…For half a century now, Al Hirschfeld has been turning out these uncanny wonders, joyous masterpieces of theatrical caricature, in a drab attic studio, his stubby body perched in an old barber chair he bought 35 years ago in the Bowery, arching over a drawing board cross-hatched with a zillion Exacto grooves.
It’s been a hectic time for Hirschfeld –five shows open soon, plus the new TV season, which means a dozen deadlines in ten days for the The New York Times and TV Guide, his main outlets.
He just back from Baltimore, where he saw a preview of Jean Kerr’s new play and, a sketch pad in his lap, feverishly drew a rough draft of the stars, working in the spillover light from the stage. He rips a page off a thick pad on which he’s scribbled primitive versions of Gilda Radner and Sam Waterson in pencil.
…His ambition, still, is to reveal the most personality in the fewest strokes. “The anatomy isn’t interesting to me. I try to stay away from eye-ear-nose-and-throat likenesses. A big nose, you make it bigger –but that’s witless. What I try for is how he seems.”
…’I’m still involved with the mystery of line and what it can do. I’ve found no formulas; it’s difficult not fall back on what you did before. All I know is to keep paring it down, eliminating, until it’s pure line that communicates.
For the TV Hall of Fame he draws portraits of Jacques Cousteau, Leonard Goldenson, Jim Henson, Eric Sevareid, and Ernie Kovacs.
His cast drawing of The Phantom of the Opera that appears the Sunday before the the musical onpens on Broadway is published later that year as a limited edition lithograph.
On the occassion of Irving Berlin's centennial, Hirschfeld paints a portrait of the songwriter at the piano against an American flag for Stereo Review. For the Times, he draws Berlin at work at his piano in the 1920s.
Although the show is one of the costliest failures of its time, Carrie is immortalized by a Hirschfeld drawing.
The Times Op-Ed page features a drawing of Jesse Jackson, Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen at the Democratic National Convention.
Having drawn the original production of Waiting for Godot in 1956, Hirschfeld draws the revivial with Steve Martin and Bill Irwin. It is later published as a limited edition lithograph.