Betty Compson, ca. 1923

Betty Compson's (1897- 1974) thirty-six year career as a performer began at age fifteen on the Vaudeville stage, where she was billed as the "Vagabond Violinist." By the early 1920's, she was on contract with Paramount and considered one of the era's top film stars. Compson and Al Hirschfeld probably crossed paths in the Hollywood studios where they both worked, at a time when, according to the artist, he was influenced by the "eye, ear, nose, and throat" drawings of Charles Dana Gibson.

Betty Compson, ca. 1923. Charcoal and watercolor on layered paper board. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (3) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Al Hirschfeld. LC-USZ62-127461

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Advertisement for Woman To Woman Magazine, ca. 1923

If Hirschfeld were at the start of his career today he might gravitate toward the Internet. But the emerging media of his youth was film. As Art Director of Selznick Pictures, he supplied a wide variety of artwork, including this colorful piece for the film Woman to Woman, for the small studio with the big advertising budget.

Advertisement for Woman To Woman Magazine, ca. 1923. Gouache and ink. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (4) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Al Hirschfeld. LC-USZ62-127462

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Caricature etching with studies of Charlie Chaplin, Patsy Kelly, Eddie Cantor, William. S. Hart, John Barrymore, and others, ca. 1926

Hirschfeld's first love has always been drawing, but early in his career he experimented with a number of graphic media. From 1925 to 1927 he flirted with etching, producing a number of plates, primarily of scenes from his trip to North Africa. In this practice plate, one of the earliest examples extant of his caricatures, he captured the images of performers he had already begun to draw for posters and advertisements.

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Fez (Six Men), ca. 1926

Hirschfeld has spent a lifetime studying people, not nature. It is no surprise then that a man who sees the Grand Canyon as a "diseased molar, dramatically lit," was fascinated by the people of Morocco while on a three-month trip to North Africa in 1926. This etching shows his developing attraction to personality as expressed through line.

Fez (Six Men), ca. 1926. Etching. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (6) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Al Hirschfeld. LC-USZ62-127547

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Fez Marketplace, ca. 1926

Fleeing the cold of his first Parisian winter, on a trip to North Africa in 1926, Hirschfeld was exposed to the bright light and dark shadows of the region, which would soon change his life. Characteristically, Hirschfeld was drawn to an urban streetscape teeming with people for this composition.

Fez Marketplace, ca. 1926. Etching. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (7) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Al Hirschfeld. LC-USZ62-127548

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Eric Dressler in Excess Baggage, 1928

In a series for New York Amusements, a free weekly publication listing current shows, Hirschfeld designed his drawings to feature a portrait of a performer alongside a scene from his or her current success. This line is influenced by the thin French line Hirschfeld discovered in Parisian illustrated magazines and in the work of noted American illustrator John Held, Jr., with whom he worked alongside at MGM's publicity department in the late 1920s.

Eric Dressler in Excess Baggage, 1928. Ink and ink wash on board. Published in New York Amusements, May 13, 1928. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (8) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Al Hirschfeld. LC-USZ62-124463

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Jane Cowl in The Road To Rome, 1928

At this stage of his career, Hirschfeld was more interested in design than in capturing the character of a performer. In this portrait of Jane Cowl the jagged line that Covarrubias frequently employed reveals the electricity of Cowl's performance. Cowl was a leading lady of the American theater in the 1920s and 1930s and she frequently starred in revivals of perhaps her greatest role, in Robert Sherwood's The Road to Rome.

Jane Cowl in The Road To Rome, 1928. Ink on layered paper board. Published in New York Amusements, June 11, 1928. Caroline and Erwin Swann Memorial Fund Purchase Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (20) LC-USZ62-127469

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Boris Youjanin, Director of "The Blue Blouse," 1928

Hirschfeld spent nearly six months in Russia in 1928. As an international correspondent to the New York Herald Tribune, he sent back reports of the theater and film companies he observed. Articles were illustrated with his drawings, frequently composite portraits of performers and their directors. Moscow's Blue Revue was a form of living newspaper, presenting a variety of acts based on current events. Performers were costumed so that part of the blue blouse--the uniform of the Russian worker--was always showing.

