Julian Levi was born in 1900 in New York City and grew up in Philadelphia. His formal art training took place at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and he also studied with artists Arthur Carles and Henry McCarter. In 1919 he was awarded the Cresson Traveling Scholarship, which allowed him to travel to France and Italy to contuine his studies.
During the 1930s he worked as an artist for the Works Progress Administration. His first one-man show came in 1940. During World War II Abbott Laboratories commissioned him to document the training of Navy hospital corpsmen and doctors at Camp Lejeune, N.C. before they left for action in Europe and the Pacific.
At the end of the war, Levi began what would be a long career as an art educator. He taught at the Art Students League in New York from 1946 to 1964, The New School of Social Research from 1945-1966, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts from 1964-77. He continued to paint during this time and became known for his landscapes, both representational and abstract. Among his favorite subjects were maritime themes.
Julian Levi died in 1982.