Sylvia Levine did not begin to paint until 1956 at the age of 43. She lived in Bristol, in the southwest of England, and attended some life painting classes at Queens Road to “stimulate her imagination” according to art dealer Alex Gerrard. At the outset of her painting activities, she went to the local art supply shop to purchase materials. The store clerk said, “You’ll need one of these,” and handed her a flexible palette knife. She discovered that she preferred the palette knife to brushes, creating pictures with thick, richly textured impasto. Also, having forgotten to buy canvas for her painting, she improvised by using the cardboard from a cereal box, and continued to use cardstock for many of her pictures, eventually switching to masonite as a support.
Sylvia Levine quickly received recognition for her painting style and presentation of subjects. According to Effie Romain of the Art Garden Gallery, “Although untrained, she did go to classes at Queens Road. Apparently the tutors there from time to time would give her advice and she would accept it sweetly, tell them how wonderful they were and not take a blind bit of notice.” She pursued her own aesthetic interests and technique and was awarded prizes for her work during her first and second year of painting.
As she continued her work, painting numerous scenes of the English countryside, still-life, and nudes, she was exhibited throughout England and in 1991 was selected for the Royal Academy London Summer Exhibition. Levine’s art was also shown in the United States at the Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago, and the Museum of American Folk Art in New York.
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