Paris, June 1, 1937, Hôpital Rothschild, 12th arrondissement.

Ancestry and Early History           

My father, Alberto Esquenazi Levy, was born in Constantinople, 1902, into a Sephardic family descended from exiles of the Spanish Inquisition, 1492.


He was educated at the École Universelle Israélite-Française where he became fluent in French and graduated at the head of his class. A promised scholarship for him to study medicine in Paris was forfeited when Turkey and France became enemies during WWI. He became a stateless person during the Turkish War of Independence and eventually made his way to Caracas, Venezuela, where he was naturalized in 1923. In 1929, he petitioned the Consul of France in Caracas for a visa to live in Paris. There he met my  mother and established a dry goods business in the 11th arrondissement.


The Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939 signaled that France might be next, so he made preparations to depart. My mother, who was not Jewish and who therefore underestimated the risk to her family, refused to leave. My father’s remaining alternative was to kidnap me. We escaped through Barcelona, where my father obtained a visa to enter the United States. We arrived as refugees at Ellis Island during January,1940.


My mother, Jeanne Léontine Nicol, was born in Paris, 1914, into a Breton family of farmers from Roscoff, Finisterre; her recorded family history, dating from 1521, is preserved in the ancient records in the city hall of Roscoff.

After my disappearance in 1939, she made vain attempts to locate me in the United States until an attorney known to my father visited me at Hackley School in 1953, where I was a boarding student, and gave me a letter from her with a photograph. Except for a feeble correspondence with her during those school years, my separation from my mother lasted until my graduation from the University of Pennsylvania in 1959, when my father facilitated my first visit to her home in Normandy. She had survived the Nazi occupation with my half-sister,  Jacqueline, six years my junior.

That visit was to be my last for 33 years when, in 1993, after my father’s death at 90, I began a succession of visits to her in Trouville until  her death ten years later.


During one of those visits, over a glass of wine, she acknowledged that my father “had saved us all.” She had been visited and interrogated by the Gestapo during the Occupation.


Macfadden Tarrytown School, Tarrytown, NY, Graduated 1951.

Hackley School, Tarrytown, NY,

Graduated 1955.

Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA,  BS Economics, 1959.

San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA, BFA Painting, 1968, MFA Painting, 1971. 




My Partner: Dotty Joos.

Three grown children.                

Residence and studio in Occidental, CA.

Where the River Meets the Sea: Coastal Landscapes 1980-1998

Available for Sale at: http://www.riverseapress.com