Published: August 1, 2000
A Hirschfeld Retrospective at the Michener Art Museum
DOYLESTOWN, PA. – “: An Al Hirschfeld Retrospective” will open September 30 at the James A. Michener Art Museum.
The exhibit is the first museum retrospective to document Al Hirschfeld’s life and career and, to a great extent, the history of the performing arts in the Twentieth Century and beyond. It examines his influences, his iconography and his techniques, from his earliest works to his most recent drawings.
Visitors have the opportunity to trace this unique artist’s evolution by viewing his own body of work, including original drawings and paintings, sketchbooks and ephemera, much of which has never been exhibited before. A legendary master of line, Hirschfeld has influenced virtually everyone working in black and white today, and his drawings have delighted audiences for decades.
The artist’s association with The New York Times has made his name a verb of recognition. To be “Hirschfelded” is a sign that one has arrived. This exhibition demonstrates that, intuitively, Hirschfeld assimilated the graphic sense of both his friends John Held and Miquel Covarrubias, the manipulation of perspective of Japanese print masters Hokusai and Utamaro, and transmuted the negative characteristics of the genre known as caricature in his thumbprint: a joyful, life affirming line.
Instead of relying on the outline or profile of his subjects – like many of his early contemporaries – Hirschfeld has employed a palette of graphic symbols to translate the action of the whole body into line drawings that have become the linqua franca of generations of actors and audiences.
Curator David Leopold, who was given carte blanche to examine a lifetime of work with the artist at his side, has assembled a retrospective that begins with a drawing made by Hirschfeld when he was 11 years old and ends wit his most recently published New York Time’s work.
Included are all facets of his lively talent: movie work for MGM films, drawings produced in Paris, North Africa, Bali and Russia in the late 1920s (which are seen for the first time); lithographs produced in 1930s; political work; the New York nightlife; the first Nina drawing and others, assembled in roughly chronological order.
David Leopold, Hirschfeld archivist, is a theater historian and exhibition curator. The exhibition was organized by the Katonah Museum of Art.
The James A. Michener Art Museum is at 138 South Pine Street. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday 10 am to 4:30 pm; Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 5 pm; and Wednesday evenings until 9 pm. For information, 215/340-9800.
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