May 14, 2015

New Book Published by Knopf

The Hirschfeld Century: Portrait of the Artist and His Age


In Al Hirschfeld’s lifetime, twelve books were published that he either wrote or were collections of his work. Some were great successes such as Hirschfeld: Art and Recollections from Eight Decades (Scribners, 1991) while others like Harlem As Seen by Hirschfeld (Hyperion, 1941) were complete disasters. Today, they are all highly prized by Hirschfeld admirers and book collectors.

For the first time a new book, The Hirschfeld Century: Portrait of the Artist and His Age, published by Alfred A. Knopf, tells Hirschfeld’s story as it has never been told before. Hirschfeld Foundation Creative Director, David Leopold, who spent thirteen years visiting Hirschfeld’s studio organizing the archive of Al’s work, and the last twelve years working for the Foundation, has written a critical history of Hirschfeld’s career, rather than a biography. “In this book I look at each decade through his drawings, paintings and prints to provide their history,”says Leopold, “as well as insight into Al’s intent and approaches for a better understanding of what he accomplished and its impact.”

In addition to the Hirschfeld history, the book includes more than 350 illustrations, close to half have never been included in any previous Hirschfeld collection. Nearly 100 of the illustrations are in color. It is the companion publication with the New York Historical Society exhibition, but it provides more details and many more images than any one show could present. “Exhibitions are like mirages,” explains Leopold, “They exist for a short period of time then they disappear and there is no trace of them. A book provides repeated opportunities to explore Hirschfeld’s remarkable line, and also tell his story, which is one of the best in American popular culture.”

The book will be available only at the New York Historical Society for the first six weeks of the exhibition, and will appear in stores everywhere on July 8th. Leopold will be making appearances throughout the country during the summer and into the fall to talk about Hirschfeld’s work and answer questions about The Hirschfeld Century, an eighty-two year era in which Al Hirschfeld both recorded and defined so much of popular culture. If you would like him to visit your area or organization, please contact the Al Hirschfeld Foundation.

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