Current Exhibition
Now Showing at the Library for the Performing Arts: Hirschfeld Draws Shakespeare
Unique look at the Bard
» New York, New York
February 2, 2016 to June 6, 2016

Since 2011, Hirschfeld’s barber chair and drawing table, on which he created virtually all of his legendary drawings, have stood at the entrance of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. You can go there day or night and see the chair and table and a rotating exhibition of full size vintage reproductions of Hirschfeld drawings. For anyone interested in the performing arts, the Library is a must-stop for research, reading or taking in their remarkable series of exhibitions (including a great Hirschfeld show in 2013).

Now through the end of May, there will be a curated series of drawings on the table to coincide with the Library’s latest hit show, Shakespeare's Star Turn in America, a celebration of the enduring inspiration of William Shakespeare’s plays. Every other week different Hirschfeld drawings of Shakespeare productions will appear on his drawing board covering many of the Bard’s plays, and featuring a wide range of performers including Al Pacino, Raul Julia, Morgan Freeman, Tracey Ullman, Christopher Walken, Alec Baldwin, and Angela Bassett.

The first presents a unique view of a New York institution. Joe Papp had been producing Shakespeare since 1954, creating The New York Shakespeare Festival whose original aim was to make Shakespeare's works accessible to the public. In 1957, he was granted the use of the Turtle Pond in Central Park for free productions of Shakespeare's plays. By 1961 construction had began on the Delacorte Theatre in the park to present the performances. While that space was being built, and the Turtle Pond was being renovated, Papp used Wollman Rink to stage a summer season of Shakespeare.

Hirschfeld visited a rehearsal of the Festival’s new production of Much Ado About Nothing in June 1961, and the Sunday before the show opened (in a performance cut short by a rainstorm), Hirschfeld’s drawing of the work-in-progress in graced the front page of the New York Times Drama section. Hirschfeld has been bringing readers backstage since the 1930s, and he would continue to do so throughout the remainder of the 1960s. He was such a frequent presence at rehearsals that he did not disturb the process, but captured it first in pencil and later in ink for posterity.

Look to our Twitter and Facebook accounts to learn of the next drawing to be on view at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. 

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Past Exhibition
The Hirschfeld Century
The Art of Al Hirschfeld
» New York, NY
May 5, 2015 to October 10, 2015
Al Hirschfeld revered the theater, with all its creative aspects. His drawings continue to mesmerize us with their fluidity, composition, and cinematic style. “He glorified the artistic genius of those who created cinema and theater.
Louise Kerz Hirschfeld

Acclaimed portraitist Al Hirschfeld (1903–2003) immortalized celebrities and Broadway productions with his iconic linear calligraphic drawings for nine decades, establishing himself as one of the most important contemporary portrait artists. This spring, the New-York Historical Society will present The Hirschfeld Century: The Art of Al Hirschfeld, on view from May 22 through October 12, 2015, honoring the renowned portraitist whose work documented the performing arts in the 20th century. Organized by Louise Kerz Hirschfeld and guest curated by David Leopold of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation, the exhibition will feature more than 100 original drawings, from the artist’s early work for Hollywood studios to his last drawings for The New York Times.

Known by many as “the Line King,” Al Hirschfeld was widely considered one of the most important figures in contemporary drawing and caricature. Celebrities considered it an honor to be “Hirschfelded” and his drawings brought the energy and exuberance of Broadway to the page. The exhibition will feature classic portraits of Charlie Chaplin, Carol Channing, Ella Fitzgerald, Jane Fonda and Ringo Starr, as well as cast drawings from such landmark productions as Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, and The Glass Menagerie. Also on view will be selections from the artist’s sketchbooks, ephemera, and related videos.

“Al Hirschfeld’s work was ubiquitous for 82 years—in Hollywood, The New York Times, Broadway, film studios, and TV Guide covers,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “We are thrilled to feature these iconic drawings that capture popular culture of the 20th century.”

“Al Hirschfeld revered the theater, with all its creative aspects. His drawings continue to mesmerize us with their fluidity, composition, and cinematic style,” stated Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, President of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation. “He glorified the artistic genius of those who created cinema and theater.”

Exhibition Highlights
Visitors to The Hirschfeld Century will explore the artist’s career chronologically, beginning with his pre-caricature days at Selznick Pictures in the early 1920s to his last works in theater, film, television, music and dance in 2002. A video showing Hirschfeld’s working process, from inception to completion, will also be on view.

Among the highlights is a 1928 drawing for MGM depicting the fledgling comedy team Laurel and Hardy in a bed with a brightly colored blanket, ingeniously made from a collage of wallpaper samples. An image of actress Ruby Keeler from No, No Nanette (1971) captures the wild energy of the 60-year old actress in her comeback role, enthusiastically tap dancing with arms and legs a-blur. Portraits of more recent stage legends like Jerry Orbach (in 42nd Street, 1980) and Sandra Bernhard (in I’m Still Here… Damn It!, 1998) evoke their big personalities with sparing lines.
When his daughter Nina was born in late 1945, Hirschfeld began to hide her name in the designs of his drawings, creating a hide-and-seek game for his viewers that Hirschfeld called “a national insanity.” Visitors to the exhibition can continue the search, but might initially be stumped by Nina’s Revenge (1966)–until they realize that her curly hair and folds of her clothes contain her proud parents’ names (“Al” and “Dolly”).

Programming and Publication
On May 28, Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, Robert Osborne and Harold Prince will discuss the caricaturist’s life and legacy through his art, career, and personal relationships (for more information, visit nyhistory.org).

In conjunction with the exhibition, Alfred A. Knopf will publish the first in-depth study of Hirschfeld’s art. The Hirschfeld Century: A Portrait of The Artist and His Age (May 2015) is a comprehensive look at Hirschfeld’s career, written by David Leopold, guest curator of the exhibition and Creative Director of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation. The book includes more than 300 illustrations, many of which have never been in any published Hirschfeld collection before.