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The Line King's Library: Al Hirschfeld at The New York Public Library


 Largest Exhibition of NYPL’s Collection of Al Hirschfeld’s Work on Display Honoring Iconic Artist's Relationship with the Library

Opening October 17, 2013 at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

September 17, 2013 -- In The Line King’s Library: Al Hirschfeld at The New York Public Library, The Library for the Performing Arts presents the largest exhibition of Al Hirschfeld’s artwork and archival material from its collection. On display from October 17, 2013, through January 4, 2014, in the Library for the Performing Art’s Oenslager Gallery, the free, multimedia exhibition celebrates the Al Hirschfeld Foundation’s latest gift of Hirschfeld papers and objects to the Library, and commemorates the 110th anniversary of his birth.

"Each day when I walk into The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and see the barber chair and drawing table where Al Hirschfeld created virtually all of his works, I'm reminded of his special connection to this institution," said Jacqueline Z. Davis, Barbara G. and Lawrence A. Fleishman Executive Director of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. "The Line King's Library gives us an opportunity to show one of The Library for the Performing Arts' most extensive collections and the remarkable work of one of New York's most beloved and iconic artists. His generous donations of his work helped inspire others to do the same."

Curated by David Leopold, independent curator and Archivist for the Al Hirschfeld Foundation, The Line King's Library will showcase the richness of the Library’s collection, as well as the ubiquity of Hirschfeld’s artwork over his eighty-two year career and beyond. Among the artwork on display are a selection of Hirschfeld's signature black and white drawings and prints, rare examples of his stunning works in color, and an array of his Broadway posters showing why he has been called “the logo of the American Theatre.” Incorporating videos and recordings of Hirschfeld discussing his own work and testimonials and memories from figures such as Arthur Miller and Whoopi Goldberg, correspondence with his friends and collaborators, and original artwork and posters from fellow artists and influences, The Line King's Library uses materials from a variety of the Library's collections to give new context and insight into Hirschfeld's life and legacy.

“It is amazing to see how Hirschfeld finds his way not only in every part of the Performing Arts Library collection,” said Leopold, “but how he pops up in various collections throughout The New York Public Library system. Putting together this show has been a curator’s dream as it is an embarrassment of riches. I always maintain that Hirschfeld was not the best at what he did, he was the only one who did what he did.” 

Al Hirschfeld (1903 – 2003) brought a new set of visual conventions to the task of performance portraiture when he made his debut in 1926. His signature work, defined by a linear calligraphic style, made his name a verb: to be "Hirschfelded" was a sign that one has arrived. Appearing in virtually every major publication -- most notably in The New York Times over the course of a 75-year relationship -- Hirschfeld's works were as much a part of the cultural landscape as the individuals they depicted. His career began at Goldwyn Pictures in 1920 across the street from the main branch of The New York Public Library, and over the next nine decades, Hirschfeld and the Library became even closer. Hirschfeld availed himself of the Library’s book and picture collections, he attended its events, and was a lifelong supporter. Over the years, the Library has collected original Hirschfeld drawings, paintings, and prints, and its shelves are filled with books and publications featuring Hirschfeld artwork, as well as posters, album covers, and all manner of ephemera.

Specific items and features of The Line King's Library include:

  • A never-before published and extremely rare 1969 print of Martha Graham
  • Rarely seen film posters; advertisements; and prints, such as those from Hirschfeld’s dance lithograph portfolio, Rhythm, and from his portfolio of works for Play of the Week televised productions, including Jason Robards in The Iceman Cometh
  • The original drawing of Broadway First Nighters, Hirschfeld's mural for the Playbill Room at the Hotel Manhattan installed 55 years ago
  • Hirschfeld’s series of drawing on Pulitzer Prize-winning plays and their authors including Tennessee Williams and A Streetcar Named Desire, and Arthur Miller and Death of a Salesman
  • Video interviews with Hirschfeld from the Library's Theatre on Film and Tape Archive and highlights from the starry dedication of the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in 2003
  • In-gallery access to the Al Hirschfeld Foundation’s interactive searchable database of Hirschfeld's entire catalogue of more than 10,000 works
  • Material on Sweet Bye and Bye, the musical comedy that Hirschfeld co-wrote with longtime friend and collaborator S.J. Perelman, composer Vernon Duke and lyricist Ogden Nash
  • Displays of Hirschfeld’s work in 50 years of the Best Play book series; and the many album covers featuring his artwork
  • A copy of the only play Hirschfeld ever illustrated, A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Artwork from fellow artists and influences such as William Auerbach-Levy; Ralph Barton; Miguel Covarrubias; Don Freeman; and John Held, Jr.
  • Shadow puppets from Hirschfeld’s personal collection, exploring their impact on his work
  • The sketchbook Hirschfeld used at the Library while researching materials for The Lively Years, his book with Brooks Atkinson published 40 years ago this year

Curatorial service for The Line King provided by the Al Hirschfeld Foundation.

About The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts houses one of the worlds most extensive combination of circulating, reference, and rare archival collections in its field. These materials are available free of charge, along with a wide range of special programs, including exhibitions, seminars, and performances. An essential resource for everyone with an interest in the arts — whether professional or amateur — the Library is known particularly for its prodigious collections of non-book materials such as historic recordings, videotapes, autograph manuscripts, correspondence, sheet music, stage designs, press clippings, programs, posters and photographs. For more information please visit

About the Al Hirschfeld Foundation, Louise Kerz Hirschfeld President

The mission of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation is to promote interest in the theater and dramatic arts by supporting not-for-profit museums, libraries, theaters and similar cultural institutions. The Foundation fulfills its mission by making grants to such organizations, by mounting exhibitions of Al Hirschfeld’s artworks at museums and other venues and by donating or lending Al Hirschfeld’s artworks to such organizations. For more information please visit

Press contacts

For The New York Public Library: Nora Lyons | 212.592.7708 |

For The Al Hirschfeld Foundation: Keith Sherman & Associates Public Relations | Keith Sherman and Brett Oberman | 212.764.7900 | and

For press images, please visit