Wednesday, November 30, 2011

wacky tacky Icons: Al Hirschfeld

Al Hirschfeld
June 21, 1903 - January 20, 2003

When I was young I wanted to be rich and famous.  Rich because, well, who doesn't want a few extra scheckels to rub together?  Famous because I wanted my portrait done by Al Hirschfeld.  I really thought, and continue to think, that being immortalized by "The Line King" is the height of celebrity.  With a few deft strokes of his pen or brush, Hirschfeld was able to fully capture not only the stars' looks, but their personalities, their mannerisms, their foibles, and their charms.

Marilyn Monroe

Groucho Marx

Lucille Ball & Robert Preston from Mame

Bing Crosby

Betty Hutton

Carol Channing

Diane Keaton & Woody Allen from Annie Hall

Lena Horne

Bob Hope

"Apollo Chorine"

Rex Harrison & Julie Andrews from My Fair Lady

Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly

Sammy Davis, Jr.

Yul Brynner as the King of Siam

The Beatles

Born in St. Louis, Hirschfeld did all of the things that a budding artist in the 1920's should do including the obligatory stint in Paris.   Back in the U.S., he found work as a cartoonist for The New York Times and quickly made a name for himself as America's premier caricaturist.  Because his career spanned eight decades and included political figures, society luminaries, and stars of music, stage, and screen, his work came to define the medium in the 20th Century. His style was so unique and spare that a Hirschfeld caricature is identifiable at first sight.  The quality and impact of his artistry are astounding; with a minimum of line and shape he created master works.  His influence was so profound that many modern cartoonists, illustrators, caricaturists, and animators cite his work as inspiration for their own work.  In fact, the "Rhapsody in Blue" animated sequence from Walt Disney's Fantasia 2000 is an homage to the genius of Al Hirschfeld.

"Rhapsody in Blue"
Fantasia 2000

As the great Line King has moved on to his great reward, it seems highly improbable that I will have my portrait made any time soon.  In his absence I do feel a modicum of relief, only because if the day had ever come when the master caricaturist and illustrator did find me a worthy subject, the internal conflict would be huge; with the thrill of achievement would come the overwhelming, petrifying terror.  On which of my many "flaws" would Hirschfeld choose to focus - exaggerate even - to create my caricature?  Would it be my big ears?  My crooked teeth?  My chubby cheeks?  My funny nose? My oversized form? All of the above?  Even still, I would risk it.  In reviewing his work, I can't imagine that any of the stars could feel anything but flattered. 

The Line King , himself

At this point in my life, I am satisfied being neither rich nor famous.  In fact, I'm quite content with my magic combination of poverty and anonymity, but what I wouldn't give to have Al Hirschfeld draw my picture.


Mr. Tiny


  1. I totally recognize his work but never knew about him! I had fun guessing who each portrait was as I was scrolling down. Well done my friend!

  2. We are working on an app that will allow you to draw yourself like Hirschfeld. To learn more and see more of Al Hirschfeld's work, you can visit

  3. These are incredible! What a great post! xox