The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story


I recently watched a fascinating and entertaining documentary about an American caricaturist, entitled, The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story.

For those of you who are not familiar with Al Hirschfeld, here is a brief biography:

Best known for his black and white portraits of celebrities and Broadway stars, Al Hirschfeld was born in St. Louis, and later moved with his family to New York City, where he received his art training at the Art Students League of New York. In 1924, Hirschfeld traveled to Paris and London, where he studied painting, drawing and sculpture. When he returned to the United States, a friend, fabled Broadway press agent Richard Maney, showed one of Hirschfeld's drawings to an editor at the New York Herald Tribune, which got Hirschfeld commissions for that newspaper and then, later, The New York Times.

Hirschfeld's style is unique, and he is considered to be one of the most important figures in contemporary drawing and caricature, having influenced countless artists, illustrators, and cartoonists. His caricatures were regularly drawings of pure line in black ink, for which he used a genuine crow quill.

Here are some photographs of Al. What I love about his face is that it's filled with so much character, it seems only natural he would become a caricaturist...



Here he is in his art studio. He actually sat in an old barber's chair at his desk when he drew...


A caricature of Hirschfeld...


Hirschfeld is known for hiding his daughter's name, Nina, written in capital letters ("NINA"), in most of the drawings he produced after her birth. The name would appear in a sleeve, in a hairdo, or somewhere in the background. The number of NINA's concealed is shown by the number written to the right of his signature. Generally, if no number is to be found, either NINA appears once or the drawing was completed before she was born.


Examples of four Broadway Playbill's in which Hirschfeld drew the front covers...


Here are some of my favorite Hirschfeld caricatures. I find it positively uncanny how he could capture the essence of each person so that you immediately know who they are.

*see if you can spot the NINA'S


Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn in "Bringing Up Baby"


Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"


Aerosmith


Katherine Hepburn


Elton John


Ella Fitzgerald


Prince


Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers


Judy Garland

Here is my very own copy of an Al Hirschfeld print. I purchased this many years ago and had it framed. It still hangs in my apartment -- my favorite female comedian, Lucille Ball...


I hope you enjoyed my tribute to the late, great talent of Mr. Al Hirschfeld...


Have a super weekend, everyone!
X


*In case you're interested in watching the documentary, here is the link: The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story

26 comments

  1. 'how he could capture the essence of each person so that you immediately know who they are'.

    So right, Ron. I was able to identify them all. It is uncanny how he gets each one so right. His skill is amazing. It is one thing to draw but something else to be able to get their facial expressions so accurately. Thanks for sharing this, I loved it. I want to keep going back to study his work.

    The weekend is almost upon us, enjoy yours.

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  2. What a talent! I vaguely feel as though I knew about him. I'm not good at finding the Nina's but I did see the one on Prince's chest. I wonder if everyone that he drew liked his caricature of them? I laughed out loud at the Aerosmith one!

    Thanks for educating us on a great piece of American history! XO

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  3. http://ladyfi.wordpress.comApril 26, 2019

    He's a delight!

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  4. He is just amazingly talented! I can't draw for crap, so I'm always super impressed by those who can. Also: his head looks like a light bulb! Very fitting, given all the ideas he came up with.

    I also thought I remember reading that Charles Schulz also hid his initials in that lock of Charlie Brown's hair, though I can't seem to find confirmation of this online. It does like like a "CS" - who knows!

    Have a great weekend, my friend!

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  5. Oh my, this post is beyond fantastic. A GOOD caricaturist is so rare. And he combines this with a healthy dose of graphic design as well. Phenomenally talented, I love all his drawings. Thanks so much for making my Friday inspiring. :-)

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  6. This is simply grand, Ron -- thank you! I didn't realize he'd included his daughter's name in most of his caricatures, but you're right -- ALL these celebs are recognizable!! Wow, what a gift the man had (and I love his barber chair, even if I'd find such a thing cumbersome and impractical for my writing!)


    I always wished I could draw, but I must have been in another line when that gift was handed out. I do good to draw stick people -- and even they look pretty dismal! Knowing others have such a talent, though, convinces me we might be equal in God's eyes, but the world doesn't see it as so, ha!


    A crow quill? I didn't realize they even made such a thing. Have a splendid weekend! xo

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  7. Isn't Hirschfeld's talent for caricatures AMAZING?!?

