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Sylvia Livingston

Sylvia Livingston

Female 1913 - 2004

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  • Born  20 Nov 1913  Baltimore, Baltimore (city), Maryland, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Sylvia Livingston Levin birth certificate
    Sylvia Livingston Levin birth certificate
    Gender  Female 
    Occupation  Travel Agent 
    Died  11 Aug 2004  Baltimore, Baltimore (city), Maryland, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Notes 
    • Baltimore's 'Grandma Moses'

      David Herz Special to the Jewish Times
      JULY 09, 2004

      After retiring from the travel business 19 years ago, Sylvia Levin was looking for something to occupy her time. She began painting and found that she received "great pleasure from it." She often gave her finished pieces to friends and family members who told her how much they enjoyed her work, but she thought "they were just being polite."

      "People would tell me that my paintings were good, but I didn't believe them," says Mrs. Levin, 90. "Painting was a hobby. I never thought I would sell them. It gave me a lot of time doing something I enjoyed, and I could see results."

      Then, a friend suggested that she have a showing. At first, Mrs. Levin says she didn't give it much thought, but then she decided to take a chance. Her sons invited about 30 people over to her Park Heights apartment in June 2003, and Mrs. Levin sold eight paintings, earning more than $1,000.

      "I couldn't believe it," she says. "I was very pleasantly surprised at how many paintings were sold at that showing."

      Mrs. Levin planned to have a second show earlier this year, but it was canceled due to her health troubles. But even without another show, Mrs. Levin has continued to sell paintings from her home/art studio, earning somewhat of a reputation as a local "Grandma Moses."

      One look at Mrs. Levin's apartment indicates that she is no ordinary senior citizen. Its vibrant colors — a lime green border adorning the entrance walls, and the living room painted a deep orange — match the colorful personality of this great-grandmother. Artifacts collected from her many trips all over the world are also displayed throughout her home.

      Mrs. Levin says her painting style is highly influenced by the late 19th-century Impressionist movement. She says her first works were oils, but she now paints with acrylics, mostly for practical purposes.

      "Acrylics are better for painting in an apartment," she says. "They dry quicker and are easier to clean and they don't smell."

      Most of the paintings currently displayed in her apartment are of women or of nature scenes. Mrs. Levin uses a contrast of colors, often employing dark colors around a painting's subject. She says that she often paints something that she notices in a photograph, and then adds her own creative interpretation.

      Mrs. Levin's life experiences from her years leading travel groups around the world are evident in her paintings as well. Many have Far East influences, one of the areas that she says she enjoyed visiting the most.

      She says she had painted only once in her life before her retirement. In 1967, when her mother was dying, Mrs. Levin suddenly painted a portrait of her soon- to-be daughter in-law, marrying her son, Dr. Michael Levin, from the couple's engagement announcement photo.

      "I decided it would be something good for me to do," says Mrs. Levin, a Har Sinai congregant. "I used it as therapy for myself."

      A mother of three, Mrs. Levin, who also has nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, was born and raised in Baltimore. She has always been interested in the arts. As a child, she hoped to be a ballet dancer and took classes. But Mrs. Levin says she was forced to give up ballet at the age of 12 when rheumatic fever confined her to bed for a year.

      Mrs. Levin never really had any formal training in painting. She took two classes at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore, and another class recently in Florida. Her late husband, Harold, was also an accomplished painter. She says her son, Stanley, believes there must a hidden talent within the family and has recently started to paint. He and his daughter are now taking lessons from Mrs. Levin.

      Edith Green, a nurse who cares for Mrs. Levin, has purchased two of her paintings. One was a nature scene that Mrs. Green says reminded her of her home in Virginia. While she was shocked that Mrs. Levin had very little training in art, Mrs. Green says she wasn't surprised by Mrs. Levin's talent.

      "It's amazing the things she does," Mrs. Green says. "I tell her all the time that she is just a big gift."

      Mrs. Levin, former president of the Jewish women's group Miriam Lodge KSB, says she has never done any Jewish-themed work. "I saw so much in Israel that it would be too difficult to show what I saw," she says. "It just doesn't seem that I could do it, that I could depict it the way it should be."

      Mrs. Levin says she harbors no regrets about beginning her craft so late in life. "I did other things," she says. "I had years of dancing, which I loved, and the time that I spent working with philanthropic groups took a lot of work. I wouldn't have had time to do anything else. Each thing had its own time."

      And like many artists, Mrs. Levin is her own toughest critic. "I finish a canvas, I let it stand," she says. "I think it's done when I walk away, but it isn't done. Maybe 10 minutes or 10 days later, I see errors, so they will stand there for a while before I finish them and sign them."

      Mrs. Levin says she hopes to continue painting for many more years.

      "You get better as you get older, if you enjoy what you do," she says. "I will paint as long as I physically can."
    Person ID  I30  Himelfarb Family Tree
    Last Modified  19 May 2005 

    Father  Isaac Louis Livingston,   b. 22 Sep 1884, Telse, Lithuania Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 8 Sep 1948, Baltimore, Baltimore (city), Maryland, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Mother  Mollie Kappalman,   b. 16 Nov 1889, Lithuania Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 9 Feb 1966, Baltimore, Baltimore (city), Maryland, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married  Baltimore, Baltimore (city), Maryland, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Histories
    Isaac Livingston 1910 Census
    Isaac Livingston 1910 Census
    Family ID  F14  Group Sheet

    Family  Harold J. Levin,   b. 21 Feb 1911, Baltimore, Baltimore (city), Maryland, United States Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 25 Jan 1994, Baltimore, Baltimore (city), Maryland, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married  4 Aug 1934  Baltimore, Baltimore (city), Maryland, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
     1. Dr. Michael Lee Levin
     2. Dr. Stephen Charles Levin
     3. Stanley Livingston Levin
    Family ID  F5  Group Sheet

  • Photos
    Sylvia Livingston Levin
    Sylvia Livingston Levin