Bob Levering-The Passing of a Sweet Man, a Masterful Illustrator, and Wonderful Teacher

I was saddened to learn of Bob Levering’s  passing this past April (Friday the 22nd). Bob was not only a long time faculty member of the illustration department at Parsons School of Design, but a connection to the history of illustration. His career spanned the old studio system of illustration I was fortunate to have had Bob as a painting instructor when I was an undergrad at Parsons and to consider him a colleague when I began to teach there.

(above) Bob teaching in one of the painting studios at Parsons about 1983.  The student with him is Joe Dzialo, photo courtesy of Alex Goodman

Bob was a  passionate painter and instructor, and anyone who knew him would add the description ” …a kind , sweet man”. He took painting and class very seriously as I recall but it always came across in a gentle , mentoring manner. A good sense of humor too.  I always had the feeling  that Bob had the secrets of art inside him and he was just waiting for the right moment to impart them as you progressed in your painting. When I met Bob in the 1980’s  he had an energy that defied his age and it continued up into his 90’s.  We were amazed at Bob bounding down 2-3 steps at a time on the way down  8 flights of stairs at Parsons to get a coffee during a break in painting class.

In class when he demonstrated something you could see his mastery of paint, and at capturing a gesture. At one point Bob had brought in some small collages he was working on that looked  rich and intriguing. I remember Alex Goodman was invited to stop by his place and told me about the manhole cover he had, I believe it was some sort of perk from a job. He was doing portraits when I first met him and  it wasn’t until quite some time afterward that I saw Bob’s earlier  illustration work, his Pepsi and other adwork for The Charles E. Cooper studio in New York in the ’50s and ’60s.  At Cooper he was on staff with a host of other top artists of the day : Bernie D’Andrea, Norman Adams, Coby Whitmore, Murray Tinkleman, James Bama anlong with many more.

(above) Bob’s  flyer/promo created by Cooper to advertise their  artists.  -An example of Bob’s Pepsi work (Sept 1956  Family Circle magazine) and a Philip Morris ad.

(above)  From murraytinkelman.blogspot.com  Murray, who was a good friend of Bob’s has some annecdotes and photos of Bob on his blog.

(above) Bob posing for an brother illustrator no doubt  (originally posted at murraytinkelman.blogspot.com  and on the right playing  for the Cooper Studio team at interoffice baseball game, c. 1960, Central Park, NYC originally posted at www.flickr.com/photos/leifpeng/3490924935/in/set-72157617105314858/

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(above) left: Look magazine April 1959   Right: Art Directors Annual  1952
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(above) Saturday Evening Post-April 1961   -originally posted at www.flickr.com/photos/leifpeng/3490924935/in/set-72157617105314858/

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(above) Boy’s Life April 1964 illustrating an article written by Stan Musial. I think Bob’s work got progressively looser and more expressive as time passed.  He had a great sense of when to let paint just drip and be…

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Bob’s work  has been exhibitioned in a number of venues: New York City Center Gallery; The Brooklyn Museum, NYC. Award: Society of Publication Designers, gold medal. and is in the Collection of The Pentagon, Washington, DC.  His work appeared in Ladies Home Journal, The Saturday Evening Post, Look, Woman’s Home Companion. In 2003 Bob was given the  Distinguished University Teaching Award from Parsons/The New School, a much deserved honor.

(above) a great, warm recent photo of the charming old gent  with former students:  the fabulous Liz Lomax and illustrator  Michael De Brito outside at the Met –  photo from www.lizlomax.com/tag/teachers/

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Bob’s mentoring, good spirits and friendship impacted thousands of students in his 30 plus years of teaching. I’m sure that there are a number of you out there that have  stories or photos of Bob. Maybe even a scan or original work of his.   If so, please feel free to contact me and I will try and arrange  some sort of exhibit of his work and maybe a few pieces of artists/students  he’s influenced over the years.

Thanks for everything Bob- You will be missed by many. I hope you’re painting your heart out up there.

A obituary notice in the New York Times  that gives a more thorough account of Bob’s history can be found  here.   Robert Kenyon Levering 1919-20011

A memorial service celebrating his life, his art, and his teaching  will be held in the chapel at the Unitarian Church of All Souls (1157  Lexington Avenue @ 80th Street) on June 21st at 4 p.m.   –   All are welcome to attend.

A Post Script to this post :   Below are some comments/photos that came in after the very heartfelt memorial at  All Souls.

The photos below are from Ned Jacoby Bob’s cousin who spoke beautifully about Bob’s insatiable thirst for knowledge in science as well as art. Both Bob and Ned are avid ham radio operators/enthusiasts from early on.

