BEN LEVENE R.A. (1938-2010)
PAINTINGS FROM THE ARTIST’S ESTATE
18th May – 10th June 2023
6-8pm Thursday 18th May
Ben Levene was born in London in 1938. At St Clement Danes school he was taught by Alex Flett, through whom he met Carel Weight teaching an evening class at Hammersmith School of Art. He entered the Slade on a scholarship in 1956, the same year as Peter Freeth R.A. (b.1938) and Anthony Green R.A. (1939-2023) who became lifelong friends. He won a Boise scholarship in 1961-62 and travelled to Spain where his first significant body of work was made. These vigorous and ‘brave’ paintings looked to Bomberg and on the surface seemed to place him in the mix with other Jewish, London painters. But they were, in fact, the beginnings of a life-long love of paint as material and of colour, rather than a statement of allegiance to any School.
Levene showed with the Young Contemporaries and the London Group and contributed to group exhibitions at most major London galleries; the Beaux Arts Gallery, the New Grafton Gallery, the New Arts Centre, the Piccadilly Gallery to name a few. His one-man shows were held mostly at the Thakeray Gallery (1970s/early 1980s) and Browse and Darby (late 1980s to 2001). He was a visiting lecturer at the Camberwell School of Art from 1963 to 1989, at the Royal Academy Schools from 1980 to 1995, and at City & Guilds of London Art School from 1990 to 1995. A great technician, he was also a talented and influential teacher.
In the early 1960s Levene was tasked with setting up a still life class at Camberwell. This helped foster his own interest in still life which he pursued alongside landscape, seeing in both the essential challenge of coping with air and light. Not that he was a literal ‘painter of things’. Levene held the belief that ‘Painting is a double-edged world of real objects combined with abstract design’, and his still lifes are his most eloquent expression of this. His landscapes were either painted near the studio of his South London home, or from the cottage he bought on the Herefordshire/Welsh borders in 1971 and where he built a second studio. His summers were spent at the cottage, striving to ‘capture the weather as well as the landscape’ in his paintings.
Levene was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1975 and an Academician in 1986. He showed in every Royal Academy Summer Exhibition from 1974 until his death and served as Curator of the Royal Academy Schools from 1995 – 1998. He is remembered as one of the finest painters of a generation of great painters. We are thrilled to be able to offer these works from his Estate.