Al Hirschfeld, the renowned caricaturist who chronicled Broadway shows and personalities with his one-of-a-kind line drawings for over 50 years, died today at age 99.
He was born on June 21, 1903 to Isaac and Rebecca Hirschfeld. He became interested in art at an early age and submitted his first theatrical drawings for publication in the 1920s. Over the years, his work appeared regularly in The New York Times and elsewhere.
Hirschfeld leaves behind thousands of original drawings and several books; he contributed art to Westward Ha! or Around the World in 80 Clichés and Swiss Family Perelman and wrote The American Theater as Seen by Hirschfeld and The World of Hirschfeld, among others. He was the subject of the 1996 documentary film The Line King, which was nominated for an Academy Award.
He was married three times: to Florence Ruth Hobby; to Dolly Haas Hirschfeld, his wife of 52 years, who died in 1994; and to Louise Kerz, whom he married in 1996 and who survives him. Hirschfeld is also survived by his daughter, Nina -- whose name appears hidden in most of his drawings -- and a grandson, Matthew.
Margo Feiden, whose galleries have represented the artist's work for more than 25 years, had this to say to TheaterMania about Hirschfeld: "He lived the most blessed life, and even in death was so fortunate not to have suffered for a single moment. He went to sleep and he died in his sleep, exactly as he would have wanted it. He leaves behind a legacy of greatness that few people rise to in their lifetime, especially visual artists; it's usually a long time after they're gone that we learn to appreciate them. But his talent, his genius was so clear that he was heralded during his lifetime as the greatest line artist who ever lived. I will miss him sorely; my day always began and ended with him."
A selection of Hirschfeld drawings may be viewed at www.alhirschfeld.com.