top of page

Albert Hirschfeld

Albert Hirschfeld

Albert Hirschfeld (June 21, 1903 – January 20, 2003) was an acclaimed American artist recognized for his monochromatic caricatures of well-known figures from the Broadway and entertainment sectors.

Following the birth of his daughter Nina in 1945, he notably integrated her name into these depictions. Hirschfeld was born in a two-story duplex at 1313 Carr Street in St. Louis, Missouri in 1903 before relocating to New York City with his family in 1915. In New York, he underwent artistic instruction at both the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design.

In marriage to Florence Ruth Hobby, a chorus girl, beginning in 1927; their separation occurred around1932 followed by divorce as per records dated around1943 [citation needed]. During that same year he married actress Dolly Haas[healing], who passed awayat age84in1994 after which they had one child - adaughter named Nina(bornin1945).

In 1996, the scholar Louise Kerzby married a well-known authority in theatre history. Hirschfeld conducted research on painting, drawing, and sculpture during his travels to Paris and London in 1924. After returning to the United States, his work was brought to the attention of an editor at the New York Herald Tribune by his friend Richard Maney. This led to assignments for that newspaper before he eventually joined The New York Times. Hirschfeld's unique artistic style had a significant impact on contemporary drawing and caricature, influencing numerous artists and cartoonists with his black ink drawings created using an authentic crow quill. While many are familiar with his black ink illustrations in newspapers, there is also a substantial collection of Hirschfeld's colorful work commissioned by various magazines including TV Guide, Life Magazine,and American Mercury among others; as well as numerous color-illustrated books such as "Harlem As Seen By Hirschfeld," written by William Saroyan.Additionally,Herschfield received commissions from CBS Newsweek after one news piece about this controversy aired.

Throughout his extensive eight-decade career, Hirschfeld became well-known for capturing the essence of prominent figures from 20th-century entertainment. While he was famous for illustrating Broadway stars, his art dealer Margo Feiden revealed that he actually focused more on drawing for films than live plays. In addition to theater and film personalities, Hirschfeld also portrayed politicians, TV stars, and a diverse range of celebrities including jazz musicians like Duke Ellington and rockers such as Elvis Presley. He produced original movie posters for Charlie Chaplin's films and contributed to Disney's Fantasia 2000 by influencing the "Rhapsody in Blue" segment with his designs. His involvement as an artistic consultant on the project alongside director Eric Goldberg reflects the widespread admiration for his work across various mediums.

In 1943, Hirschfeld married German actress Dolly Haas. Their marriage lasted for over five decades and they welcomed a daughter named Nina.

Albert Hirschfeld gained recognition for discreetly incorporating the name "NINA" into most of his artworks following her birth. The appearance of NINA was cleverly concealed in various elements of the illustrations such as sleeves, hairstyles, or background details. Margo Feiden referred to this practice as Hirschfeld's "harmless insanity," describing how he diligently included Nina's name in each drawing with the corresponding count next to his signature. If no number was present, it indicated either one occurrence of NINA or completion before her birth.

Initially intended for friends' entertainment, the hidden NINAs soon caught public attention prompting letters ranging from curiosity to frustration published in The New York Times urging Hirschfeld to continue this practice after he attempted stopping due to its apparent weariness among friends. He found it more convenient concealing NINAs than responding individually to every letter received about them which sometimes overshadowed his artistic creations.

Feiden shared an anecdote from Hirschfeld’s book Show Business is No Business exemplifying how people became consumed by counting NINAs wherein a student spent days searching for all instances within a specific drawing only realizing later that '39' written alongside Hirschfield's signature denoted the year rather than indicating occurrences of Nina hidden within.

Albert Hirschfeld is renowned for his long-term contribution to The New York Times, spanning over seven decades. In addition to The New York Times, his works were featured in various publications such as The New York Herald Tribune, The Old World, and The American Mercury. Hyperion Books released Harlem As Seen By Hirschfeld with text by William Saroyan in 1941. His theater illustrations were compiled annually in books like "The Best Plays of ..." (e.g., "The Best Plays of 1958-1959"). Furthermore, he produced several collections of illustrations including "Manhattan Oasis," "Show Business Is No Business", and others. He collaborated with humorist S.J. Perelman on different projects and was commissioned by the United States Postal Service to create a series of postage stamps commemorating famous American comedians in 1987. Later collections included drawings of silent film stars recognized by the Postal Service allowing him to include Nina's name in his designs which waived their own rule prohibiting hidden messages on U.S stamp designs.

Hirschfeld also broadened his audience through contributions to Patrick F. McManus' humor column in Outdoor Life magazine for numerous years.

Al Hirschfeld's artwork is permanently housed at various prestigious institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the New York Public Library in New York. Additionally, his work can also be found at Harvard University in Cambridge and the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas.

Hirschfeld's legendary career was celebrated with two lifetime achievement Tony Awards. In 2003, to honor his contributions to Broadway theatre, the Martin Beck Theatre was renamed as The Al Hirschfeld Theatre. He was further recognized with a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

In recognition of his artistic brilliance and cultural impact, Al Hirschfeld received multiple honors such as being awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2002 and becoming an Honorary Member of the Salmagundi Club.

Following a remarkable life dedicated to artistry and creativity, Al Hirschfeld passed away from natural causes at his residence on January 20th, 2003; he left behind surviving family members including his daughter Nina Hirschfield West and third wife Louise Kerz.


Al Hirschfeld - Wikipedia (2003). Available at:

Biography (2008). Available at:

bottom of page