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Biographies>>Margo Feiden

 

Mrs. Al Hirschfeld, his daughter, Nina, Margo Feiden, and the entire Gallery Family, want to say Thank You to those who have expressed sympathy at the passing of Mr. Hirschfeld, and to those who have paid such great homage to his work.


 
 
The End by Al Hirschfeld available from The Official Website for Al Hirschfeld
 

Dear Clients & Visitors to our Gallery:
 
On Friday, January 17, 2003, Al Hirschfeld signed his final edition of lithographs. It was this Charlie Chaplin, shown walking away, inspired by the close of many Chaplin silent films in which Chaplin strode away from the viewer. Its title:

"The End."



 
 

Al Hirschfeld & Margo Feiden at Al Hirschfeld's Studio - The Official Website for Al Hirschfeld
Al Hirschfeld and Margo Feiden
Al Hirschfeld is photographed in the midst
of signing his Edition of
The 100th Anniversary of Carnegie Hall.

Original Crow’s Quill Pen & Ink Drawing on
Artists’ Board
and Limited-Edition Lithograph.



Some Brief Biographical Notes Lovingly Set Forth
By Margo Feiden

Al Hirschfeld was born in St. Louis on the first day of summer, 1903. When he was eleven years old, an art teacher informed his mother, “There is nothing more we can teach him in St. Louis.” The family moved forthwith to New York. Soon he was enrolled at the Art Student's League. Hirschfeld has never had to convince anyone that he's a genius; it has always been apparent.

By the ripe old age of 17, while his contemporaries were learning how to sharpen pencils, Hirschfeld became an art director at Selznick Pictures. He held the position for about four years, and then in 1924 Hirschfeld moved to Paris to work and lead the Bohemian life. Hirschfeld also grew a beard, necessitated by the exigencies of living in a cold-water flat. This he retained—the beard, not the flat—for the next 75 years, presumably because you never know when your oil burner will go on the fritz.

In 1943 Hirschfeld married one of Europe's most famous actresses, the late Dolly Haas. They were married for more than 50 years—in addition, they produced Nina. Nina is their daughter, and Hirschfeld engaged in the “harmless insanity,” as he called it, of hiding her name at least once in each of his drawings. The number of NINAs concealed is shown by an Arabic numeral to the right of his signature. Generally, if no number is to be found, either NINA appears once or the drawing was executed before she was born. The NINA-counting mania was well illuminated when, in 1973, an NYU student kept coming back to my Gallery to stare at the same drawing each day for more than a week. The drawing was Hirschfeld's whimsical portrayal of New York's Central Park. When curiosity finally got the best of me, I asked, “What is so riveting about that one drawing that keeps you here for hours, day after day?” She answered that she had found only 11 of 39 NINAs and would not give up until all were located. I replied that the ’39 next to the signature was the year. Nina was born in 1945. (Almost all of Hirschfeld's lithographs and etchings have NINAs hidden in them, but Hirschfeld makes the pursuit that much more difficult by omitting the number next to his signature.)

It's interesting, I think, that although Hirschfeld was initially attracted to sculpture and painting, this gave way to his passion for pure line. “Sculpture,” he once told me, “is a drawing you trip over in the dark.”


I believe that Hirschfeld's devotion to line comes from yet a more fundamental aesthetic—his respect for absolute simplicity. One day soon after we first met, I asked: “Sometimes you do a drawing inspired by a complex play with elaborate scenery, extravagant costumes, and a cast of thousands—yet the drawing is simple. Other times the play is simple with a straightforward set, and costumes that are street clothes—yet the drawing is complicated. Is it that when you have the time you do a complex drawing and when you're rushed you do a simple one ?”

Al Hirschfeld signature - at The Official Website for Al Hirschfeld
Signature from
"Summer Theater", 1941

“No,” he replied. “When I'm rushed I do a complicated drawing. When I have
the time, I do a simple one.”

