Oh, how I always wanted to own a piece by the great artist, Al Hirschfeld, master of the elegant line!
I figured I had an extremely limited window of opportunity to afford an original by him. It would have to be before he died, or the prices would skyrocket. This was in the early 1990s’, when Al was already in his late eighties. It turned out I had more time than I thought. Al Hirschfeld died in 2003 at the ripe old age of ninety-nine.
In those days his dealer, Margo Feiden, had a gallery somewhere in downtown New York City, I think it was Greenwich Village. She was selling mostly prints, but I wanted an original. Preferably a sketch of one of my favorite entertainers. The entire front of the gallery was reproductions or prints. But, in the back room, I struck paydirt.
There were a number of original sketches which had appeared on the cover of the Arts Section of The New York Times. On the left-hand wall hung something completely different. A painting! In gouche. Of Alfred Hitchcock.
How to describe it?!!? Alfred’s face is green. He lives in a pompous gold frame. He casts an eerie shadow that no light source on that shape could cast. It was the ultimate charicature, using visual tricks that were original and enormously clever.
But, it wasn’t characteristicallly Hirschfeld. It wasn’t an elegant black and white line drawing. And, it was at the very top end of what I could possibly, possibly afford. Hmmmm.
I was told it had just come from hanging in a show at The National Portrait Gallery, part of the Smithsonian. It was one of several gouches Hirschfeld painted for TV Guide over the years.
I bought it. I’ve owned it and loved it all these years. It’s my favorite thing I own. I wanted to share it with you. Oh, and a couple of years ago Margo Feiden called me and tried to buy it back. No deal. No way. No how.
Well, unless the economy gets worse. It isn’t, after all, edible.