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Thomas Leveritt is a 33-year-old half-American, half-British, painter and writer. He was born in Scotland and brought up in Texas. At a young age he was sent away to boarding-school in England, where he remained until he graduated from Cambridge University with a Double First in History and an Army Scholarship into the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards (a tank regiment in the British Army). He undertook aid-work in Mostar during the Bosnian War of 1992-1995 and later set up a company to import beer from reconstruction Sarajevo into Europe, an adventure that later formed the basis of his first novel, The exchange-rate between love and money, which went on to win Betty Trask and Somerset Maugham Awards for writing. The New Yorker called it a ‘love story, tone poem, and seething meditation on history and politics,’ with a comparison to Thomas Pynchon.
Such a world view – what in other fields would be called an analytic philosophy – can clearly be seen in Leveritt’s art. He paints as it were from first principles, easily seen for example in an empty glass, which with its transparency, precision, and quiet self-possession represents a stand against the airless and Scholastic tendencies of much contemporary art. A main sequence of his work to date has been portraiture — his clients include the Universities, the Aristocracy, Members of Parliament, and the armed forces — in which, as with still lifes, he feels there is a more or less agreed-upon criteria of success. Which is to say, it either looks like someone or it doesn’t; Leveritt feels the degree to which there is wiggle-room in this question has been overstated. He regards his proven ability to convey the observable world in paint as an ‘Artistic License’ — much as Picasso earned in his youth — which lends credibility to his attempts to convey less obviously concrete moods and chords. This means that even in Leveritt’s body of abstract work — of which there is much — there’s not really a question of it not being ‘understood’; the work is all there is. There is never anything that needs to be explained.
It’s unmistakeably a ‘plein air’ approach, a turning-away from a stale Academism and back to nature, much as the Impressionist painters undertook in the 1870s, the modernist poets in the 1920s, auteur film-makers in the 1960s. Leveritt’s work is nothing if not fresh.
The winner of the Carroll Foundation award in 2000 from the Royal Society of Portrait artists is a testament to his profound understanding how to balance draftsmanship and creativity.