publication’s taste—the [New York Review of Books] rejected his work.” (Photo of Levine by Gasper Tringale, below.)