Boris Youjanin, Director of "The Blue Blouse," 1928. Ink and watercolor on paper. Caroline and Erwin Swann Memorial Fund Purchase. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (17) LC-USZ62-127550

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Self-Portrait, ca. 1970

Hirschfeld "Hirschfelds" himself, applying his signature style to a self-portrait, as he has done periodically throughout his career. With great confidence and grace he employs sweeping abstract lines to define the upper body, animated shorter strokes to delineate an expression of bemused serenity.

Self-Portrait, ca. 1970. Black ink over pencil on illustration board. Caroline and Erwin Swann Collection of Caricature and Cartoon. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (15) LC-USZ62-84068

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Art and Industry, ca. 1931

In a 1938 exhibition catalogue George Grosz wrote, "I'm particularly struck by the excellence of his compositions in the print called 'Art and Industry,' where the lines radiating from the focal point of interest are successfully integrated without creating the effect of arid stylization. Only a master draughtsman could have accomplished this."

Art and Industry, ca. 1931. Lithograph. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (9) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Al Hirschfeld. LC-USZ62-127549

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Bali, ca.1932

Hirschfeld has said his 1932 trip to Bali "was decisive in clarifying my belief in the magic of pure line. The influence of line and caricature practiced by the masters of Bali and Orientals has remained with me to this day. Since the day I left Bali heading for Paris and eventually the USA, I have never had the slightest interest in watercolor or oil paint. The problem of placing the right line in the right place has absorbed all of my interests across these many years . . . I am still enchanted when an unaccountable line describes and communicates the inexplicable."

Bali, ca.1932. Watercolor on paper and mounted on board. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Al Hirschfeld (23)

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John, 1932

In 1932, the year before Prohibition ended, Hirschfeld felt the need to record the place of speakeasies in history. Never a big drinker, he recalls, "I drank during Prohibition, but then it was a sign of patriotism." His resulting book, Manhattan Oases, a collection of thirty-six drawings of bartenders, featured a foreword by Heywood Broun and a witty "Gentlemen's Guide to Bars and Beverages" edited by friend and screenwriter Gordon Kahn.

John, 1932. Published in Al Hirschfeld, Manhattan Oases, E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., New York, 1932. General Collections (12)

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Nine Old Men of the Supreme Court, 1933

"In common with every other artist who rose above the rank of cretin," Hirschfeld says, "I, too, had a genuine lithograph stone in my studio to work on." He had studied at the County Council in London, and later in Paris, where he bought his own press. This print was so popular that when the original edition was sold out, Hirschfeld recreated the composition in a different format.

Nine Old Men of the Supreme Court, 1933. Lithograph. Published in Vanity Fair, November 1933. Collection of the Arthur Hershkowitz Family (19)

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Studies for Nine Old Men of the Supreme Court, ca. 1933

Al Hirschfeld employs sketchbooks to record the initial impressions that will define his finished work. In the sketchbook displayed, featuring sketches for a number of Broadway shows of the period, Hirschfeld made his preliminary studies for his second version of Nine Old Men of the Supreme Court.

Studies for Nine Old Men of the Supreme Court, ca. 1933. Sketchbook. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (21) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Al Hirschfeld

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The Woodin Nickel, 1933

Although a Republican, William H. Woodin supported Franklin Roosevelt for President and was made his secretary of the treasury in 1933. In this witty carving, the only known Hirschfeld work in this medium, the artist comments on Woodin's cabinet post, his role in the issuance of new money during the banking crisis of March 1933, and perhaps Woodin's hobby of numismatics.

The Woodin Nickel, 1933. Wood carving. Published in Americana, July 1933. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (22) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Al Hirschfeld

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The Woodin Nickel, 1933. Published in Americana, July 1933

In 1933, Hirschfeld edited the satiric magazine, Americana, with his friend and fellow artist Alexander King. Filled with drawings, photographs, and collages, many made by King, the publication was irreverent look at New York and the country. The editors assigned pages to artists to do whatever they wanted. If an artist did not submit a work for his page, the page was left blank.

The Woodin Nickel, 1933. Published in Americana, July 1933. Magazine illustration. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (25)

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Harlem family group, ca. 1941

In addition to the twenty-four lithographs in the book, Hirschfeld filled the pages of William Saroyan's foreword with pen-and-ink drawings of Harlem citizens, such as this family group. Harlem was a regular haunt for Hirschfeld, and he captures the neighborhood with great passion and affection.

