The Al Hirschfeld Foundation’s ‘Socially Distant Theater’ offers a digital exhibition of the artist’s iconic caricatures of solo performances

In keeping with our period of self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, the The Al Hirschfeld Foundation presents Socially Distant Theater – a virtual exhibition of 25 works by the master caricaturist (or “characterist” – as he preferred to describe himself) on the theme of the one-person show. Available online through June 6, it is the first in a series of online exhibitions that are free and open to the public, as part of the AHF’s continuing mission to promote an interest in the theater and all of the arts, both performing and visual.

Al Hirschfeld, Portraits of Whoopi Goldberg, Elaine Stritch, Mandy Patinkin, Lily Tomlin, and Christopher Plummer performing their solo shows. Photo courtesy of @ The Al Hirschfeld Foundation.

The digital exhibition, comprising a selection of drawings, paintings, prints, and collages, documents half a century (1952-2002) of renowned theater artists and their legendary solo performances in New York, from dramatic and biographical to comedic and musical, through the lens of Hirschfeld’s familiar calligraphic style and signature wit. Each piece is accompanied by a descriptive label and text entry, with relevant information about the performer, the show, and the historical context, along with links to online video clips or the full production, and to additional related content.

Al Hirschfeld, Patrick Stewart in A Christmas Carol, ink on board, 1994. Photo courtesy of @ The Al Hirschfeld Foundation.

Among the stars represented with perceptive and appreciative exaggeration by Hirschfeld (1903-2003) are such icons as Henry Fonda as Clarence Darrow, James Whitmore as Will Rogers, Robert Morse as Truman Capote, Julie Harris as Emily Dickinson (whom she played, along with fourteen other characters, in The Belle of Amherst), Christopher Plummer in Barrymore, and Patrick Stewart performing all of the roles in A Christmas Carol. His amusing and spirited stage portraits of the next generation of luminaries include Eric Bogosian, Whoopi Goldberg, and John Leguizamo, all of whom, too, channel a seemingly endless array of figures alone in their one-person shows.

If you would like to revisit fifty years of some of the great solo shows of the New York stage, as captured by one of its great caricaturists, don’t miss this enjoyable and informative virtual exhibition of the works of Al Hirschfeld in Socially Distant Theater.

Socially Distant Theater runs through June 6, 2020, on The Al Hirschfeld Foundation website. For viewing, go online.


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