Hirschfeld, Al(bert) 1903-2003

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HIRSCHFELD, Al(bert) 1903-2003

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born June 21, 1903, in St. Louis, MO; died January 20, 2003, in New York, NY. Caricaturist and author. For nearly eighty of his ninety-nine years, Hirschfeld 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—actors and actresses at first, later notables from many walks of life—generally appreciated his stylized line drawings, and many regarded it as an honor to appear in his work. Hirschfeld's drawings were more like character studies than mere caricatures according to his longtime gallery representative Margo Feiden, and Hirschfeld himself commented that there was no malice in his pen. New York Times readers not only enjoyed the familiar drawings; they were also drawn into the game of spotting the multiple "Ninas" hidden within the whorls and cross-hatches of illustrations. Finding the Ninas—the name of Hirschfeld's daughter—became so absorbing a game that the artist was persuaded to reveal the correct number in brackets following his signature. Hirschfeld began his career in the early 1920s. After study and work in Europe, the Soviet Union, and exotic places like Bali and Tahiti, he settled in New York where he became an avid theater-goer, amusing himself by drawing caricatures of the performers in the faint reflection of the limelight. Publication soon followed, and by 2000 he had reportedly created some 7,000 drawings, which have been displayed in exhibitions and permanent collections, including that of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on United States postage stamps, and in several books, including Show Business Is No Business, Hirschfeld on Line, and Hirschfeld's New York.. Hirschfeld received a special Antoinette Perry Award in 1975, and in 2003 the Martin Beck Theater in New York City was renamed the Al Hirschfeld Theater in his honor. At the time of his death Hirschfeld was slated for election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and to receive the National Medal of the Arts.



Hirschfeld, Al, Art and Recollections from Eight Decades, Maxwell Macmillan Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1991.

Newsmakers, 1992 Cumulation, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.

St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.


Chicago Tribune, January 21, 2003, obituary by Michael Kilian, section 1, pp. 14.

Los Angeles Times, January 21, 2003, obituary by Myrna Oliver, pp. A1, A12.

New York Times, January 21, 2003, obituaries by Richard F. Shepard and Mel Gussow, pp. A1, C16.

Times (London, England), January 22, 2003.

Washington Post, January 21, 2003, obituary by Adam Bernstein, p. B7.