~~"I am primarily concerned with the condition of man. The satirical direction I have chosen is an indication of my disappointment in man, which is the opposite way of saying that I have high expectations for the human race." — Jack Levine ("Jack Levine").

Subject Matter

Levine was known for social and political satire, and this painting fits that category. He used political figures or people on streets as his subject matter because he says he is disappointed in man. His satire has to do with the fact that he knows how society changes man and he uses these situations for his artworks. In the painting, there are women who are dressed in bright jewelry and hardly any clothes to try and capture the audience around him so that they will buy his medicine. The setting seems to be in a fair or carnival because of the ferris wheel in the background. People are in the background as well who are crowded and quickly moving by.
Photo taken by author

About the Artwork

The artwork shows a man trying to sell medicine. He uses the women around him as a way to persuade people to buy his medicine. A reviewer of the work said, “Levine is mocking power” (Ross188). He clearly is, because the man is using the women to trick the people around him into buying his medicine; this is an abuse of power. Levine says that he wanted to depict "people being fooled, people being gulled" (Ross 188). By saying this, Levine means that he is showing how people tend to be fooled by advertisements because of the way advertisers set things up to get us to buy their product.


There isn't any iconography in the artwork other than the women. They can represent mother nature, an icon of someone who takes care of others, but in this painting, they are more used as ways to abuse power. They are harlots and not mothering women.


This painting does tell a story, Levine made paintings like Medicine Show IV to tell the story of his idea that the human race is declining. In the painting, there are blurred people in the background to show the busy life of the city. The people closer are more vivid, and are the center of the idea and content of the painting. The man holding the medicine is the reason the people have stopped and are watching him. The man uses women to get more peoples' attention. "Behind" the painting, it tells the story of how people can use certain things or ideas (in this case, hardly dressed women) to get other peoples' attention to advertise and make money.

Works Cited:

"Jack Levine" Encyclopedia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 12 Feb. 2009. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/337965/Jack-Levine>.

"Jack Levine". George Krevsky Gallery. 12 Feb. 2009. <http://www.georgekrevskygallery.com/artists/levine/index.html>.

Ross, Lovelene. American Identity. Wichita: Wichita Art Museum, 1997.