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If ever there were a visual distillation of the spirit of Broadway, it was an Al Hirschfeld caricature. The amazingly long-lived Hirschfeld (1903–2003) was an endless font of iconic drawings of Broadway shows and stars, Hollywood movies and many other subjects. No one before (and no one since) captured so perfectly the sense of movement, glamour and swirling giddiness that is the Great White Way. You can see about a hundred of his drawings in an exhibit called "The Hirschfeld Century: The Art of Al Hirschfeld", now through October 12 at the New-York Historical Society. The show is timed to coincide with a gorgeous new volume from Knopf: The Hirschfeld Century: Portrait of an Artist and His Age (available exclusively at the New-York Historical Society now, and in bookstores July 7). “In 2015 we celebrate many milestones,” notes widow Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, president of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation. “It’s been 100 years since Hirschfeld saw his first Broadway show; 90 years since his first published caricature; 70 years since he first hid the name of his daughter Nina in one of his drawings (launching a national obsession of Nina-hunters); and 40 years since he received his first of two lifetime-achievement Tony Awards.”
Both the exhibition and the book are the most comprehensive Hirschfeld collections of their kind to date. According to the exhibit’s organizers, “Forty percent of the pieces have never been exhibited in America before, and nearly half of the art in the book will be new to even the hardiest of Hirschfeld book collectors.” So even if you’re running around catching all the great theater to see this summer, make time for this historic event. To whet your appetite, we’ve handpicked 11 images, dating from the artist's schooldays (1914) to his tap-happy portrait of Tommy Tune in White Tie and Tails (2002). That’s 10 decades, kids: They don’t make ’em like Hirschfeld anymore.