Alphonse Jacques Levy Biography

Alphonse Jacques Levy




Alphonse Jacques Lévy was born in Marmoutier (Bas-Rhin), France on January 8 1843 into a family of wealthy merchants, religious Jews who settled in Strasbourg after the anti-Jewish riots in the revolution of 1848. He attended the Imperial High School where he discovered a passion for drawing. In 1860, he moved to Paris where he attended the studio of Jean-Léon Gérôme and became close friends with Charles Auguste Émile Durand, known as Carolus-Duran. He studied the work of caricaturist Honoré Daumier and that of Rembrandt, who had repeatedly represented the Jews of Amsterdam.


In 1865 his caricature drawings began to appear in various publications where the manners of the time or politics were being paorodied. During the War of 1870 and the Commune, he published cartoons hostile to the Second Empire and supported the Commune under the pseudonym "Said".

When peace returned he returned to more documentary subjects and illustrated the book by Victor Tissot ‘The Prussians In Germany: Suite Voyage Au Pays Des billion’. He also illustrated a volume on the Oberammergau Passion.

Around 1876 he began drawing lithographs devoted to family Jewish life in Alsace. He had an exhibition in 1886 titled ‘The Jewish Life’. He worked as an illustrator at the periodical Le Monde Illustre.

In 1903, he published his collection of Jewish family scenes, which was badly received in the Parisian Jewish community, which accused him of showing a wretched and ugly humanity, while receiving rave reviews from the German Jewish journal Ost und West.

However, he was recognized by art critics and the Luxembourg Museum bought and exhibited some of his lithographs. In 1874, he exhibited regularly at the Paris Salon and was a medalist for lithography at the Universal Exhibition of 1900.

Having befriended another Jewish painter, Jules Benoit-Lévy (1866-1952), whose family moved to Algiers. Beginning in 1904 he spent each winter in Algeria where he painted, without using caricature, the communal Jewish ilife.

His work is, by its documentary value, testimony of two kinds of Judaism, the Ashkenazi rural Alsatian Judaism and traditional Judaism of the North African Sephardics, who both have since disappeared.

Alphonse Levy died February 2, 1918, in Algiers, where he buried in the Jewish cemetery.