When I was about twelve, I went to live with my father in NYC. One of the Saturday night rituals was walking to Broadway to his favorite newsstand, at midnight, to get the Sunday NYT, hot off the presses!!! Of the many things I learned from my polymath father – He introduced me to Al Hirschfeld on the cover of the Art & Leisure section; more than the news and reviews within, I was given the gift of this genius and I learned how to find the Ninas. (Mr. H knew this too – I finally sent him a note and his wife replied). When he laid down his pen and passed at 99 – the Arts & Leisure section still offered me some things of interest – but without him – the sparkle was gone.
I have numerous books with his drawings acquired over the years, and yesterday I opened the mail and found “The Hirschfeld Century” – which I had bought myself as a birthday gift, (after a long search for the best buy). Oh the Ninas, the actors, the comedians, the stage and screen!!! The sheer joy of so much of it all, right in my lap! And it was even better because it brought my father into the picture and, as always I looked for the Ninas, – to remember both of them. So my pile of Hirschfeld books grows and the memories are there to be evoked always.
The “Hirschfeld Century” adds a little more because it chronicles the man’s work in order and the biographical detail is just perfect. David Leopold edited it and wrote the text and was very close to Mr. H for the last 25 years. What a lucky fellow! To be able to observe the evolution of his style year by year is another stroke of brilliance. Hirschfeld stayed with what worked and kept working and still does. and there is a consistency that is amazing.
For the lucky folks who also counted the Ninas and couldn’t wait for the Sunday Times; whose polymath fathers simply knew the right things to know – I join you and hope you will place this title on your shelf of Hirschfeldiana (is that a word?) for the sheer pleasure of the lines he created and the indelible look he added to every person he drew.
PS I have a friend who is a Hirschfeld subject and another friend whose wife is. I was awed and a teeny bit jealous – but mostly awed. What a wonderful thing to possess!