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Happy Birthday, Al Hirschfeld!

June 21, 2017

A birthday tribute to one of my heroes: illustrator and caricaturist Al Hirschfeld.

Both June 21, 1903, in St. Louis, MO.

His style was unique: he tried to capture a likeness with a minimum of lines.

He got his start drawing Broadway stars for newspaper theater reviews, and went on to draw almost every celebrity of the 20th century. He died on January 20, 2003, at age 99.

After his daughter Nina was born in 1945, he began hiding her name in his drawings. If he hid more than one, he’d indicate the number of concealed NINA’s by writing a number next to his signature. I always loved looking for them. I hope you will, too.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high
caricature of illustrator Al Hirschfeld by Mark Armstrong with 21 Ninas quote artists are children who refuse to put down their crayons

Come on, Dover!! The Ascot Race scene from My Fair Lady: Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison.blank vertical space, 24 pixels highAl Hirschfeld illustrator My Fair Lady Ascot race scene caricatures of Audrey Hepburn Rex Harrison

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highThe Captain calls for order in The Sound Of Music: Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.blank vertical space, 24 pixels highAl Hirschfeld illustration Sound Of Music caricatures of Julie Andrews Christopher Plummer guitar Captain blowing whistle

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highLeft: Mr. Hirschfeld and his daughter Nina in 1961; right: date unknown.blank vertical space, 24 pixels highblank vertical space, 24 pixels highcaricaturist Al Hirschfeld with daughter Nina 1961 and as an older man late in his career
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Thoughts? I’d appreciate your feedback.

You might also enjoy this caricature of Sylvester Stallone.

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About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, branding, social media, and content marketing. I create images that get content seen and shared.

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Questions? Send me an email.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2017 11:00 AM

    Hirschfeld is one of my art heroes too and a major source of inspiration for me. I love your tribute to him with all those Ninas. I wonder if yours is the Nina record.


    • July 2, 2017 5:35 PM

      Hi, Laura!! Do forgive me for being so late to reply. I wish I had a good excuse, like I was busy taking bagpipe lessons, but alas, that is not the case… 😢

      Good to know we share an art hero. Yeah, I always loved the Nina thing. Funny how a small spontaneous gesture can sometimes morph into a much-loved tradition or trademark.

      I’m not sure what the Nina record is, but I came across a very funny story when I was doing some research on Mr. H.: seems a young woman would come to an art gallery everyday. She’d spend hours studying a particular Hirschfeld drawing. Finally the owner’s curiosity got the better of him, and he asked her what she found so fascinating. She said she was trying to find the Ninas. She said she hadn’t found a single one, but she knew there must be 39 because that was the number next to Hirschfeld’s signature.

      The owner had to explain that there were no Ninas. The 39 represented 1939, the year the drawing was done. Nina wasn’t born until 1945. Oh, dear… sounds like the sorta thing that would happen to me!!

      Hope you’re well, and thanks as always for your support!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. June 21, 2017 3:48 PM

    Al Hirschfeld was one of my favorites. I always marveled at how he could create such vivid caricatures with so few thin flowing lines. I too enjoyed searching for his daughter’s name in his drawings.


  3. RKLikesReeses permalink
    June 22, 2017 7:22 PM

    Delightful celebration of this one-of-a-kind artist. WOW! I never knew about those “Nina’s!” His style was unmistakable, wasn’t it? I esp love how he framed Prof. Higgins and Eliza in the scoop of Eliza’s magnificent hat, in the “My Fair Lady” drawing. Masterful!
    You inspired me to read more about him and his work. Thank you, Mark!!!! 🙂


    • July 2, 2017 5:55 PM

      RK!! Do forgive your humble correspondent for his slothful inattention, and this very late reply!! 😢=>🚽

      Yeah, Ol’ Hirschfeld was something else. One hears the word unique thrown around very carelessly, but how many people truly are?? Let’s face it, there are very few of us: you, me, Hirschfeld. 😄

      Great point about that Higgins/Eliza drawing– it’s a masterful composition. Hirschfeld had that minimalist approach, but he could do the wonderfully ornate stuff, too.

      So glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks a tally-ho for all your kindness and support!!

      Liked by 1 person

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