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A Final Hirschfeld Goodbye

The image above is one of my most prized possessions… a caricature of me by the great Al Hirschfeld. There was no intriguing or unique story behind how I got that piece of art. Not like the story behind my original Mort Drucker. I simply commissioned him to do it. As legendary as Hirschfeld was, he was still available to do personal commissions. Expensive, but a genuine treasure.

Hirschfeld died in 2003 just 5 months shy of his 100th birthday. Almost 8 years after his passing, this month the last chapter in his amazing career is finally coming to a close. His widow, Louise Hirschfeld Cullman, has remarried and is selling the townhome on East 95th Street containing the artist’s studio which has remained untouched since his death. Thus, the space in which Hirschfeld created many thousands of his well known illustrations is being cleared out… the official end of an era and the legacy of a great illustrator.

Hirschfeld’s famous barber’s chair and well worn oak drawing table will be on permanent display at the The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts’ Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center. Actually, although this barber’s chair was a vintage one, it was not the original barber’s chair Hirschfeld sat in for decades. That one was worn away to nothing and all that’s left is the base which on display at the gallery of Margo Feiden, who has represented Hirschfeld since 1969. This chair was given to him in 1993 to replace that one. Still a piece of caricature history, though.

I was lucky enough to meet and interview Mr. Hirschfeld when I served as president of the National Caricaturist Network (now the ISCA) in 1999. He was a great inspiration to me, and I will be visiting his barber’s chair and drawing board someday soon.

3 Responses to “A Final Hirschfeld Goodbye”

  1. David Paccia says:

    Wow, this is amazing Tom!

  2. It may seem like the end, but really it is just the start of a new chapter. Now everyone can see where all of Hirschfeld’s work was created, and every other week (much like his publishing schedule with the NY Times) there will be new pieces on the drawing board.

    The Hirschfeld Foundation was also the motivating force behind the new exhibition, DRAWN TO LIFE: Al Hirschfeld and the Theater of Tennessee Williams at the Historic New Orleans Collection. I curated it, so I am biased, but it is a wonderful, fresh retrospective on Williams career and shows a half century of Al’s work. There’s a beautiful new book on the subject that is currently only available here http://hnoc.tamretail.net/SelectSKU.aspx?skuid=1006937

    This month the Foundation will do the full launch of its website AlHirschfeldFoundation.org where already you can look nearly 10,000 works. There are already 2,500 images up and more are being added all the time.

    Next month, a new exhibition titled Hirschfeld’s Broadway Scrapbook will open, in of all places, the NY Botanical Garden to coincide with their Orchid Show whose theme this year is Broadway.

    We’ve got two new exhibitions next year in new York and in St. Louis and a new book on jazz, so there’s more opportunity to see Hirschfeld’s work than ever before, or at least in the last eight years since his passing.


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