The latest digital exhibition from The Al Hirschfeld Foundation, curated by Creative Director David Leopold to coincide with the reopening of live theater, is Al Hirschfeld’s New Season. It presents a selection of works by the legendary caricaturist – or, as he preferred to call himself, “characterist” – capturing a history of the highly anticipated productions and stars he thought audiences should look for in any given year, in his signature calligraphic linear style.
Beginning in 1931, Hirschfeld was a frequent visitor to theatrical rehearsals. In his resulting drawings, he served as something of a vicarious “curtain raiser” – visually taking viewers backstage and behind the curtain to see what would be opening soon, gathering the actors, and creating unique compositions of the performers in their roles as the shows unfolded. He did the same with film, television, and books.
“Starting in 1977, the New York Times gave Al Hirschfeld the opportunity to bring all his interests together in busy composites of the personalities that held the most promise in the new season,” Leopold explained. “Ten times over twelve years, Hirschfeld produced the faces of the new season as the cover of special sections for the paper . . . These drawings alone told readers that a new season was about to start, and . . . made viewers as knowledgeable about what was going on as any expert.”
Among the iconic performing artists included in the exhibited drawings are Julie Andrews, Leonard Bernstein, Carol Burnett, Carol Channing, Whoopi Goldberg, Katherine Hepburn, Angela Lansbury, Patti LuPone, Maggie Smith, and more. The artworks are enriched with accompanying explanatory texts below the images. In addition, a special episode of The Hirschfeld Century Podcast will become available this month for streaming on the Foundation website, iTunes, and across other popular podcast platforms, to discuss and to elucidate the contents further.
The primary mission of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation is to promote interest in the theater and visual arts by supporting non-profit museums, libraries, theaters, and similar cultural institutions through grants and exhibitions of Hirschfeld’s art. The organization maintains an extensive collection of original works by Hirschfeld, pieces of which it lends and/or donates to institutions all over the world and presents to the public free of charge in its ongoing series of virtual exhibitions.
Al Hirschfeld’s New Season runs online through Monday, December 6, 2021. Viewing is free.