Hirschfeld, Al 1903-2003
HIRSCHFELD, Al 1903-2003
PERSONAL: Born June 21, 1903, in St. Louis, MO; died January 20, 2003, in New York, NY; son of Isaac (a salesman and publisher) and Rebecca (Rothberg) Hirschfeld; married Florence Ruth Hobby, July 13, 1927 (divorced March, 1941); married Dorothy Dolly Haas (an actress), May 8, 1943 (died September, 1994); married Louise Kerz (a museum curator), October 23, 1996; children: (second marriage) Nina. Education: Attended Arts Student League in New York, NY, c. 1918; studied art at County Council, London, England; Lulienne's, Paris, France; and in New York, NY.
CAREER: Theater caricaturist and artist. Artist for movie studios and producers, including for David Selznick, 1921, and Warner Bros., 1921–24; artist in Paris, France, 1924–25; caricaturist for periodicals, 1925–2003; theater correspondent in Moscow, Russia, New York Herald Tribune, 1927–28; New York Times, New York, NY, caricaturist, 1928–2003. U.S. State Department specialist in Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina, 1960. Exhibitions: Has held one-man exhibitions at Newhouse Gallery, 1928, Waldorf Astoria, 1932, Morgan Gallery, 1936, Guy Mayer Gallery, 1942, John Heller Gallery, 1959, Hammer Gallery, 1967, Museum of the City of New York, 1973 and 2002, Margo Feiden Gallery, 1973, Wako Galleries, Tokyo, Japan, 1975, Katonah Art Museum, 1998, and at the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2002; permanent collections of Hirschfeld's work are maintained at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Cleveland Art Museum; St. Louis Art Museum; New York Public Library; Fogg Museum, Brooklyn, NY; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Lincoln Center Museum of Performing Arts, New York, NY; and others.
MEMBER: Players Club.
AWARDS, HONORS: Specialist grant, U.S. State Department, 1960; Antoinette Perry ("Tony") award, 1974, for theater caricature; League of New York Theaters and Producers Award, 1975; creative award, Art Institute of Boston, 1976; City of New York arts and culture award, 1979; Brooks Atkinson Tony Award, 1984; New England Theater Award, 1984; Weissberger Award, Theater Hall of Fame, 1985; Life Achievement Award, Houston Film Festival, 1989; inducted into the Illustrators Club Hall of Fame, 1986, and Theater Hall of Fame, 1990; Lotus Club award, 1990; Edwin Booth award, City University of New York Graduate School, 1991; National Arts Club award, 1992; Stage Directors and Choreographers award, 1992; named one of six New York City landmarks, New York Landmarks Conservancy, 1996; Living Legend award, Library of Congress, 2000; 24 Dollar award, Museum of the City of New York, 2000; Al Hirschfeld Day was declared by the mayor of New York City, May 1, 2000; National Medal of Arts, 2003; The Martin Beck Theater in Manhattan was renamed the Al Hirschfeld Theater on June 21, 2003; elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Honorary degrees include University of Hartford, D.F.A., 1982; Academy of Art, L.H.D., 1989; New York University, D.F.A., 1985; City University of New York, L.H.D., 1985; Brandeis University, L.H.D., 1989; Pratt Institute, D.F.A., 1994; and Academy of Art honorary doctorate.
Manhattan Oases: 1932 Speakeasies, Dutton (New York, NY), 1932.
Harlem, Hyperion Press, 1941, expanded edition, with commentary by Ossie Davis and others, published as Hirschfeld's Harlem, introduction by William Saroyan and Gail Lumet Buckley, Glenn Young Books (New York, NY), 2004.
(With S.J. Perelman and Ogden Nash) Sweet Bye and Bye (musical comedy), performed in Philadelphia, PA, at Forrest Theatre, 1947.
(Illustrator) S.J. Perelman, The Swiss Family Perelman, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1950.
Show Business Is No Business, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1951, published with new foreword and end notes by Margo Feiden, Da Capo Press (New York, NY), 1983.
The American Theatre, Braziller (New York, NY), 1961.
Hirschfeld Folio, 1964, Playbill, 1964.
The World of Hirschfeld, Abrams (New York, NY), 1970, published as Hirschfeld's World, introduction by Lloyd Goodrich, 1981.
(With Brooks Atkinson) The Lively Years, Association Press, 1973.
The Entertainers, Elm Tree Books, 1977.
Hirschfeld by Hirschfeld, Dodd (New York, NY), 1979.
(Illustrator) Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire, Limited Editions Club (New York, NY), 1982.
Artists in Line: An Al Hirschfeld Retrospective, The Trust for Museum Exhibitions (Washington, DC), 1990.