In 1991 Al Hirschfeld became the first artist in history to have his name on a U.S. Postage Stamp Booklet when the United States Postal Service released the five stamps they commissioned Hirschfeld to design. The stamps portray Laurel & Hardy, Jack Benny, Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy, Abbott & Costello, and Fanny Brice. The stamps were issued in books of 20—four sets each of the five Hirschfeld designs.


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These Hirschfeld Postage Stamps were so successful that the United States Postal Service once again commissioned Hirschfeld to wield his pen on their behalf. In 1994, a new series of Hirschfeld Postage Stamps were issued, each portraying one of Hollywood's celebrated stars of the silent screen era. This series of commemorative Hirschfeld Stamps honors Rudolf Valentino, Clara Bow, Charlie Chaplin, John Gilbert, Lon Chaney, the Keystone Cops, Theda Bara, Zasu Pitts, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton.

In September of 1994 Hirschfeld’s beloved Dolly passed away. Eventually, in October of 1997, Al Hirschfeld married Louise Kerz—the widow of Broadway’s Leo Kerz. For both Al and Louise it was a magical union.

In 1996 the Oscar-nominated full-length documentary about Hirschfeld, The Line King, opened in movie theaters across the country. The documentary is truly stunning. Its director, Susan Dreyfoos, made extensive use of the Gallery’s collection of original drawings and prints, as well as the Gallery’s archives. It’s completion represented more than a decade of work. (If you want to know what I look like in motion, a conversation with me is included in this film.)

Marsha Mason and Richard Dreyfus at The Margo Feiden Galleries Ltd.
The Goodbye Girl (1977), starring Marsha Mason and Richard Dreyfus
This Hirschfeld poster announcing the Al Hirschfeld Exhibition at The Margo Feiden Galleries Ltd. is the major decoration in Marsha Mason’s apartment, which is the main set in the movie.

Hirschfeld’s last hardcover book, Hirschfeld On Line, was published in 1999. A complete list is available in the Books section of our Al Hirschfeld website. My Gallery also has Hirschfeld On Line available as a Numbered Limited Edition, Hand-Signed Leather-Bound Book with a glorious slipcase!

Hirschfeld’s drawings have appeared in The New York Times, of course, and also The New Yorker, Playbill, TV Guide, TV Guide Canada, Town & Country, Playboy, Mirabella, People Magazine, New Masses, Collier's, Life, Time, Look, The Washingtonian, The Los Angeles Times, Business Week, Rolling Stone, Reader's Digest, Print, See, Talk, and so many more newspapers, magazines, and periodicals that naming them all is like counting stars in the sky.


Al Hirschfeld's works have been exhibited at, or are in the collections of:
 
Brandywine Museum Brandywine Museum
The Brooklyn Museum The Brooklyn Museum
Fine Arts Center at Cheekwood Fine Arts Center at Cheekwood
The Fogg Museum, Harvard University The Fogg Museum, Harvard University
The Harvard Theater Collection The Harvard Theater Collection
Library Of Congress Library Of Congress
The Lincoln Centre Library The Lincoln Centre Library
The Metropolitan Museum The Metropolitan Museum
The Morgan Library The Morgan Library
The Museum of the City of New York The Museum of the City of New York
Museum of Modern Art Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Television and Radio, Los Angeles The Museum of Television and Radio, Los Angeles
The Museum of Television and Radio, New York The Museum of Television and Radio, New York
The National Portrait Gallery The National Portrait Gallery
St. Louis Art Museum St. Louis Art Museum
The Smithsonian Institution The Smithsonian Institution
The Whitney Museum of American Art The Whitney Museum of American Art

and many other museums and institutions in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Since 1969, Al Hirschfeld has been represented exclusively by the Margo Feiden Galleries Ltd., where more than 80 years of his drawings, paintings, etchings, and lithographs are for sale and on permanent Exhibition.

 


Hirschfeld ON LINE

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