John Levée

1924 (Los Angeles) - 2017 (Paris)

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Biography

John Harrison Levée was born in 1924 in Los Angeles. 
Born in a Lithuanian family, the notion of freedom has always been essential for the young pilot officer of the United States Air Force ; that’s why he took part in the Second World War.

After the end of the conflict, he studied art and philosophy at the University of Los Angeles (UCLA) while attending evening painting classes at the Chenard Art School. After graduating, he was approached by airlines to become an airline pilot, but he decided to become a painter.

A scholarship from the American government enabled him to go to Paris and enter the Académie Julian in 1950 (now Met de Penninghen). He met Sam Francis there. Since this moment, the painter decided to stay in Paris.

John Levée’s painting became completely abstract in the 1950s. His work is made of geometric forms juxtaposed, and separated by flattened white. References to primitive arts are numerous. His work is similar to the works of French Abstract painters : the materiality of his painting, all in thicknesses, his spontaneous and rhythmic gestures, reflection of the emotion of the artist, undeniably link it to the movement of Lyrical abstraction – of which it is one of the figureheads.

In the 70s, shapes and colors become more “pures”, inspired by the rigour of geometric abstraction. The colors are brighter, the compositions more simples.

The 1990s signed a return to freer forms and to a more embossed creation, with new compositions made of painting, collages of flat or corrugated cardboard.

In 1951, Galerie Huit in Paris devoted his first solo exhibition to John Levée. In 1955, he met Charles and Peter Gimpel of the Gimpel Fils Gallery in London. He exhibited there regularly until 1966. Myriam Prévot discovered his work and exhibited it at the Galerie de France in 1958. The exhibitions are held all over the place, especially in Israel, Switzerland, Holland, the United States, but also in France, among these most representative events are : ‘’ American painters in France ‘’ Galerie Craven in 1953, ‘’ Ten young painters from the Ecole de Paris ‘’ Galerie de France in 1956, ‘Antagonisms, Musée des Arts Décoratifs in 1960 and the famous annual exhibition ”L’Ecole de Paris” at the Galerie Charpentier from 1958 to 1961.

John Levee’s paintings can be found in major American museums, including the European MOMA and Solomon R. Guggenheim in New York, including the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Kunstmuseum in Basel. Many museums of Israel show his works such as the Haifa Museum, the Modern Art Museums of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

John Levee has been regularly invited to teach at many American universities including New York University, University of Southern California (Los Angeles), Washington University…