The Sheldon Art Galleries in St. Louis announces a major retrospective exhibition of the work of St. Louis-born artist Al Hirschfeld to open as part of The Sheldon's 100th anniversary celebration. Accompanying program: In Conversation: David Leopold and Louise Hirschfeld, today, September 8, 10:30 a.m., admission free. David Leopold, Archivist, Al Hirschfeld Foundation, and curator of the exhibition Al Hirschfeld's Jazz and Broadway Scrapbook will share stories and with Al Hirschfeld's wife and historian Louise Hirschfeld, illuminating the life and career of the illustrious artist. The exhibition is made possible by Mary Strauss and Terry Schnuck.
Al Hirschfeld's Jazz and Broadway Scrapbook, the first major retrospective of the artist to be mounted in his hometown, will feature more than 100 original drawings, paintings, prints, collages, posters and ephemera from his long and important career, and reveals a heretofore unexplored, lifelong fascination with jazz. In addition to his artwork, the installation will feature his specially-made stereo system, his extensive jazz record collection, and African drums and Balinese shadow puppets from his home.
Born in 1903, Hirschfeld attended Clark Public School in St. Louis. His art teacher encouraged the family to move to New York in 1914 and there Hirschfeld honed his skills as an artist. Hirschfeld rose
quickly to become the court portrait artist for the theatre and film worlds, including 75 years attending Broadway plays and drawing performers for The New York Times and many other publications. Hirschfeld received two lifetime achievement Tony Awards, and had a Broadway theater named in his honor on what would have been his 100th birthday in 2003. A 1996 documentary about Al Hirschfeld, The Line King, was nominated for an Academy Award.
"St. Louis is where Al was born and first contracted what he called, a 'sickness for drawing'," says Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, the artist's widow and president of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation. "We are so delighted that he is returning, in style, to his hometown."
Hirschfeld's name is synonymous with Broadway theatre. His signature work, defined by a linear calligraphic style, is serious graphic composition, informed by a distinctly modern aesthetic, and leavened by wit. Bringing a new set of visual conventions to the task of performance portraiture when he made his debut in 1926 at the height of the Jazz Age, Hirschfeld enriched and intensified the viewing experience, communicating volumes in a single stroke. The greatest stars of screen and stage clamored to be captured by the "Line King." The list of personalities that he has rendered is a veritable Who's Who of Broadway theatre, Hollywood films, and jazz music: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Josephine Baker, Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison, Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Liam Neeson and Martin Scorsese are all rendered in Hirschfeld's distinctively bold, curvy line drawings.
However, Mrs. Hirschfeld notes, "Al knew that great performances don't just happen on New York stages. He understood and appreciated the vibrant regional theaters, concert halls and dance companies that make for a rich tapestry of the performing arts in America."