Joseph Leboit Biography

Joseph Leboit




Joseph Leboit, painter and printmaker, was born Joseph Leibowitz in New York City on November 22, 1907. Leboit attended the Townsend Harris High School and at age fifteen enrolled in New York's City College to study art and psychology. There, he received the school's Ward Medal in Arts award upon graduation. In 1928, he began his studies at the Art Students' League, studying painting with Thomas Hart Benton and drawing with Kimon Nicholïdes.

During his time as a student, Leboit participated in social activism and found that printmaking was especially appealing to him, being democratic in nature and available to all socioeconomic classes. Printmaking was also a flexible set of mediums that allowed him to recount his observations of injustice and struggle as the U.S. entered the Depression and the Second World War. It also helped him to deal with his own experiences, including an incident on a rally to support coal miners in Bell County, where he was accosted by sheriff's deputies and anti-union thugs, which likely inspired his color woodcut "The Goon Squad". In the mid 1930s Leibowitz changed his name to Leboit, though whether it was due to mounting anti-Semitism or the art world's growing affinity for French artists is unknown.

During World War II, Leboit was selected for the Graphics Division of the WPA, and became one of the directors of Artists for Victory, an organization composed of visual artists wanting to employ their skills to help with the war effort. He organized a national exhibit entitled America in the War, which toured throughout the U.S. Leboit contributed a series of Holocaust woodcuts for the exhibit, one of which ("Herrenvolk") is in the Library of Congress. His work expanded to the New York publication PM, for which he created political cartoons, illustrations, and charts and maps. This work led him to commissions creating maps for the Russian War Relief and the Junior Red Cross.

Following the war and the closing of the PM, Leboit undertook advanced studies in psychology, in addition to continuing to paint. He became a certified psychologist and for twenty-five years served as director of the Advanced Center for Psychotherapy, a non-profit mental health clinic, which he co-founded. He wrote a variety of monographs on the subject of psychology and co-wrote a text still used in the field of psychotherapy today. In the 1970s, Leboit traveled to Carmel, California to paint. He eventually moved to California, following a stroke in 1989. Though the stroke left his right hand slightly impaired, Leboit simply took over painting with his left hand and continued exhibiting his art.

Leboit's work was include in numerous exhibitions and is included in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Baltimore Museum of Art, Berkshire Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts, Library of Congress, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Milwaukee Art Museum, New York Public Library, Oregon Art Institute, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, St. Louis Art Museum, and the Weisman Art Museum of the University of Minnesota.

Joseph Leboit died on July 5, 2002, in Walnut Creek, California.