Harold Arthur Levinsky
PVT in 603rd Engineer Camouflage Bn : Co D, 1st Platoon
ASN#12159802 Casualty: Wounded
Born 1922 in NY, Died 1991
County of enlistment: New York City, NY
Other residence(s): New York, NY; Bronx, NY in 1942; Poughkeepsie, NY; Albany, NY; Scottsdale, AZ
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
Occupation before the war: semiskilled machine shop and related occupations, n.e.c.
College education before the war: Parsons 4 years
College education after the war: NYU; SUNY Albany
Hal Laynor was born Harold Arthur Levinsky on January 10, 1922 in New York City, the older of two boys. His father worked at a theatre, early on as a doorman and later as a theatre manager.
He got his start in art at age 13, when he traded a stamp collection for a friend's set of paints. He went on to study art at Parsons, graduating before he joined the Army. He registered for the draft on June 30, 1942, and enlisted on October 26, 1942, at which time he said he was a commercial artist. He married Gloria Silberman on October 1, 1943.
He served in the 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion, and was wounded during Operation Bouzonville on March 12, 1945, the Ghost Army's deadliest day. A hunk of shrapnel was lodged in his back, and he was sent to Paris for treatment of the infected wound.
Rick Beyer picks up the story in The Ghost Army of World War II: "He was recuperating in a Paris hospital when painter Pablo Picasso visited the ward. Struck by Laynor's interest in his work, Picasso invited the young artist to visit him in his studio. 'I found Picasso wonderful and it's not difficult to see why he is the top figure in the art world today,' wrote Laynor to his wife, Gloria. 'My visit to his studio and working with him greatly inspires me to continue with my painting.' Laynor later said that Picasso exerted a major influence on his painting style."
After his discharge from the Army as a Staff SGT, and possibly inspired by his wife's career as a math teacher, Hal went back to school on the GI bill to pursue both a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in art education at NYU, finishing that round of academic work in 1947.
He also went on creating art, including a series of World War II paintings based on wartime sketches and watercolors.
In 1947 he was hired as assistant art supervisor in the Poughkeepsie, NY school system; and was later promoted to supervisor. He spent 10 years in the Poughkeepsie system during which time he was awarded several fellowships which he used to finance his pursuit of painting--these included an award from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation in 1954, a Huntington Hartford Foundation fellowship in 1956, and a Guggenheim fellowship. He also received a painting award from the Audubon Artists of America.
Along the way, he and Gloria became the parents of three children: Lois, Mark, and Dennis.
In 1957, he took a job as associate director of art education in the New York state department of education, focusing on elementary and junior high art programs. While living in Albany, he went back to school and received a doctorate in art education from SUNY Albany in 1966. That fall he joined the faculty at Millersville University in Millersville, PA where he would spend the next 24 years. He taught both undergraduate and graduate courses and served as chairman of both the university's art department and the cultural affairs committee.
Over his art career, he created more than 8,000 works. According to his obituary, "while he used the conventional oils, watercolors, and acrylics, he also incorporated linoleum, seashells, and even lightbulbs. Using yarn led to his series of 'stitched' paintings, which garnered Laynor numerous accolades. Laynor also produced a series of paintings designed for the sight-impaired. . . . These were done in high relief, so that they could be explored with the fingertips." He was also recognized for pioneering the use of lacquer as a painting medium.
In 1979 he suffered a heart attack which inspired him to create the "Cardiac Series," a set of watercolors reflecting his feelings towards his own heart after the attack.
Hal's work has been exhibited in many important galleries and his paintings have been collected by the Museum of Modern Art, the Everson Museum, Exxon, Monsanto, and IBM.
He linked the varied parts of his career when he ran a summer program at Millersville, "Guiding the Talented Art Student", for art teachers in school systems throughout the country.
He had another heart attack in 1989 and, after a year of sick leave, retired from the university and moved with Gloria to Scottsdale, AZ where their daughter lived. He was under treatment for his heart condition when he died less than a year later on June 30, 1991.
Harold's last paintings before his death reflected his Jewish roots and his love of the Southwest and Native American culture. The Reb Kachina series depicts an elderly man with a white beard, Hassidic top hat decorated with a feather, and an overcoat with Native American designs. He lights a cactus menorah and sells "kosher snakes."
Before his death, his greatest desire was to provide educational and financial support for visual art students and educators. His ideas and work provided the beginning structure and focus of what became the Laynor Foundation Museum. Begun by his wife and three children, and with Gloria serving as president, it was financed by donations and the sale of Hal's paintings.
1942 draft card
1942 enlistment record
1943 marriage record
1956 article in the Poughkeepsie Journal (NY) re a fellowship he won
1957 article in the Poughkeepsie Journal (NY) re his job change
1969 article in the Lancaster New Era (PA) re an art program he was running
1979 article in the Intelligencer Journal (Lancaster PA) re his art and his heart attack
1991 obituary in Arizona Republic (Phoenix AZ)
1991 obituary in Lancaster New Era (PA); more detail
1991 Social Security death record
1991 VA death record
1999 article in the Jewish News (Greater Phoenix, AZ) re the Laynor Foundation
Ghost Army website
Biographical info from askart.com