5: Painting and commentary, Jack Levine’s "Feast of Pure Reason," 1937.
Jack Levine (1915-2010) was a painter and printmaker best known for his satirical portrayal of political corruption, big business, militarism, and racism. The son of Lithuanian Jewish parents, he grew up amidst urban poverty in the South End of Boston. He created The Feast of Pure Reason, a satire of Boston political power, in 1937 while he was employed by the WPA. The controversial piece was placed on loan to the Museum of Modern Art.
Suggested Activities: Have your students look at the painting. Discuss the following questions: Who do you think the three characters are? What is the artist’s view of them, and how is that attitude conveyed? What other objects are in the painting? What does each represent? Then read the commentary below the painting. Why would Levine choose to draw corrupt figureheads instead of victims of oppression, as did the other artists featured in this kit?
Sources: Jack Levine, The Feast of Pure Reason, painting, 1937. Art © Susanna Levine Fisher/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Reproduced with permission from VAGA: www.vagarights.com.
Hilton Kramer, "The Hazards of Modern Painting," in Social Realism: Art as a Weapon, ed. David Shapiro (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1973), 271.