Hirschfeld in Action

October 22nd, 2006 | Posted in General

Links to this have been floating around the internet for a while, but I thought it worth another here.

This is a brief (7 plus minute) video showing a 99 year old Al Hirschfeld drawing and inking a caricature of Paul Newman from the Broadway play “Our Town”. Hirschfeld literally worked right up to the time of his death just a few months after this video was shot.

I think it’s fascinating watching his scratchy and short-stroked drawing and inking style. For something that ends up reproducing so elegant and with such distinct and clean-looking lines, it’s beginnings and execution are remarkably messy feeling. Considering the fact that he was 99 when he did this drawing, it is nothing short of remarkable.

This was shot by his grandaughter, and it’s unclear and dark at times. Too bad we never get to see more than an arm of the famous barber chair he used as his studio chair for decades, nor more of his working area. Still, seeing him at work is a treat.


  1. Wow! I hadn’t seen this before now; and I love Hirschfeld’s work. I learnt a lot from just studying his styles – though I had no idea his lines we so slowly scratched out – they always appeared to be so slick and confident.
    Fascinating to see how he barely uses his wrist until the very end – everything else up until then is through the shoulder or the elbow. Also fascinating was that at 99 he wasn’t wearing any glasses!
    Great to watch – thanks for posting it, Tom.

  2. Lar says:

    Hi Tom,

    That vid is taken from the DVD of the Line King and doesn’t appear on the video copy of the documentary. In the film though, you do get to see his studio pretty well – crammed with books and such 🙂

    Lordy I’d love a barber’s chair to work from.


  3. medholm says:

    Tom, this video is absolutely incredible! Where did you find it? At UTube? I don’t get there much at all. Did you get to see Al work? -ME

  4. Tom says:

    No, I never got to actually watch him work. I did meet him once, and got to interview him for about 20 minutes for the NCN publication “Exaggerated Features”… a perk of being NCN president which I was at the time. I’ll blog about that someday… perhaps either on his birthday or the anniversary of his death.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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