Al Hirschfeld (1903-2003), the most renowned caricaturist of the 20th century, used lines like no other artist to reflect on popular culture for numerous publications (most indelibly for The New York Times).
"It's like poetry where the writer finds just the right words to summon up a whole lot of things, and that's what Hirschfeld was about - he wanted every line to count," said David Leopold, curator of the exhibition, "The Hirschfeld Century: The Art of Al Hirschfeld," at the New York Historical Society.
"Hirschfeld really wasn't the best at what he did; he was the only one who did what he did."
Pictured: Ella Fitzgerald, 1993. Ink on board. Melvin R. Seiden Collection of Drawings by Al Hirschfeld, Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.
In addition to his signature style, Hirschfeld gained renown for slipping his daughter Nina's name subtly his drawings. Whoopi Goldberg's hair, for example, is made up of Ninas.
According to curator David Leopold, Hirschfeld worked Nina's name into his drawings to the end of his life. "He tried to stop several times, but people would not let him. So he started putting a number next to his name when there was more than one Nina. ... Sometimes he had to look for the Ninas just like everyone else when the drawing was done, and he knew that if he got [the number] wrong, people would write in and be irate."
Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead (August 23, 1995).
By the time Hirschfeld died in 2003, his thousands of images has earned him the nickname "The Line King." But as he had explained to "Sunday Morning," the power of those simple lines was a mystery, even to him:
"I've been trying to find out across all these years, what makes it communicate to the viewer, and I don't know any more about it than when I started," he said. "Suddenly some kind of magic takes place, some kind of alchemy, and the drawing appears. And when it works, the drawing begins to look more like the person than the person really looks like."