Auctions | April 5, 2023

Al Hirschfeld and Charles Addams Illustrations to Auction

Heritage Auctions

Al Hirschfeld (American, 1903-2003) Musical Comedy or Musical Serious?, The New York Times magazine interior illustration, November 3, 1957

Significant drawings from the Al Hirschfeld Foundation will top Heritage Auction’s Illustration Art Event sale this month, with other highlights including fresh-to-market pin-ups by Gil Elvgren, intimate studies by Joseph Leyendecker and cartoons by Charles Addams.

In 1957, acclaimed illustrator Al Hirschfeld captured in one elegant composition a phenomenon that was making its way onto the Broadway stage, the serious musical. The illustration was for a New York Times Magazine article written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, director and producer George S. Kaufman that was subtitled Musicals used to be boy and girl, song and dance, humor and happy ending. But now you can't see the chorus boys through your tears. Where will it all end?

Published six weeks after West Side Story's Broadway debut, Kaufman poked fun at the rise of musicals that left out the comedy. This work by Hirschfeld is especially memorable in its role as the harbinger of a trend. Musical Comedy or Musical Serious? depicts the industry schism taking place on Broadway stages. The overall style is trademark Hirschfeld, with his elegant linework, lyrical treatment of the human form, and insider witticisms sprinkled throughout.

For Sale Inquire Within by Charles Addams
1/5
Heritage Auctions

 For Sale Inquire Within by Charles Addams

All Right, Children, A Nice Big Sneer, Now by Charles Addams
2/5
Heritage Auctions

 All Right, Children, A Nice Big Sneer, Now by Charles Addams

Baton Twirler
3/5
Heritage Auctions

Baton Twirler by Gil Elvgren

Strange Bedfellows by Al Hirschfeld
4/5
Heritage Auctions

 Strange Bedfellows by Al Hirschfeld

Marlene Deitrich by Al Hirschfeld
5/5
Heritage Auctions

Marlene Deitrich by Al Hirschfeld

The illustration is one of 10 by Hirschfeld that Heritage offers in its April 25 Illustration Art Signature Auction. This marks a continuation of Heritage's relationship with the Al Hirschfeld Foundation which kicked off last fall with an auction to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Foundation itself. Several of the ink-on-board drawings offered in Heritage's new event come directly from the Foundation.

Hirschfeld's drawings stand as one of the most innovative efforts in establishing the visual language of modern art through caricature in the 20th century. A self-described "characterist," Hirschfeld's signature work, defined by a linear calligraphic style, appeared in virtually every major publication over nine decades (including a 75-year relationship with The New York Times), as well as numerous book and record covers and 15 postage stamps. Hirschfeld, a two-time Tony Award recipient, died in 2003 at the age of 99. Later that year, Broadway's Martin Beck Theatre was renamed the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.

"Al Hirschfeld's long and illustrious career goes beyond that of an artist," says Meagen McMillan, Heritage Auctions' Senior Specialist in Illustration and American Art. "The legendary caricaturist captured and documented with humor and line every great zeitgeist, icon and celebrity who crossed his path throughout his career spanning nine decades, from Broadway to Hollywood and beyond."

Another Hirschfeld highlight from the selection in the upcoming sale is titled Strange Bedfellows and illustrates the 1965 movie of the same name starring Gina Lollobrigida (posing here as a naked Lady Godiva) and Rock Hudson. Hirschfeld wasn't limited to stage production illustration, he was a veteran of movie studio publicity and art departments, having worked for Goldwyn, Universal, Pathé, Selznick, Fox, First National and Warner Brothers.

Also featured is his single-person portrait of Marlene Deitrich from 1967. Deitrich was a longtime close friend of Hirschfeld and his wife, though Dietrich (a veteran touring singer by then) didn't make her Broadway debut, an eponymous musical production, until 1967. The day before she opened, Hirschfeld's stunning drawing of the actress and singer, in her gown, appeared in the New York Times.

The sale includes more than 400 lots and includes some new-to-market illustrations by Gil Elvgren who made his name creating highly recognizable pin-ups from the 1930s to the 1970s. The oil-on-canvas Baton Twirler, for example, from 1955, is fresh to market. The original owners were personal friends and colleagues of the artist and in fact occasionally modeled for Elvgren. This work appears to be unpublished but is an excellent example of Elvgren at the peak of his career. It's one of 13 Elvgren works in this event including Did You Recognize Me by My Voice? and Sailer Beware.

Also featured are three works by cartoonist Charles Addams. His Addams family All Right, Children, A Nice Big Sneer, Now was originally published in 1954,and circa 1953's For Sale: Inquire Within, from Dean Glitter's Ghost Ballads album cover.

This auction additionally offers three intimate studies by Joseph Christian Leyendecker, one of the most celebrated illustrators of the 20th century. The working sketches of young girl eating cereal for a 1916 Kellogg's ad show the artist's process as he plays with hand and spoon position and the directional gaze of the girl, and the lot is accompanied by a Kellogg's porcelain plate and two tear sheets that show the finished illustration.

A Cluett, Peabody & Co, Arrow collar advertisement study, circa 1924, is that of a fresh-faced young man wearing a smart striped tie and crisp-collared shirt; the campaign kicked off in The Saturday Evening Post. Another Leyendecker study for an Arrow ad features a young woman reaching into negative space while across the picture plane, a suited man is rendered upside-down; the artist flipped the canvas to get the most mileage out of it while he made preliminary decisions.

Highlights from this auction will preview at Heritage's Dallas headquarters on April 21 and April 24.

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