Caricature of Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

Object Number: 
Pen and black ink on ivory paper
Sheet: 7 3/16 × 4 7/16 in. (18.3 × 11.3 cm)
Gallery Label: 
David Levine was an artist and illustrator best known for his caricatures published in the New York Review of Books. Jules Feiffer called him the “greatest caricaturist of the last half of the 20th Century.” Born in Brooklyn, he studied painting at Pratt Institute, at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, and with Hans Hofmann. Most of his paintings were destroyed in a fire and he turned to illustration. A job at Esquire in the early 1960s saw Levine develop his skills as a political illustrator. His first work for The New York Review of Books appeared in 1963, and he drew more than 3,800 pen-and-ink caricatures of famous writers, politicians, and artists for that publication. The other half of his work was published in Esquire (1,000 drawings), The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, and elsewhere. As a prolific caricaturist for these and other magazines, Levine distinguished his process from that of political cartoonists: “I could take time to really look it over and think about it, read the articles and so on. The political cartoonists don’t get a chance. The headlines are saying this and this about so-and-so, and you have to come up with something which is approved by an editor. I almost never had to get an approval. In forty years I may have run into a disagreement with The New York Review maybe two times.” One of his favorite subjects during the 1960s and 1970s was Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl of Russell, a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life, Russell considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacificist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these in any profound sense. Russell led the British “revolt against idealism” in the early twentieth century and is considered a founder of analytic philosophy, along with his protégé Ludwig Wittgenstein. Today he is widely held to be one of that century’s premier logicians and, together with Alfred North Whitehead, he co-authored Principia Mathematica, an attempt to ground mathematics on logic. Russell’s work has had considerable influence on many fields: among them logic, mathematics, set theory, linguistics, computer science, as well as philosophy of language, epistemology, and metaphysics. For his entire adult life Russell was a prominent anti-war activist. He championed anti-imperialism and went to prison for his pacifism during World War I. Later, he campaigned against Adolf Hitler, then criticized Stalinist totalitarianism, attacked the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, and was an outspoken proponent of nuclear disarmament. In 1950 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature “in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.” He had many contacts with Americans and married—then later divorced—a Bryn Mawr graduate. Before WWII Russell taught at the University of Chicago, later moving on to Los Angeles to lecture at UCLA. In 1940 he was appointed professor at City College of New York, but after a public outcry, the appointment was annulled by a court judgment: his opinions (especially those relating to sexual morality, detailed in Marriage and Morals ten years earlier) made him “morally unfit” to teach at the college. The protest was started by the mother of a student who would not have been eligible for his graduate-level course in mathematical logic. Many intellectuals, led by John Dewy, protested against his treatment. Albert Einstein penned his famous aphorism “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds” in his open letter to support Russell during this period. Russell soon joined the Barnes Foundation, lecturing to a varied audience on the history of philosophy, but his relationship soon soured with the eccentric Albert C. Barnes, and he returned to Britain in 1944 to rejoin the faculty of Trinity College. Later, he became very involved with the American peace movement, beginning in 1962 with the Cuban Missile Crisis and continuing with the counterculture anti-Vietnam debate.
Credit Line: 
Given in memory of Laurie Vance Johnson and E. Dudley H. Johnson
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group