Sunday, January 29, 2017
Noirsville Iconic Artwork of the Week
Jack Levitz (1896-1964) is best remembered today for a series of paintings from this era that featured burlesque performers in municipal courtrooms performing for judges and cloaked court officials. Levitz was arrested in 1931 for owning and running a speakeasy and these works offer a form of social commentary on his legal troubles.
Jack Levitz resembled Winston Churchill and his 5'4" frame was typically graced with a cigar.He seemed to enjoy living on the edge of legality and never achieved commercial success in keeping with his critical acclaim.
Levitz and his wife, Florence, lived in Queens, New York in the Jamaica area. They had two children: Martin (1925) and Mary (1928), who was named after Levitz' mother, and who may have died in 1922. Levitz was chronically short of cash and the Depression could not have been easy for his family.
In 1931 Levitz was arrested and charged with a violation of the sanitary code for transporting a dead body without a license. It seems that Levitz was operating a cider "stube" (a "saloon") at 236 New York Avenue in Brooklyn. One of his clients, Frank Forman, spent most of September 9th drinking hard cider at Levitz' stube then keeled over, dead. Levitz placed his customer's body in a car, then threw the body from the car near Lakewood Avenue in Jamaica where it landed on the sidewalk. An assistant medical examiner disclosed a fractured skull but attributed Forman's death to acute alcoholism. At the time of his arrest Levitz gave his name as Jack Levitz, but it was soon determined that his legal name was Ebbitt A. Levitz.
Although it does not appear that Levitz was sentenced to jail, he produced several paintings depicting courtroom scenes with judges typically ogling female defendants, perhaps as payback for his encounter with the legal system.
The Burlesque Dancer (circa 1930's)