Artists > Levinstein, Leon

Leon Levinstein

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Leon Levinstein was born September 20, 1910 in Buckhannon, West Virginia and died in 1988 in New York City. In 1947–48 he studied with John Ebstel and Sid Grossman at the Photo League, and then in 1948–51 with Stuart Davis and Alexey Brodovitch at the New School for Social Research. He studied with Grossman for another three years. In the 1950s and 60s, his work was published extensively in major magazines such as Popular Photography and U.S. Camera Annual, and won Popular Photography 1952's International Photography Contest. In 1956, Levinstein exhibited at Helen Gee's Limelight Gallery, the only solo show during his lifetime. Both Alexey Brodovitch, artistic director of Harper's Bazaar, and Edward Steichen, renowned photographer and curator at the Museum of Modern Art recognized Levinstein’s talent; Levinstein's photographs were included in nine group shows at the Museum of Modern Art. Levinstein rarely worked on assignment and never made photography books. He earned his living as a graphic designer, not as a professional photographer, and generally remained aloof from the art world.

"In my photographs I want to look at life—at the commonplace things as if I just turned a corner and ran into them for the first time." Leon Levinstein, in Photography Annual 1955

Leon Levinstein was an American photographer, who is best known for his upfront and unsentimental black-and-white figure studies made in New York City neighborhoods from Times Square and the Lower East Side to Coney Island and Harlem. Besides that, his work contains street photography made on trips to India, Haiti, Spain and Portugal. The artist’s work has a graphic virtuosity, using raw gestures and monumental bodies, balancing compassion and cruelty mixed with shadows and light. For this particular character, he sneaked through crowds, blended in and observed things that others would miss.

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Leon Levinstein
8th Avenue, Times Square