(Illustrator) Otis L. Guernsey Jr. and Jeffrey Sweet, editors, The Burns Mantle Theater Yearbook of … Featuring the Ten Best Plays of the Season, Applause Theatre Book Publishers (New York, NY), 1990.
Hirschfeld: Art and Recollections from Eight Decades, Maxwell Macmillan International (New York, NY), 1991.
(Illustrator) Otis L. Guernsey Jr. and Jeffrey Sweet, editors, The Applause/Best Plays Theater Yearbook of …: Featuring the Ten Best Plays of the Season, Applause Theatre Book Publishers (New York, NY), 1991.
(Illustrator) June Bell, compiler, Kitchen Classics from the Philharmonic: A Culinary and Musical Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the New York Philharmonic, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1992.
(Illustrator) Otis L. Guernsey Jr. and Jeffrey Sweet, editors, The Best Plays of … 1993, Limelight Editions (New York, NY), 1993.
Hirschfeld on Line, Applause Books (New York, NY), 1998.
(Illustrator) Clare Bell, Hirschfeld's New York, introduction by Frank Rich, Henry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 2001.
(Illustrator) David Leopold, Hirschfeld's Hollywood: The Film Art of Al Hirschfeld, Abrams (New York, NY), 2001.
(With Gordon Kahn, and illustrator) The Speakeasies of 1932, introduction by Pete Hamill, Glenn Young Books (Milwaukee, WI), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: One of the most famous American caricaturists of the twentieth century, Al Hirschfeld was renowned for his illustrations of famous stars of Broadway and screen. Beginning in the 1920s and continuing almost until his death in 2003, he immortalized stage actors and other celebrities in his popular caricatures. His line drawings graced the pages of the New York Times for many years, though he contributed to other periodicals as well, including the New Yorker. Hirschfeld's subjects—mostly actors and actresses, but also notables from many walks of life—generally appreciated his stylized line drawings, and many regarded it as an honor to appear in his work. Since the birth of his daughter, Nina, in 1945, Hirschfeld also made a game of hiding his daughter's name within each illustration, sometimes spelling it within a single drawing multiple times. Finding the name Nina became a national pastime for many Americans. The artist's works are now on permanent exhibit in many galleries and museums around the country, and his art has also been collected in such books as Hirschfeld: Art and Recollections from Eight Decades and Hirschfeld's New York.
Although he was born in St. Louis, Missouri, Hirschfeld moved to New York City with his family when he was twelve and spent most of his life there, becoming a New Yorker through and through. He attended the Art Students League for a time, studying sculpting, but had to leave when he was sixteen for financial reasons. Despite this setback, he quickly found work as an artist for movie producer David Selznick in 1921, and then worked for Warner Bros. for several years. Inspired like many artists by the culture of France, in 1924 he moved to Paris, opened a studio, and focused on painting for a year. Many artists at the time were enamored by leftist politics, and Hirschfeld went through this phase as well. He created lithographs for the leftist New Masses for a while, and from 1927 to 1928 was a correspondent in Moscow for the New York Herald Tribune. But Hirschfeld was an upbeat person at heart, and the often grim perspective of politics soon lost its appeal. At the suggestion of his friend and fellow artist Miguel Covarrubias, he traveled to the island of Bali in the early 1930s, where he gained a new view of art inspired by the light and shadow of the tropics that inspired him to focus on line art, for which caricature was well suited.
Already a regular contributor to the New York Times, he returned to New York City and concentrated on the art of Broadway. His timing was perfect, as American theater from the 1930s through the 1950s was in its heyday, and Hirschfeld became famous for his posters for plays and his illustrations of stage actors and actresses, including such luminaries as Carol Channing, Zero Mostel, Charlie Chaplin, Liza Minnelli, Ethel Merman, Sammy Davis Jr., and many more. Remaining active into the early twenty-first century, Hirschfeld not only created illustrations for the stage and movies, but also adapted to television, and his drawings appeared on such publications as TV Guide. On occasion, he also enjoyed illustrating the jazz musicians and ordinary folk of New York City. For example, his 1941 book, Harlem, which was later published as Hirschfeld's Harlem, includes illustrations that capture the "streets, night clubs, and people that have helped to crown Harlem as one of the world's most historic swinging hot spots," according to Clarence V. Reynolds in Black Issues Book Review.
It is for his theater caricatures, however, that Hirschfeld will be best remembered. He was recognized repeatedly for his contributions to the arts, earning honors that ranged from a Tony Award to the National Medal of Arts. The mayor of New York City named a day after him, he was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame, and in 2003 the Martin Beck Theater in Manhattan was renamed the Al Hirschfeld Theater. Hirschfeld once explained his approach to illustrating in a 1991 quote reproduced in the Hollywood Reporter: "I try to capture the character of the play or the individual, rather than making a caricature for caricature's sake. Making a big nose bigger isn't witty." The result of his efforts were deceptively simple looking, and the artist further explained that the more time he spent on a piece, the simpler it looked: "Through trial and error you eliminate and eliminate and get down to the pure line and how it communicates to the viewer…. The last drawing you do is the best one—it should be."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Newsmakers, 1992 Cumulation, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.
