american (b. russia)
An award-winning etcher and painter, William M. Auerbach-Levy was best known as one of the leading caricaturists of the first half of the 20th century, whose many depictions of the celebrities of the time were published in New York City newspapers and national magazines. Born William Auerbach in Brest-Litovsk, Russia (now Brest, Belorussia) in 1889, his family immigrated to the United States around 1894. After arrival his father adopted the surname Levy. He attended public schools in New York City’s Lower East Side, where a teacher recognized his artistic talent and arranged for Auerbach-Levy to also attend classes at the National Academy of Design at age eleven. He also loved playing checkers, and won the citywide public school championship in 1914. Although he won prizes for his etchings, his parents insisted that he attend City College of New York while continuing to attend the National Academy. After college graduation he won a traveling scholarship from the National Academy in 1911. Auerbach-Levy used the scholarship to go to Paris to study at Académie Julian under the painter and illustrator Jean-Paul Laurens (1838-1921). After returning to New York he taught at the National Academy, the Art Students League and the Educational Alliance Art School. Auerbach-Levy continued to paint and etch, winning first prize in 1914 and the Logan Prize in 1918 at exhibitions of the Chicago Society of Etchers, a bronze medal for an etching at the San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, prizes for paintings at the National Academy in 1921 and 1925, and prizes for etchings at New York City’s Salmagundi Club in 1923, 1925 and 1928. Auerbach-Levy was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship for his etching and painting in 1928. He also developed his caricature skills, and won first prize in an exhibitions of caricatures at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, in 1924 and 1927. He began drawing for the New York World newspaper, and later for The New Yorker, Collier’s, The New York Post, Esquire and Theater Arts. He left his teaching post at the National Academy in 1934. A very prolific artist, he specialized in luminaries in the world of theater, but also drew caricatures of such celebrities as H. L. Mencken, Ring Lardner, Norman Rockefeller, Babe Ruth, and Frank Sinatra. Auerbach-Levy wrote newspaper articles about the art of caricature and in 1947 published two books, Is That Me? A Book About Caricature written with his wife Florence Von Wien reprinting his many of his published drawings and The Art of Caricature about the art itself. He returned to teaching at the National Academy in 1959, continuing until his death. Auerbach-Levy continued to draw until he died of a heart attack in 1964 in Ossining, N.Y. He bequeathed 3,326 of his drawings to the Museum of the City of New York, many of which have been digitized and are available online. Many of his other paintings, etchings and drawings are now held by the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. (TNB 10/2014). Selected bibliography: Falk, Peter Hastings, ed. Who Was Who in American Art, p. 22. Madison, Conn.: Sound View Press, 1985. Museum of the City of New York, Finding Aid: William Auerbach-Levy Drawings, 1925-1964.