JLife catches up with north Leeds based Jewish artist Judith Levin in her uniquely historic Gledhow studio, whose recent work explores local landscapes.
Local artist, Judith Levin, lives on the outskirts of Leeds in an apartment in the gorgeous Gledhow Hall, which has only increased her painting prowess. “Since I’ve been here, it’s been easier to paint bigger paintings because there’s so much space. I’ve even got daylight from the skylight.” Skylights aren’t the only features of note in the historic building. It also features the country’s first tiled bathroom, which was given glazed terracotta tiles for a visit by Edward VII in 1885.
The hall has an illustrious history in art, as it was featured in a Joseph Turner painting in 1812, making it an ideal setting for Judith’s workshop. Unlike in 1812, the hall is now surrounded by a housing development, but the space is still a stimulating environment for Judith’s artistic musings.
Like many of the greats of the past, Judith leads a reclusive life. She rises early and paints for 14 hours a day, often not leaving her apartment for days at a time. Now in her 60s, Judith has been a professional painter for the majority of her life, selling her first painting when she was just 15 years old, living in Harehills with her parents. At the same age Judith left education: “It was fashionable to drop out in those days,” she said. “My parents supported me. They were both openminded and creative.
Although they wouldn’t meet until they were in Leeds, Judith’s parents both came to England as refugees from the Holocaust, via the Kindertransport rescue mission. They both arrived from Germany at just 18 years old.
n 1995 Judith was asked to create artwork to accompany Call in the Night, a play by Bernard Kops, which examines the guilt of a world-famous violinist who was the only survivor of a family wiped out by the Nazis. She drew on her parents’ experience to create pieces for the play, recreating the few photographs December / January 2022 11 they brought with them on the perilous journeys, including representations of her maternal grandmother as a baby, her father, and her mother at age 16: “It’s the most serious work I’ve done,” Judith said. “It was very personal and very frightening.”
While she got her start young, Judith became a full-time artist in 1989, when her second son started going to nursery school. “I started by painting flowers in vases. Imaginary ones, I didn’t have them right in front of me” she said. “I sold them in a local gallery. They began to sell faster than I could do them.”
In the late 1990s, Judith began looking to her surroundings for subject matter. “I started painting landscapes because it felt quite claustrophobic constantly painting a wall. It’s a completely different way of handling paint.” Judith’s landscapes depict her favourite locations around Yorkshire, particularly the moors around Ilkley and Haworth. Unlike many landscape painters, Judith doesn’t work from photographs, and relies on her memory to recreate the scene. Both Judith’s still lifes and her landscapes feature in private collections all over the world, even as far as the US.
While much of Judith’s work is inspired by Yorkshire, it has received international acclaim. Judith has won the Women of Achievement award, as well as the Still Life Prize. She has also been elected to the Society of Artists and has had work displayed in the Exhibition of European Fine Arts in Tokyo.
To view or purchase Judith’s work visit Judithlevingallery.com