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The Line King's Vandamms


It has been a while since the last blog post. I have been busy with the installation and opening tours related to our final Fall exhibition, The Line Kings’ Library: Al Hirschfeld at The NYPL, which is on view in the Donald and Mary Oenslager Gallery here through January 4, 2014. It, the Vandamm exhibit and Michael Peto: Stage in Britain, in the Corridor Gallery, all deal with depicting performing in illustration and photography.

Osgood Perkins as Walter Burns., Digital ID 485152, New York Public LibrarySo, it seems appropriate to blog this week about a direct Vandamm-Hirschfeld connection. The Hirschfeld Foundation Archivist and exhibition curator David Leopold revealed that the artist visited LPA to consult Vandamm Collection images when needed.

When he illustrated The Lively Years: 1920–1973 by New York Times drama critic Brooks Atkinson in 1973, he found that Atkinson’s scope included plays that preceded Hirschfeld’s theater illustrating. So he checked his memory with the Vandamm prints. In the exhibition, we show sketchbook pages open to the first production of The Front Page (1928, by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur) and the photographs of the great character actor Osgood Perkins (as Editor Walter Burns) from which he worked.

If you have seen the play or any of the film or television adaptation, you know that the characters spend most of their time speaking very quickly on the telephone. Hirschfeld took the pose with the telephone from here, darkened the eyebrows and brought Perkins' characterization back to life.

Kids, that's what telephones used to look like.


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