(above(L to r ) Jules Wenglare W8DVS, Frank Lucas WS8CRA, Ned Jacoby W8KPB, Bob Levering W8INQ about 1935-37  in Ohio. (far right) A 16-17 yr. old Bob.

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(above) Murray, carol and Bob at the Society of illustrators in New York.
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The above  images were originally posted at   Today’s Inspiration, Leif Peng’s  thoughtful and well researched site on ilustration from the ’40s and ’50s.   About the occassion this photos were taken Leif wrote: ”  I only met Bob once – last May – at the SI.  Murray Tinkelman invited me to lunch there and asked if I wouldn’t mind if his old pal Bob Levering joined us.  What a thill that was!  I brought Bob colour copies of all those old ads… he was delighted… said he hadn’t seen any of them in half a century.  I can honestly say I’ve never met a more warm, kind, gentle human being in all my life than Bob Levering.  We three – Murray, Bob and I, spent the afternoon perusing illustration originals upstairs in the collection with the help of Eric Fowler.  Murray’s wife Carol joined us and I had to keep pinching myself – yup, it was all real – I was actually in New York, at the SI, holding an original robert Fawcett from Collier’s while Murray Tinkelman and Bob Levering sat five feet away discussing the relative merits of an original James Montgomery Flagg to an original Charles Dana Gibson!
… I’ll remember that day as long as I live.”
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8 Responses

  1. Bob was easily one of my favorite teachers at Parsons and I had the good fortune to have a painting class with him twice, though the second time I was a senior on my final semester so my attention span was a bit limited. I was always amazed by how much energy he had at 9 in the morning in spite of his obvious advanced age. Most valuably, he was an encyclopedia of art technique knowledge. It seemed he constantly read about art and painting. I remember one time I brought in a book about color theory and I felt honored that he asked to borrow it for some time. When he returned it, he had bookmarked it with Post-It notes on the pages that he felt were most important. He was a great teacher whose lessons I think about constantly.

  2. As I was cleaning out my files a couple of days ago I came across a 10 page copy of Bob’s hand written color recipes. I miss him so much … I think I’ll frame them.

  3. bob i hope wherever you are you know how much you ll be missed, im heartbroken to hear the news, you were my favourite teacher and i wish our yearly visits when i visited new york could have been more frequent…you were gentle and kind and funny and sweet, patient and so so talented as an artist, and as a teacher, and ill never forget you. i wish u had a chance to meet my little daughter she’s two now and she draws up quite a storm already, she would have made u proud…will gift her the collage you made me when she’s old enough to cherish it like i do…with all my love, payal

  4. I knew Bob for the entire time I have worked at Parsons (35 years) a kinder more energetic and talented man has never existed. Definetly my most favorite teacher of all time.
    Heaven has a new Angel.

  5. I had Bob as a teacher at Parsons, and I thought he was a patient and very knowledgeable teacher. Back then, I had no idea of his Illustration career. As I look at poeple’s blog’s and posts of his work, I can appreciate so much more his talent and gift for illustration.

    I remember growing up looking at these illustrations…little did I know then that I’d one day be taught by that illustrator. Rest in peace, Bob.

  6. Bob Levering was a mighty man and Denny and I loved him for years from the time Denny first began at Charles E. Cooper Studio in the 60s.
    He was a friend and mentor.
    A man to marvel at with an incredible interest in all that life offered.
    Curious, clever, humorous and most adept at making all sorts of sounds–a jet plane, a cricket, ham radio signals, a Martian, you name it…
    The boy from Ypsilante, Michigan fell in love with New York City and never looked back–he was the quientessential New Yorker. He was in heaven with the Big Apple’s pace.
    Bob was years our senior but ageless. We both learned a great deal from him. Denny especially savored discussions on ART and both of us benefited from his view of the world.
    A bon vivant, erudite, well informed in science, history, anything animal, mineral, vegetable but most of all ART…
    His extensive library was filled with books, some quite rare, on many subjects. If you borrowed a book from Bob you also were treated to his copious critiques and comments written in the margins.
    Bob connected with everyone, on all levels. When our children, Tim and Jon, were very small they would be totally engaged in extensive conversations with Bob, always a boy himself! He never lost his wonder and enthusiasm for life.

    We will remember Bob with a smile and gratitude for all the wisdom and laughs he brought into our lives.
    Requiescat in pace,
    Christine

    • Christine, that was the most eloquent and concise remembrance of Bob I’ve read since his passing. Truly. Thanks for sharing.

      • Here, here. A wonderful recollection. Bob’s sound FX always made me smile. In my mind a pure white highlight in a painting will always sound like “zort”.
        Thanks Christine, hope to meet you at Bob’s memorial

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