    " It is one thing to draw but something else to be able to get their facial expressions so accurately. "

    Yes, Valerie, my feelings exactly! I don't know how he does it, but he is able to capture something so unique about each person he draws so that you know exactly who it is. Being a Cary Grant fan, I especially love the one of him because it looks exactly like himQ

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a lovely weekend!

    X to you and Charlie!

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  8. Yes, I think many people have seen his caricatures throughout their lives in newspapers or magazines, but maybe didn't know exactly who Hirschfeld was. Aren't his caricatures incredible?

    " I wonder if everyone that he drew liked his caricature of them?"

    Funny you mentioned that because in the documentary it talks about the people who DID NOT like his caricatures of them and were very vocal about it. Yet, he said that regardless of whether someone disliked his drawing of them, he refused to change them or remove them from a publication because it was how he saw them. They're were very few who objected to his caricatures, but throughout his career, he did have a couple run-in's. while working for the New York Times.

    Isn't the one of Aerosmith a HOOT?

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a faaaaaabulous weekend!
    XO

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  9. Isn't he a delight? He was so talent in his ability to capture the essence of each person he drew!

    Have a super weekend, my friend. And thanks so much for stopping by!
    X

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  10. " Also: his head looks like a light bulb! Very fitting, given all the ideas he came up with."

    HA! Mark, you're right...his head does resemble a light bulb!!!

    In the documentary he talked about times in his career when he had trouble drawing certain celebrities because he struggled with capturing something that was unmistakable about their face features or mannerisms. He mentioned that he had tough time drawing Gary Moore, but eventually got it.

    "I also thought I remember reading that Charles Schulz also hid his initials in that lock of Charlie Brown's hair, though I can't seem to find confirmation of this online. "

    Wow...I didn't know that about Charles Schulz. Now I'll have to go back and look at pics of Charlie Brown to see if I can spot his initials.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a most excellent weekend!

    X to you and Tara

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  11. " A GOOD caricaturist is so rare. And he combines this with a healthy dose of graphic design as well."

    Yes, you're absolutely right, Lisa! I have always been attracted in Hirschfeld's caricatures because I found them so incredibly unique in the way he captured a persons essence so that you could immediately tell who they were. Plus, back in the days when I was performing in the theater in New York, his caricatures were on almost every Playbill.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a most excellent weekend!
    X

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  12. Hey there Debbie!

    Aren't his caricatures simply GRAND? I had so much fun researching the caricatures he did of celebrities. And what I found amazing is that he continued drawing caricatures into his much later years, so that he was able to draw people like Prince, Elton John, and Aerosmith. He really kept up with the times.

    " I love his barber chair, even if I'd find such a thing cumbersome and impractical for my writing!"

    I know, isn't it something that he drew sitting in a barber's chair?!? I think his primary reason was that he would often sit for hours on end drawing, therefore, the barber chair was more comfortable than a typical desk chair. Also, a barber chair moves up and down so it was probably easier for him to achieve various heights when he drew.

    "I do good to draw stick people -- and even they look pretty dismal! "

    Ha! Drawing is not one of my talents either. However, when I was doing makeup professionally, I could paint a face very well. So, I guess in a way that is drawing.

    "A crow quill? I didn't realize they even made such a thing."

    I didn't either until I watched the documentary. He also used an ink well.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a splendid weekend too!

    XO

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  13. Ron, these caricatures are amazing because you're right, you can instantly tell who they are. I love the one of Aerosmith LOL! I think I've seen his work before but never knew who created it. Thanks so much for the sharing his amazing talent. My girlfriend is a graphic artist so I'm going to share this post with her because I think she would enjoy it. We may even watch the documentary tonight when she gets home.

    Thanks, dude!

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  14. Hey Matt!

    Aren't his caricatures faaaaaaaaabulous??!?! I think a lot of people have seen his work but never associated it with who the artist was. I knew of Al Hirschfeld from being in the theater and seeing his caricatures on Broadway Playbills.

    You will LOVE the documentary! Enjoy!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a great Sunday!
    X

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  15. Ron, I am a huge fan of Hirschfeld!!!! In fact, not long after my husband and I got married we attended an Al Hirschfeld exhibit in New York. We didn't get to see him in person on the night we attended, but he was there on the night the exhibit opened.

    The pictures you shared of his caricatures are stellar! Love the one of Astair and Rodgers dancing. I had never seen the one of Prince. It's spot on.

