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Art Students League of NY Host Panel on Art and Influence of Al Hirschfeld Tonight

Al Hirschfeld immortalized celebrities, politicians, Broadway productions, films, television shows and beyond with his iconic linear drawings for nine decades, establishing himself as one of the most important contemporary portrait artists. Over a decade since the legendary artist drew his final line drawing, he continues to inspire.

Tonight, September 29, at 6:30PM, The Art Students League of New York (215 W 57th Street) will host a discussion on the art and influence of perhaps the most popular graphic artist of the 20th century.

David Leopold, author of the recently released book THE HIRSCHFELD CENTURY and curator of the corresponding exhibition at the New-York Historical Society, will moderate a panel of artists including Bill Jacklin, Stephen Kroninger, Ken Fallin, and Drew Friedman, who will discuss what they see in Hirschfeld's art, its history, and why it still enchants audiences.

A 12:30PM screening of THE LINE KING, the Academy Award nominated documentary film on Hirschfeld's career, will precede the panel discussion. Director Susan Dryfoos will be present at the screening to introduce the film, and to answer post-screening audience questions. Both events are free and open to the public (RSVP to

Al Hirschfeld received his artistic training at the Art Students League of New York, which this year celebrates its 140th anniversary.


Bill Jacklin, who knew Hirschfeld socially and spent time in the studio sketching the master at work, brings his fine art background to the conversation. Jacklin is an exciting and individual painter who has pioneered a revolutionary type of realistic representation. His studies of Hirschfeld at work are in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery, Harvard University, the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress.

Drew Friedman is a leading caricaturist in America whose books include Old Jewish Comedians, Warts and All, and most recently, Drew Friedman's Sideshow Freaks (Blast Books), which presented 50 color portraits of strange and bizarre (and real) circus entertainers from bygone years. His work has appeared in in Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek, Time, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The New York Observer, Esquire, RAW, Rolling Stone, and MAD Magazine. His portraits reveal his devastating ability to get to the heart of his subject, which at times can be both insightful and terrifying.

Ken Fallin's career began in 1985 with the witty pen and ink caricatures he created for the satirical revue, Forbidden Broadway. These drawings were, in themselves, a bit of a spoof, since they were done in the style of, and as an homage to, Al Hirschfeld. He has continued most of the show's posters for the past 30 years and for the last fifteen years, his drawings have appeared in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, and he has a regular feature covering the New York theatrical season for

Stephen Kroninger's inventive collages have appeared in nearly every major newspaper and magazine in the United States, as well as in many publications around the world. His work was the subject of an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, the only time the museum devoted a one-person show to an illustrator. Kroninger is also the author/illustrator of three award-winning children's books.

"In 2015 we celebrate many Hirschfeld milestones: 100 years since Hirschfeld saw his first Broadway show, 90 years since his first published caricature, 70 years since he first hid the name of his daughter Nina in one of his drawings (launching a national obsession of Nina-hunters), and 40 years since he received his first of two lifetime achievement Tony Awards," says Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, President, The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. "Al Hirschfeld glorified the artistic genius of those who created cinema and theatre. His drawings continue to mesmerize us with their fluidity, composition and cinematic style. We're thrilled that Hirschfeld's work continues to inspire people and that people have the opportunity to experience his work in this beautiful new book and exhibition."

The Art Students League of New York is one of America's premier art schools. It was founded in 1875 by artists, for artists, to provide affordable studio-based art education of the highest quality. Great artists have trained, taught and exhibited at the League throughout its rich history. Classes, lectures, workshops, exhibitions and professional development programs including Model to Monument and artists residencies continue the League's legacy of supporting artists and students who intend to make art a profession, and cultivating a spirit of fraternity among art students.


The New-York Historical Society presents The Hirschfeld Century: The Art of Al Hirschfeld through October 12, 2015. Organized by Louise Kerz Hirschfeld and guest curated by David Leopold of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation, the exhibition is the most comprehensive to date, featuring more than 100 original drawings from the artist's early work for Hollywood studios to his last drawings for The New York Times. The exhibition features 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 are selections from the artist's sketchbooks, ephemera, and related videos. 40% of the pieces in the show have never been exhibited in America before.

Visitors to The Hirschfeld Century 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.

"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."

The New-York Historical Society, one of America's pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.


