Online exhibition ‘Men About Town: Al Hirschfeld Draws Noël Coward’ celebrates the playwright’s 125th birthday

In conjunction with “Coward 125,” Men about Town: Al Hirschfeld Draws Noël Coward, the latest digital exhibition from The Al Hirschfeld Foundation, features a selection of 25 of the artist’s nearly 40 line-drawings of the eponymous British playwright, his shows, and their casts to celebrate this year’s 125th anniversary of his birth in 1899. Curated by Alan Pally, who served for many years as a Trustee of the Noël Coward Foundation and is currently a member of the Foundation’s Grants Committee, the works range from Hirschfeld’s calligraphic depictions of scenes from the 1931 production of Private Lives through Waiting in the Wings of 1999, all captured in his signature self-described “characterist” style.

Al Hirschfeld, Rosemary Harris, Lauren Bacall, and the cast of Waiting in the Wings, 1999. Photo courtesy of The Al Hirschfeld Foundation, all rights reserved.

According to Pally, “Hirschfeld and Coward were contemporaries who admired one another’s work,” noting that “in Al Hirschfeld’s house on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a photograph of Noël Coward was prominently displayed in the living room” and “in the Noël Coward Room in Red Lion Square in London, a drawing of Noël Coward by Al Hirschfeld is prominently displayed as part of the rich repository of materials available for study. . . In celebrating Coward’s 125th birthday, I can’t think of a more fitting tribute than this look at Coward and his career through pen strokes of the great Al Hirschfeld.”

David Leopold, Creative Director of The Al Hirschfeld Foundation, added, “Al Hirschfeld and Noël Coward entertained audiences in somewhat the same way. Their work was both witty and elegant as well as timeless. These Men About Town bought audiences a lot of joy.”

Al Hirschfeld, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Private Lives, 1983. Photo courtesy of The Al Hirschfeld Foundation, all rights reserved.

Selections in the online exhibit include drawings of Coward himself, the many acclaimed actors who appeared in his plays, including Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier, Joan Collins, The Lunts, Frank Langella, Elaine Stritch, and Lauren Bacall, and even the illustrious guests (among them, Somerset Maugham, Clare Booth Luce, Jacqueline Kennedy, Cole Porter, and Coward) at a party thrown by gossip columnist and radio and TV personality Elsa Maxwell, whom he first met in 1922.

In addition to exploring the works and accompanying texts that elucidate each subject, you can also “go behind the lines of the art” in the current exhibition with a special episode of The Hirschfeld Century Podcast, which is set to be released on Tuesday, April 9, on the website, iTunes, and other popular podcast sites.

Men about Town: Al Hirschfeld Draws Noël Coward is available online through Saturday, June 1, 2024. Viewing is free; no tickets are required.


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