American Artist, August, 1970, review of The World of Hirschfeld, p. 59.
American Theatre, January, 1992, Lynn Jacobson, review of Hirschfeld: Art and Recollections from Eight Decades, p. 42; December, 1998, review of Hirschfeld on Line, p. 77; December, 2001, Steven Drukman, review of Hirschfeld's New York, p. 72.
Atlantic Monthly, July, 1970, review of The World of Hirschfeld, p. 113.
Black Issues Book Review, January-February, 2004, Clarence V. Reynolds, "Hirschfeld Uptown," review of Hirschfeld's Harlem, p. 35.
Booklist, October 15, 1991, review of Hirschfeld: Art and Recollections from Eight Decades, p. 394; February 15, 1999, Gordon Flagg, review of Hirschfeld on Line, p. 1023.
Book World, December 9, 1979, review of Hirschfeld by Hirschfeld, p. 11; May 17, 1981, review of Hirschfeld's World, p. 12.
Choice, May, 1971, review of The World of Hirschfeld, p. 414; May, 1999, E. K. Menon, review of Hirschfeld on Line, p. 1604; July-August, 2004, K. N. Pinder, review of Hirschfeld's Harlem, p. 2032.
Christian Science Monitor, December 26, 1979, John Beaufort, review of Hirschfeld by Hirschfeld, p. 17.
Library Journal, July, 1970, review of The World of Hirschfeld, p. 2454; February 15, 1992, review of Hirschfeld: Art and Recollections from Eight Decades, p. 164; January, 1999, Barry X. Miller, review of Hirschfeld on Line, p. 100; November 15, 2001, Anne Marie Lane, review of Hirschfeld's Hollywood: The Film Art of Al Hirschfeld and Hirschfeld's New York, p. 64; September 15, 2003, Nathan Ward, review of The Speakeasies of 1932, p. 69.
Los Angeles (magazine), December, 1991, Steve Root, review of Hirschfeld: Art and Recollections from Eight Decades, p. 86.
Los Angeles Times, December 1, 1991, review of Hirschfeld, p. 10; January 20, 2002, Jonathan Kirsch, "West Words," review of Hirschfeld's Hollywood, p. R2.
New Yorker, February 22, 1999, review of Hirschfeld on Line, p. 172.
New York Times Book Review, May 24, 1970, review of The World of Hirschfeld, p. 10; November 25, 1979, Alan Fern, review of Hirschfeld by Hirschfeld, p. 98; May 24, 1981, review of Hirschfeld's World, p. 19; September 7, 1986, John Lahr, "And Did You Once See Sidney Plain?," p. 3; December 1, 1991, Terrence McNally, review of Hirschfeld: Art and Recollections from Eight Decades, p. 14; May 31, 1992, review of Hirschfeld: Art and Recollections from Eight Decades, p. 28; March 7, 1999, Leila Hadley, review of Hirschfeld on Line, p. 19; March 28, 2004, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, "Uptown with Hirschfeld," p. 18.
Publishers Weekly, February 23, 1970, review of The World of Hirschfeld, p. 152; November 1, 1991, review of Hirschfeld: Art and Recollections from Eight Decades, p. 65; November 30, 1992, review of Kitchen Classics from the Philharmonic, p. 50; November 23, 1998, review of Hirschfeld on Line, p. 55; January 27, 2003, "Lining Up," review of Hirschfeld's Harlem, p. 136; March 15, 2004, review of Hirschfeld's Harlem, p. 69.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), December 8, 1991, review of Hirschfeld: Art and Recollections from Eight Decades, p. 3.
Wall Street Journal, December 8, 1970, review of The World of Hirschfeld, p. 22.
Al Hirschfeld.com—The Margo Feiden Galleries Ltd., http://www.alhirschfeld.com/ (October 10, 2005), information on books and purchasing illustrations.
The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story (video documentary), Home Vision, 1996.
Chicago Tribune, January 21, 2003, Section 1, p. 14.
Entertainment Weekly, February 7, 2003, p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter, January 21, 2003, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times, January 21, 2003, pp. A1, A12.
New York Times, January 21, 2003, pp. A1, C16; January 26, 2003, p. L1.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 26, 2003, p. F3.
Times (London, England), January 22, 2003.
Washington Post, January 21, 2003, p. B7.