Harlem family group, ca. 1941. Ink on layered paper board. Published in Al Hirschfeld, Harlem As Seen by Hirschfeld, The Hyperion Press, New York, 1941. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (10) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Al Hirschfeld. LC-USZ62-127464

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Jam Session, 1941

Harlem As Seen by Hirschfeld is a limited edition volume of 20 color lithographs of Harlem and four more of Bali, published in 1941. Like his previous book, Manhattan Oases (1932, Dutton), it presents a slice of New York life inspired by the Harlem Renaissance and personalized by the artist.

Jam Session, 1941. Published in Al Hirschfeld, Harlem As Seen by Hirschfeld, The Hyperion Press, New York, 1941. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (11)

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Admiral Chester Nimitz, ca. 1942-46

From 1942 to 1954 covers of the American Mercury magazine frequently featured colorful caricature portraits of newsmakers by Hirschfeld. These works do not have the political intent of his political work in the 1930s, but are engaging summations of the public personas of the subjects.

Admiral Chester Nimitz, ca. 1942-46. Gouache on board. Cover illustration for American Mercury. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (1) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Al Hirschfeld. LC-USZ62-127459

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Walter Lippman, ca. 1942-46

Walter Lippman was a highly respected columnist for the New York Herald Tribune, considered by many the most influential political commentator of the twentieth century. His opinions informed every president from Woodrow Wilson to Richard Nixon.

Walter Lippman, ca. 1942-46. Gouache on board. Cover illustration for American MercuryPrints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (2) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Al Hirschfeld. LC-USZ62-127461

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Till The Clouds Roll By, 1946

MGM gathered many of its greatest singers and dancers for this film biography of songwriter Jerome Kern. For the publicity campaign art, the studio turned to one of its other stars to create more than twenty caricature portraits of the performers. These drawings appeared on the film's posters, print advertisements, and soundtrack.

Till The Clouds Roll By, 1946. Offset lithograph poster. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (24) Copyright deposit. LC-USZ62-127470

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Billy Graham: A Visionaries Vision, 1970

Hirschfeld's work has been a staple of the "Drama," now "Arts and Leisure," section of the New York Times since his first appearance in those pages in January 1928. His work also frequently appeared in the newspaper's magazine section in the 1940s and 1950s, as well as the Book Review. During the 1970s, a number of his drawings appeared on the editorial pages of the paper including this portrait of Evangelist Billy Graham. Other op-ed portraits Hirschfeld drew at the time included Mao Tse-Tung, Spiro Agnew, and New York mayor John Lindsay.

Billy Graham: A Visionaries Vision, 1970. Ink on board. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (13) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Al Hirschfeld. LC-USZ62-127465

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Liza Minnelli in Minnelli On Minnelli, 1999

As the New York Times introduced color into its pages, it has frequently asked Hirschfeld to supply paintings rather than drawings. Although he has drawn Liza Minnelli nearly twenty times in the last thirty-five years, in this recent work he creates a timeless, riveting summation of her style, evoking the lively, colorful caricatures of jazz greats he created for Seventeen magazine in the 1940s.

Liza Minnelli in Minnelli On Minnelli, 1999. Lithographic reproduction. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (16) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Al Hirschfeld. LC-USZ62-127467

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Philip Bosco in Copenhagen Meets Claudia Shear in Dirty Blonde, 2000

Despite the diverse sources for his art, Hirschfeld will always be linked to Broadway, a street and a way of life he knows well. Although there are now not nearly as many shows on the Great White Way as there were in Hirschfeld's youth, his drawings continually evoke the excitement of a performance. Each year, on the Sunday of the annual Tony Awards, the New York Times always presents a summation of the season past and, almost always, this lead story is accompanied by a Hirschfeld drawing. Philip Bosco and Claudia Shear grace this colorful composite portrait celebrating two great recent stage performances.

Philip Bosco in Copenhagen Meets Claudia Shear in Dirty Blonde, 2000. Ink and gouache on board. Published in the . New York Times, June 4, 2000. Caroline and Erwin Swann Memorial Fund Purchase Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (18) LC-USZ62-127468

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