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Alfred Levitt. A Life Considered.

Sunday 21 November 2004, by ps

Alfred Levitt was perhaps the ultimate raconteur. A gifted storyteller with over a century of experience, he was a renowned artist, humanist, anarchist, sportsmen and spelunker. Born in Russia in 1894, he lived most of his life in the United States, where he died in May of 2000, at the age of 105. In many ways he was the last of a generation; a self-educated working class activist with a commitment for social change. He was also passionate about his painting and remained focused on his work for many decades before the art world began to recognize his extraordinary talent in the 1970 and 1980s.

Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher met Alfred when he was already one hundred years old. They were researching Jack London’s life and learned that there was a man (Alfred, of course) who knew London. Remember, London died in 1916, so finding someone who knew him was quite a coup. After interviewing Levitt, they soon found they had much in common. This friendship blossomed into Pacific Street’s latest production, Alfred Levitt: A Life Considered, which now, several years after Levitt’s death, remains a labor of love for Fischler and Sucher.

Alfred Levitt was born in 1894, in a small town in Ukraine. The son of a Jewish carriage maker, Alfred was one of fourteen children. After the pogrom of 1905, which Levitt describes for our camera, his family decided to emigrate to the United States. He arrived in where the family settled in New York’s East Harlem.

He was introduced to art by Robert Henri, who taught at the anarchist Ferrer Modern School in Manhattan. A favorite story of Levitt’s describes his first day at the Modern School. The art class, according to Levitt, was about to be canceled because the model didn’t show up. Levitt quickly offered to help, and, as he described it, "took off his pants right away," and jumped on stage. Needless to say Levitt was a allowed to join the class in exchange for further modeling.

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