Alfred A. Knopf publishes The Hirschfeld Century: Portrait of an Artist and His Age, now available in bookstores around the country.For the first time, the artist's extraordinary eighty-two-year career is revealed in more than 360 of his iconic black-and-white and color drawings, illustrations, and photog. Hirschfeld's influences, his techniques, and his evolution from his earliest works to his last drawings, are all chronicled. A sumptuous illustrated and ambitious book, The Hirschfeld Century gives us a portrait of an artist and his age in both text and images. Nearly 50% of the art in the book will be new to even the hardiest of Hirschfeld book collectors.

The biographical text is by David Leopold, who, as archivist to the artist, worked side by side with him and has spent more than twenty years documenting the artist's extraordinary output. Leopold chronicles Hirschfeld's early career that had a quick start at age 17 in the publicity department at Goldwyn Pictures. He was quickly promoted where he rose from errand boy to artist before moving to Universal Pictures, and landing a job as art director at Selznick Pictures in New York by the age of 18. Hirschfeld's early doodles on the backs of theater programs in 1926 led to his work for the drama editors of the New York Herald Tribune (an association that lasted twenty years) before he received a telegram from The New York Times, in 1928, asking for a two-column drawing of Sir Harry Lauder, the Scottish vaudeville sensation. This historic assignment began the famous collaboration with The New York Timesthat lasted seventy-five years.

The Hirschfeld Century features some of the artist's most famous works as well as rarely-seen portraits of legendary entertainers Ethel Merman, Benny Goodman, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Katharine Hepburn, the Marx Brothers, Barbra Streisand, Elia Kazan, Mick Jagger, Ella Fitzgerald, Laurence Olivier, and Martha Graham; legendary Broadway productions and films including Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, Rent, Guys and Dolls, The Wizard of Oz (Hirschfeld drew five posters for the original release), Phantom of the Opera, and "Seinfeld"; as well as his brilliant portraits of writers and politicians, among them Ernest Hemingway (a pal from 1920s Paris), Tom Wolfe, Charles de Gaulle, and every president from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Bill Clinton.


Al Hirschfeld's drawings stand as one of the most innovative efforts in establishing the visual language of modern art through caricature in the 20th century. A self described "characterist," his signature work, defined by a linear calligraphic style, appeared in virtually every major publication of the last nine decades (including a 75 year relationship with The New York Times) as well as numerous book and record covers and 15 postage stamps. Hirschfeld said his contribution was to take the character, created by the playwright and portrayed by the actor, and reinvent it for the reader. Playwright Terrence McNally wrote: "No one 'writes' more accurately of the performing arts than Al Hirschfeld. He accomplishes on a blank page with his pen and ink in a few strokes what many of us need a lifetime of words to say."

In 1945, Hirschfeld celebrated the birth of his daughter Nina by placing her name in the background of an illustration for the play Are You With It? What the artists described as an innocent prank soon became a personal trademark and national obsession, as he began hiding numerous NINA's throughout his drawings for years to come.

He is represented in many public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Portrait Gallery, and Harvard's Theater Collection. Hirschfeld authored several books including Manhattan Oases and Show Business is No Business in addition to 10 collections of his work. The Library of Congress declared him a Living Landmark by the New York City Landmarks Commission in 1996 and a Living Legend in 2000. Just before his death in January 2003, he learned he was to be awarded the Medal of Arts from the National Endowment of the Arts and inducted into the Academy of Arts and Letters. The winner of two Tony Awards, he was given the ultimate Broadway accolade on what would have been his 100th birthday in June 2003. The Martin Beck Theater was renamed the Al Hirschfeld Theater.


The mission of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation is to promote interest in the theater and dramatic arts by supporting not-for-profit museums, libraries, theaters and similar cultural institutions. The Foundation fulfills its mission by making grants to such organizations, by mounting exhibitions of Al Hirschfeld's artworks at museums and other venues and by donating or lending Al Hirschfeld's artworks to such organizations. A board of directors led by Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, President, manages the Foundation. The Foundation maintains an extensive collection of Hirschfeld artworks and lends pieces to institutions all over the world. Papers from the first half-century of Hirschfeld's career are held by the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The Harvard Theatre Collection holds the largest public collection of Hirschfeld art and ephemera. There are also significant holdings at the Library of Congress, the National Portrait Gallery, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Pictured: Self Portrait, 1985, Featured in the Hirschfeld Century exhibition and book.

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