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Al Hirschfeld
January 20, 2003 12:29 PM   Subscribe

Al Hirschfeld passed away today at 99. He was probably one of, if not the, most famous caricaturists in history, drawing an enormous range of stars, from Chaplin and Bergen to Seinfeld and Benny. The Line King was a '96 documentary about his work and the stars he drew in an 70+ year career as an illustrator. Very sad to think that the popular pasttime of counting the Ninas in the drawings has ended.
posted by PeteyStock (13 comments total)

 
How much fun it was, in that long-ago summer between high school and
college, when I was a page in the State Library of Pennsylvania, and we
discovered that all the "Plays of the Year" anthologies were full of his
drawings, with Ninas demanding to be found. (Instead of us doing actual
work.) 99 years is a good run for someone who really was a true giant of the
theater despite the fact that (as far as I know) he never appeared on the stage.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:42 PM on January 20, 2003


I know Hirschfeld and S.J. Perelman tried to write a play together in the forties, and while that didn't work out, they did end up writing "Westward Ha!" together, arguably one of the best humor books ever written.
posted by zedzebedia at 1:00 PM on January 20, 2003


Wow. What an amazing talent. He drew everyone, too--all with equal humor and the same keen eye. I think my first exposure to Hirschfeld was this piece circa 1977. Now I'll never become famous and know without question I've become famous, by having Hirschfeld sketch my caricature. Hirschfeld drawing your face was the equivalent of "When you get your picture on the cover of the Rollin' Stone."
posted by Shane at 1:12 PM on January 20, 2003


all the "Plays of the Year" anthologies were full of his
drawings, with Ninas demanding to be found.


Wow, what a nice job experience, finding Ninas. Nina, was his daughter?
posted by thomcatspike at 1:16 PM on January 20, 2003


my parents had a hirschfeld book when i was a kid, and i used to pore over it for hours, looking for a nina that might previously have escaped me.
posted by dolface at 1:19 PM on January 20, 2003


thomcatspike, yeah, Nina was his daughter, and the first "Ninas" were to celebrate her birth. But by the time she was a teenager she was sick to death of hearing from every single person she met, "Oh, so you're the Nina." So Hirschfeld stopped doing it, more than once, but each time, he says, he got floods of angry letters and started 'em up again just to stem the tide.
posted by soyjoy at 1:58 PM on January 20, 2003


Actually, the Nina thing (how she got sick of being "the" Nina) has a parallel with the man's work as well - it just occurred to me as I was trying to explain to a coworker who Hirschfeld was and said, "you know - with the Ninas?" Oh yeah, sure.

So unfortunately he'll be remembered by most as the "Nina" cartoonist, instead of as the man who re-invented the art of caricature for the 20th century, the man who almost single-handedly created the art form of theatrical illustration, and an all-around consummate artist.
posted by soyjoy at 2:22 PM on January 20, 2003


the man who almost single-handedly created the art form of theatrical illustration, and an all-around consummate artist.

soyjoy, when I think of Mr. Al Hirschfeld, first thought to my mind are the Ninas, yet your words above are what I truly appreciated, the man.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:40 PM on January 20, 2003


So where can we see one of these Ninas?
posted by jodic at 2:47 PM on January 20, 2003


http://www.alhirschfeld.com/artwork/index.html
posted by scottymac at 3:28 PM on January 20, 2003


They're in almost all his drawings, but if you go here, and scroll down a little, some have been marked out in red on the drawing to make them easy to spot.
posted by GaelFC at 3:32 PM on January 20, 2003


In Disney's "Fantasia 2000" there's a segment with animations based on Mr. Hirschfeld's style and George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" as the score.

There's a few moments of an animated Gershwin (based on Hirschfeild's famous drawing) playing piano through a window. Plus, there are Ninas...if you're into that sort of thing.

If you watch the DVD with the commentary feature on, you can hear a conversation about the piece between the filmmakers and Al himself.
posted by agentfresh at 8:18 PM on January 20, 2003


unfortunately he'll be remembered by most as the "Nina" cartoonist

That's true, he was much more than a one-trick (artist) pony. But it is remarkable how many different curves, angles, lines, he could turn those four letters into.

Lucky for him his daughter wasn't named, say, thomcatspike.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:52 PM on January 20, 2003


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