Those who know me – or at least know of my work – can easily surmise that I love and revere the work of Al Hirschfeld and his significant thumbprint on the consciousness of eight decades of the arts, politics, and pop culture. I recently had the pleasure of touring this exhibit with David Leopold, exhibit curator and Hirschfeld archivist. It was such a lovely two hour chat about my favorite artist with the fellow who worked directly with Mr. Hirschfeld during the last 13 years of his life. At David's suggestion, I've chosen my ten favorite things about the exhibit:
1. Whoopi Goldberg video. A charming glimpse into what it meant for a Hirschfeld fan to get Hirschfelded... and the reason her first Hirschfeld has 40 Ninas.
2. "The First Nighters" mural sketch. This enormous multi-paneled piece shows the usual suspects of Broadway opening nights of the 1950s, as created to be installed as a mural at the Hotel Manhattan. Such a fascinating original ink sketch with hand drawn legend.
3. New York Times first and last. David pointed out that if you stand in a certain spot in the exhibit, you can see the very first drawing Al drew that was published in the New York Times (Sir Harry Lauder, 1928) and his last (Tommy Tune, 2002).
4. Fifty years of Best Plays. The Best Plays series of annual volumes were the way many folks around the country immersed themselves in Hirschfeld's work. This exhibit features a fantastic display case containing a significant number of these fine books.
5. Sweet Bye and Bye. Al Hirschfeld helped to write a Broadway musical. Really? Yes. There's a significant amount of material here about Sweet Bye and Bye upon which Al collaborated with S.J. Perelman, Vernon Duke, and Ogden Nash in 1946.
6. Sketchbook for The Lively Years. At this library, Hirschfeld scribbled doodles and notes in this notebook as he researched his contribution to the collaboration with Brooks Atkinson, The Lively Years. It's so interesting to see this fellow's pencil sketches.
7. Fan letters. There is a modest selection of some charming correspondence between Al and his fans, including dialog with a young lady who respectfully calls him out for numbering too few Ninas in a particular sketch.
8. The Rhythm series. There are four lithos of pieces from Hirschfeld's Rhythm series, showing dancers in various dances such as the Cakewalk and Charleston. Simple, colorful, and vibrant. Color lithos.
9. The Pulitzer series. You can see quite a number of pieces from Al's series featuring Pulitzer prize winning playwrights such as Tennessee Williams, Eugene O' Neill, and Arthur Miller. Each playwright is drawn superimposed over a page from the Playbill, and then a scene from their acclaimed play is also illustrated. Fantastic original ink drawings!
10. A desk and a chair. At number ten, I could name any number of items, but I may be cheating a bit when I name Mr. Hirschfeld's desk and barber chair. You see, these items remain on display in the library lobby year 'round, but they take on even more gravity as an extension of this fantastic exhibit.
The Line King's Library: Al Hirschfeld at the New York Public Library continues only until January 4, 2014. If you're in NYC between now and then, do yourself a favor and drop in. You'll be so glad you did.