Apr 10, 2023

Hirschfeld Drawings Featured in Heritage Auction April 25, 2023

10 works from theatre, film, and television

"marlene dietrich"

Ten Al Hirschfeld drawings are amongst the works featured in Heritage Auctions’ Illustration Art Signature® Auction on Tuesday, April 25. The sale includes more than 400 lots, including works by iconic artists, including 13 works by Gil Elvgren, who made his name creating highly recognizable pin-ups from the 1930s to the 1970s; three works by Charles Addams, creator of The Addams Family; and three intimate studies by Joseph Christian Leyendecker, one of the most celebrated illustrators of the 20th century. These lot and the others included in this event can be found at HA.com/8114.

Highlights from this auction will preview at Heritage’s Dallas headquarters from 10AM to 5PM on both Friday, April 21, and Monday, April 24. For more information, please click here.

Among the All Hirschfeld works featured in the auction:

•          Musical Comedy or Musical Serious? - In 1957, Hirschfeld captured in one pithy and elegant composition a phenomenon that was making its way onto the Broadway stage: the serious musical. The illustration was for a New York Times Magazine article written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, director, and producer George S. Kaufman that was subtitled "Musicals used to be boy and girl, song and dance, humor and happy ending. But now you can't see the chorus boys through your tears. Where will it all end?" Published six weeks after West Side Story’s Broadway debut, Kaufman poked fun at the rise of musicals that left out the comedy. This work by Hirschfeld is especially memorable in its role as the harbinger of a trend. The illustration depicts the industry schism taking place on Broadway stages by splitting the picture’s background and foreground into very different narratives: The stage in the back of the image hosts an exuberant Ziegfeld Follies-type song-and-dance number, while players in the foreground lead a chained victim to a guillotine and strangle a medical patient with a knotted rope. A lone, corked bottle of cocaine sits just out of reach. Business in the front; party in the back. The overall style is trademark Hirschfeld, with his elegant linework, lyrical treatment of the human form, and insider witticisms sprinkled throughout.

•          Strange Bedfellows illustrates the 1965 movie of the same name starring Gina Lollobrigida and Rock Hudson. Here, Lollobrigida poses as a naked Lady Godiva on her horse while Hudson takes a swing at a police officer. Hirschfeld wasn’t limited to stage production illustration; he was a veteran of movie studio publicity and art departments, having worked for Goldwyn, Universal, Pathé, Selznick, Fox, First National, and Warner Brothers. "I lived in the movies," he says of his early years, and it was in films that he discovered his gift of caricature. He would continue to draw films for studio publicity throughout his 82-year career.

•          Marlene Dietrich portrait,1967. Dietrich was a longtime close friend of Hirschfeld and his wife, though Dietrich (a veteran touring singer by then) didn’t make her Broadway debut, an eponymous musical production, until 1967. She had waited in part because she wanted her arranger Burt Bacharach to conduct her production’s orchestra. Outfitted in a $30,000 gown with bugle beads lined with 14-karat gold by Jean Louis of Hollywood, Dietrich performed for six weeks. The day before she opened, Hirschfeld's stunning drawing of the actress and singer, in her gown, appeared in The New York Times. The iconic image caught a world-weary Dietrich in a sultry pose.

*           Othello, 1955. William Marshall, who played the title role in this New York City Center production, was described by the theatre critic at the Sunday Times in London as "the best Othello of our time." Critic John Chapman in the New York Daily News considered Marshall a superior Othello to Paul Robeson, finding Marshall to "be a more gifted actor, with the intelligence of a stage craftsman." He played the role at least six times, as well as recording the role for Folkways in the 1960s and appearing in a made for TV adaptation in 1981. This is a classic Hirschfeld theatre drawing appeared at the top fold of the New York Times Drama section as a standalone feature on the most significant show opening that week.

*.         James Joyce and Mickey Spillane. 1955. Hirschfeld contributed drawings and covers to Collier's magazine since 1948. Yet it wasn't until the magazine hired noted novelist and short story writer John O'Hara to write a weekly column, that Hirschfeld found his niche at the magazine. "Appointment with O'Hara" featured three Hirschfeld drawings a week from February 1954 through September 1956. These vignette drawings provided a wide range of subjects, yet a small space in which to appear. For this spot art he worked on a much smaller board, typically cutting his regular 20 x 30 board into quarters.

*           Marco Millions. 1964. Marco Millions, Eugene O'Neill's satire on American business and greed, was one of the first productions of the Repertory Theatre at Lincoln Center, even before Lincoln Center was completed. Marco Millions played in tandem with Arthur Miller's then new play, After the Fall. Although Hirschfeld probably saw the original production of Marco Millions in 1928, he did not draw it. In the intervening years, the playwright and the artist became friends, often visiting clubs on 52nd Street to listen to music, particularly the stride piano of a young Errol Garner. Hirschfeld had a high opinion of this drawing and included it in his 1970 book, The World of Hirschfeld. Hirschfeld provided a strong sense of David Hayes' Tony nominated set, and the drawing echoes his works of the Grand Kabuki and the Japanese woodcuts which were so influential to his style.

*           Ron Ely as Tarzan. Hirschfeld drew more covers for TV Guide than any other artist beginning in the 1950s. In the 1960s, in addition to covers, Hirschfeld supplied dozens of drawings for the magazine's reviews of the latest television shows including Star Trek, The Fugitive, That Girl, Mission Impossible and many more. This was the only time, despite films, tv shows, animated films and a Broadway musical, that Hirschfeld the Edgar Rice Burroughs' iconic character Tarzan.

*.           The Stalking MoonWhile the film industry boomed in the 1950s and 60s, the era of the great illustrated poster was coming to an end. Agents and lawyers demanded more and more billing for their clients which increased the text and reduced the art of posters, ending up with logos for films, rather than illustrations. Nevertheless, publicity directors understood that Hirschfeld's drawings had an audience of their own and would interest editors inured to regular promotional material. His black and white work was a favorite of publications everywhere, and the added fun of searching for NINAs, only added to the interest. Hirschfeld made 18 drawings of Peck between 1943 and 1988, with all but one image being for film role. This was the last time Hirschfeld would draw Peck in a contemporary film role for the movie's publicity. This was the first film role that Hirschfeld drew Eva Marie Saint, having only drawn her in an advertisement for a musical adaptation of Our Town that was broadcast in 1955.

This month’s auction marks a continuation of Heritage’s relationship with The Al Hirschfeld Foundation, initiated last fall with an auction to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Foundation itself. Several of the ink-on-board drawings offered in this month’s auction come directly from the Al Hirschfeld Foundation and the selection includes some real gems by the beloved artist.

Hirschfeld's drawings stand as one of the most innovative efforts in establishing the visual language of modern art through caricature in the 20th century. A self-described "characterist," Hirschfeld's signature work, defined by a linear calligraphic style, appeared in virtually every major publication over nine decades (including a 75-year relationship with The New York Times), as well as numerous book and record covers and 15 postage stamps. Hirschfeld, a two-time Tony Award recipient, died in 2003 at the age of 99. Later that year, Broadway's Martin Beck Theatre was renamed the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.