    Hirschfeld was one-of-a-kind. Brilliant!

    Thanks for sharing this, Ron. And I look forward to watching the documentary!

    Hope you're enjoying a great weekend xo

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  16. OMG Elaine, that's AWESOME! How fabulous that must have been. I would have loved seeing one of Hirschfeld's exhibits! He and his wife lived in New York (on the Upper East Side). In the documentary, it shows the interior and exterior of his apartment.

    Isn't the one of Astair and Rodgers priceless? The way he drew them looks like they're actually dancing. What I loved about Herschfeld is that he grew (and drew) with the times. The one of Prince is faaaaabulous!

    I agree, he was one-of-a-kind and brilliant!

    Thanks a bunch for stopping by, neighbor. Hope you're weekend was grand!

    X

    P. S. Enjoy the documentary!

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  17. Oh Ron, what a delightful post! I knew of Al Hirschfeld, but didn't know as much as you shared. I can't wait to see the documentary you mentioned. I love documentary movies because I find it so interesting to know about real people and how they lived.

    Love the pictures you shared of his work, they're all brilliant! And you're right, his face had so much character. No wonder he was able to capture the "character" in each people he drew.

    I love Lucille Ball too! I still watch the I Love Lucy shows on Hulu. What a funny lady she was!

    Have a wonderful week, Ron x

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  18. Hola Denise!

    OMG, you're going to LOVE the documentary! I've watched it THREE times already! Yes, me too...I love documentary/biography films. In fact, if I had to choose, I'd she they're my favorite! I like knowing all about a person (behind the scenes).

    "I love Lucille Ball too! I still watch the I Love Lucy shows on Hulu. What a funny lady she was!"

    I can't still remember watching "I Love Lucy" when I came home from school each day. I would have a snack and then watch it in the den or in my room. I never get tired of watching those episodes. I actually have some of them on VHS, can you believe that?!? I loved watch she and Ethel (Vivian Vance) together because they were such a funny team!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, girl. Have a faaaaaabulous week!
    X

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  19. I had heard of Al Hirschfeld and seen his work, but I had no idea about the NINA's he had hidden within the caricatures. Now that you mentioned it, I DO see them!

    Wonderful tribute to such a talented man, Ron! His work with live on forever!

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  20. Hey there Daniel!

    I only found about the NINA's after I had seen the documentary.And it was fun to go back and revisit some of the caricatures I once had seen and try to find them.

    Yes, you're right...his work will live on FOREVER.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, Daniel. Have a grrrreat weekend!
    X

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  21. Rob LenihanMay 02, 2019

    Wow, Ron, this sure brings back memories!

    I remember looking forward to the Sunday Times Arts section because there was bound to be Hirschfeld illustration in there somewhere. I was fascinated by the way he drew the famous people of the day.

    An image of George C. Scott stands out for some reason, and I see how an artist would have a blast drawing that incredible face!

    Thanks so much for sharing this with us, buddy. It was like going back in time. And I'll definitely keep an eye out for "The Line King."

    Take care!

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  22. Hey there Rob!

    Wasn't Hirschfeld's talent for drawing caricatures and capturing the essence of people AMAZING?!?!?

    "An image of George C. Scott stands out for some reason, and I see how an artist would have a blast drawing that incredible face!"

    Thanks for sharing that because I don't think I've ever seen the image of George C. Scott. I will be sure to google it though to see if I can find it.

    If you get a chance to watching the documentary, I know you will enjoy it.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy. Have a faaaaaaabulous weekend!

    X

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  23. Interesting. He really is an amazing talent.

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  24. Isn't he so unique and talented? He was one-of-a-kind!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend! GREAT to see you! Hope you're having a faaaaaabulous weekend!
    X

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  25. David PetroMay 06, 2019

    Ron, what a wonderful post. It has been a few years since I reached out to you. How are you doing? I have been thinking about you lately and was curious. Your words, like always, have connected with that inner space in me. Hope to talk soon

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  26. *doing the HAPPY dance*

    OMG, Dave....you and I (being Libra's) are on the same wave length because I've been thinking about you lately too!!! In fact, last week I stopped by your blog just to see if it was still there because I still have you on my blog feeder link. So glad to know you're still online. Hope you start posting again!

    Thank you soooooooooooooooooooo much for stopping by, my friend. You have been very missed and thought of.

    Hope all is well! And have a faaaaaaaabulous week!
    X

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