About this design
Born in St. Louis in 1903, the young Al Hirschfeld's talent for art was spotted early. His parents moved to New York where he was enrolled at the Art Student's League. At just 17 years old, Hirschfeld became an art director at Selznick Pictures. He held the position for about four years. A prodigious start to what would become an incredibly long standing career.
After his stint at Selznick Pictures Hirschfeld travelled to London and Paris studying art, in 1924. On his return to the States Richard Maney, broadway press agent and friend of Hirschfeld, brought Hirschfeld's work to the attention of an editor at the New York Herald Tribune. Commissions from both the Tribune and The New York Times followed thus starting Hirschfeld's long and illustrious career as what he described as not caricaturist but "character-ist".
Not content with simply exaggerating his subjects' features as is the convention with caricatures, Hirschfeld created beautiful refined images with the minimum number of lines while still capturing a keen likeness of his subjects. Many of his commissions from newspapers meant a significant proportion of his work was black line on white. Elegant and sparse yet very effective. His influence on fellow artists, illustrators and cartoonists is easy to see.
Hirschfeld's work was not confined to the black and white print of news papers. Many magazines commissioned colour pieces, including The New York Times Magazine,
Life Magazine, Rolling Stone, Look Magazine,Playbill, American Mercury, and Seventeen Magazine. He was equally at home with colour as he was in monochrome. His great body of work also includes many original film posters.
Such was his success and longevity -almost managing to work through eight decades- Hirschfeld was able to chronicle a vast array of major political and entertainment figures through the 20th century. He is famed for his depictions of the singers actors and dancers of broadway as well as film and TV stars. Musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger also got the Hirschfeld treatment.
It should also be mentioned that in 1991 Al Hirschfeld became the first artist in history to have his name on a U.S. Postage Stamp Booklet when the United States Postal Service released the five stamps they commissioned Hirschfeld to design. The stamps portray Laurel & Hardy, Jack Benny, Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy, Abbott & Costello, and Fanny Brice. The stamps were issued in books of 20—four sets each of the five Hirschfeld designs. The success of this collection led to a new series of Hirschfeld Postage Stamps in 1994, each portraying one of Hollywood's celebrated stars of the silent screen era. This series of commemorative Hirschfeld Stamps honors Rudolf Valentino, Clara Bow, Charlie Chaplin, John Gilbert, Lon Chaney, the Keystone Cops, Theda Bara, Zasu Pitts, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton.
A truly remarkable talent, we could not neglect to include at least one t-shirt in his honour!