Historical Society

Al Hirschfeld at the New York Historical Society

Al Hirschfield, Self Portrait

Al Hirschfeld, Self Portrait

A Sunday morning pleasure used to be trying to find the “Ninas” in Al Hirschfeld’s caricatures which appeared in the Sunday New York Times “Arts & Leisures” section. As most people knew, Nina was Hirschfeld’s daughter. But what I learned at the New York Historical Society’s exhibit, “The Hirschfeld Century: The Art of Al Hirschfeld,” was that Hirschfeld never intended to make it a permanent feature of his drawings. He did it for the first few months after Nina’s birth; meant for the amusement of his friends. But when he stopped, people protested; so “Nina” returned and stayed part of the Sunday drawings.

Al Hirschfeld, 2000 Academy Award Nominees for Best Actor and Best Actress, 2001.Colored gels over pen and ink.

Al Hirschfeld, 2000 Academy Award Nominees for Best Actor and Best Actress, 2001.Colored gels over pen and ink.

The exhibition has over 100 original works, with a special emphasis on the New York Times—where Hirschfeld was a contributor for over seven decades. Hirschfeld, who died in 2003 at the age of 100 years,  was known by many as “the Line King,” As you walk through the exhibit, and look closely at his work, you can really appreciate the power of his lines. The exhibit contains classic portraits of Charlie Chaplin, Carol Channing, Ella Fitzgerald, Jane Fonda and Ringo Starr, as well as cast drawings from theatrical productions of Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, and The Glass Menagerie.

If you go, don’t missing seeing the short video of an interview with Hirschfeld. Not only is it interesting to hear him talk about his work, but you also get to see how he creates it.

The exhibit is on view through October 12, 2015.

Spring Art Events in NYC


There’s always new art to see in New York City. It’s good to plan ahead so you don’t miss out. This spring there are some great shows opening at the major museums: the 2015 Costume Institute extravaganza at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “China Through the Looking Glass,” opening May 7th; Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks at the Brooklyn Museum opening April 3rd;or Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960–1971 at MoMA, opening May 17th. And then, there’s the re-opening of the Whitney on May 1st in it’s new location on Gansevoort Street, off the Highline.

But there are also exciting art events and openings happening where you may not be looking. For example:

Russian Modernism: Cross-Currents in German and Russian Art, 1907-1917 , Neue Galerie, 5/14-8/31

The Hirschfeld Century: The Art of Al Hirschfeld at the New York Historical Society, 5/22-10/12

Life Lines: Portrait Drawing from Dürer to Picasso at the Morgan Library and Museum, 6/12 – 9/8

Two art fairs that are worth checking out are:

Spring Masters New York at the Park Ave Armory, 5/8-12 – the fair will feature leading international galleries from the U.S. and Europe, exhibiting art and design from antiquity through the 21st century.

Frieze New York Art Fair, Randall’s Island  5/14-17 -Frieze New York is one of the few fairs to focus on contemporary art and living artists. The exhibiting galleries represent  artists working today from around the globe.


Where Art Meets History: The New York Historical Society


 You may have heard of the New York Historical Society.  But you probably didn’t know that this is the oldest museum in New York City (it was founded in 1804), and it houses over twenty-five hundred American paintings from the colonial period through the twentieth century. It also holds one of the country’s leading collections of Hudson River School landscapes. Their permanent collection also includes some 800 sculptures and over 8,000 drawings. These cover the beginnings of American art when it was dominated by European artists, up through the 1860s.

Usually it’s the special exhibits at the NYHS that draw me there.  Past exhibits I’ve enjoyed include: The Armory Show at 100 and Swing Time: Reginald Marsh and Thirties New York.


This week I went to see “Bill Cunningham: Facades,” and “Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War,” two current exhibits. They were both very interesting and so different. I happen to be there just as a free guided tour began. I took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the permanent collection and discovered the greatest reason of all to visit NYHS: The Luce Center


One level of the Luce Center

Located on the 4th floor of the Society, The Luce Center is home to  nearly 40,000 objects from the New-York Historical Society’s permanent collection. You can see art and artifacts spanning four centuries,  from the nation’s premiere collection of Tiffany lamps, to “historical touchstones such as the draft wheel that played a role in one of the worst urban riots in United States history. “

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 I only got to see a small part of the collection. One of the objects that stood out  was a horse-drawn carriage from the late 1770’s. Owned by the Beekman family (of “Beekman Place”); it is one of only three such 18th Century American coaches to survive in original condition.  There was also a whole case devoted to artifacts from Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue founded in 1654. One of the funniest objects I saw was a ceramic cockroach trap from 1840.

It’s worth going to NYHS just to see this collection but hurry; it’s undergoing a massive renovation beginning in July 2014.