Al Hirschfeld (1903-2003), the most renowned caricaturist of the 20th century, used lines like no other artist to reflect on popular culture for numerous publications (most indelibly for The New York Times).
The exhibition, "The Hirschfeld Century: The Art of Al Hirschfeld," at the New York Historical Society (through October 12, 2015), outlines Hirschfeld's nine decades of creation, with wall-to-wall caricatures of Hollywood and Broadway stars.
Pictured: Barbra Streisand in the 1967 CBS TV special, "The Belle of 14th Street."
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan
The Line King
Al Hirschfeld at his drawing table in 1999, sitting in his favored barber chair.
Laurel & Hardy
A 1928 watercolor and pen & ink collage, featuring wallpaper samples, of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
"The Gay Divorce"
Fred Astaire and Claire Luce in the 1932 Broadway production of "The Gay Divorce."
The Marx Brothers
A collage (pen and ink with cotton, tin foil, Brillo pad, and sheet music) of The Marx Brothers in "A Night at the Opera" (1935).
"I found myself drawing more and more in line and less and less in color," Hirschfeld told CBS' "Sunday Morning" in 1998. "I developed an affinity for line that hasn't left me."
"It's like poetry where the writer finds just the right words to summon up a whole lot of things, and that's what Hirschfeld was about - he wanted every line to count," said David Leopold, curator of the exhibition, "The Hirschfeld Century: The Art of Al Hirschfeld," at the New York Historical Society.
"Hirschfeld really wasn't the best at what he did; he was the only one who did what he did."
Pictured: Ella Fitzgerald, 1993. Ink on board. Melvin R. Seiden Collection of Drawings by Al Hirschfeld, Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.
In addition to his signature style, Hirschfeld gained renown for slipping his daughter Nina's name subtly his drawings. Whoopi Goldberg's hair, for example, is made up of Ninas.
According to curator David Leopold, Hirschfeld worked Nina's name into his drawings to the end of his life. "He tried to stop several times, but people would not let him. So he started putting a number next to his name when there was more than one Nina. ... Sometimes he had to look for the Ninas just like everyone else when the drawing was done, and he knew that if he got [the number] wrong, people would write in and be irate."
Charlie Chaplin (July 26, 1942).
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1944).
The Nat King Cole Trio (1946).
Danny Kaye at the Palace (January 25, 1953).
Mary Martin, with Cyril Ritchard, Richard Wyatt and Don Lurio, In "Peter Pan" (1954).
Liberace by Al Hirschfeld for Collier's Magazine, May 14, 1954.
Gwen Verdon, Ray Walston and Stephen Douglass in "Damn Yankees" (1955).
"The Defiant Ones"
"The Defiant Ones," starring Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier (1958).
"The Sound of Music"
"The Sound of Music," featuring Theodore Bikel, Patricia Neway, Mary Martin, Kurt Kasznar and seven Von Trapp Children (1959).
Elvis Presley, as published in The New York Times December 1, 1968.
Ringo Starr in the 1969 comedy, "The Magic Christian."
"The Owl and the Pussycat"
Barbra Streisand and George Segal in "The Owl and the Pussycat" (1970).
"Play It Again, Sam"
Woody Allen with Diane Keaton and Jerry Lacy in "Play It Again, Sam" (1972).
"The Prisoner of Second Avenue"
Neil Simon's "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" with Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft (1975).
"Man of La Mancha"
Richard Kiley in the 1977 revival of "Man of La Mancha."
James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones as Paul Robeson (1978).
John Lithgow, in the 1988 Broadway production of "M. Butterfly."
Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Metamorphosis" (1989).
An Al Hirschfeld drawing of David Letterman for Rolling Stone (1993).
Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead (August 23, 1995).
By the time Hirschfeld died in 2003, his thousands of images has earned him the nickname "The Line King." But as he had explained to "Sunday Morning," the power of those simple lines was a mystery, even to him:
"I've been trying to find out across all these years, what makes it communicate to the viewer, and I don't know any more about it than when I started," he said. "Suddenly some kind of magic takes place, some kind of alchemy, and the drawing appears. And when it works, the drawing begins to look more like the person than the person really looks like."
A gouache painting of Jerry Seinfeld for a March 1998 TV Guide cover.
Tommy Tune in white tie and tails (2002).
Pictured: Al Hirschfeld in his studio, November 2002.
For more info:
"The Hirschfeld Century: The Art of Al Hirschfeld" at the New York Historical Society (through October 12, 2015)
"The Hirschfeld Century: Portrait of an Artist and His Age" by David Leopold (Knopf); Also available in eBook format