Hirschfeld's Harlem

Hirschfeld's Harlem

by Al Hirschfeld

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(Applause Books). Now in paperback! Decades before the PBS documentaries, before Bill Clinton, Al Hirschfeld went to Harlem. No artist ever captured Harlem's dangerous highs and bluesy lows like this Master of the Performing Curve. Hirschfeld began his artistic Harlem odyssey six decades ago, charting that legendary New York neighborhood's special rhythms and moods in


(Applause Books). Now in paperback! Decades before the PBS documentaries, before Bill Clinton, Al Hirschfeld went to Harlem. No artist ever captured Harlem's dangerous highs and bluesy lows like this Master of the Performing Curve. Hirschfeld began his artistic Harlem odyssey six decades ago, charting that legendary New York neighborhood's special rhythms and moods in splashy feverish hues. Hirschfeld's Harlem opens onto a special portfolio of these full-color works, a pictorial essay of the Swing Era. Wynton Marsalis, Quincy Jones, Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte, among a dozen other Harlem artists and critics, supply accompanying commentary, reminiscences and analysis each voice focusing on one portrait. Then it's back to Hirschfeld in his signature black and white takes on forty Harlem artists and public figures: Gregory Hines, Duke Ellington, James Earl Jones, Ethel Waters and dozens more all have been caught in the creative act by one of our greatest artists. Each drawing is accompanied by a thumbnail narrative by Hirschfeld about the most famous inhabitants and transients of these fabled streets. Hirschfeld's Harlem opens a picture window into nearly a century of Black American artistry and life.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Drawings of Harlem's legendary dances show Hirschfeld's line at its greatest: the Lindy Hop and the Boogie-Woogie carry the book from its Harlem pages to ''Hirschfeld's Gallery of African American Legends,'' a sampling of illustrations from The New York Times. — Shafira Rhodes-Pitts
The Oprah Magazine
Smoky, sultry, sinuous: The images in Hirschfeld's Harlem (Glenn Young Books) are as exhilarating as a breath of late-night air. The artist, famed for capturing the essence of stardom with a swoop of his pen, grew up-and lived until his death at 99 in 2003--on the cusp of New York's cultural mecca, home to the Harlem Renaissance and (as Al Hirschfeld says here) "very real people meeting reality head-on and then stubbornly transcending it." Garnished with a reflection on each drawing by a modern admirer, from Eartha Kitt to Quincy Jones, this book, updated from a 1941 edition, was and is just the tonic for a war-weary age.
March 2004
Black Issues Book
Hirschfeld's Harlem is the artist's tribute to the famous neighborhood and the spirit that is Harlem-in all of its bluesy, legendary splendor. . . .The jovial paintings in Hirschfeld's Harlem are accompanied by commentaries and reminiscences by the likes of Lena Horne, Geoffrey Holder, Bobby Short and George C. Wolfe, who express their thoughts about the storied streets, nightclubs, and people that have helped to crown Harlem as one of the world's most historic swinging hot spots.
The Baltimore Sun
A beautiful valentine to African-American artists and beyond. . . .Hirschfeld's Harlem is well-worth a visit
Feb. 5, 2004
The New York Observer
Glorious' is not too strong a word for these works of art. . . .A feast for the eyes. . . .Thank you, Mr. Hirschfeld! We hope you know how much we miss you.
Dec 22-29, '03
Publishers Weekly
It's a thin line between essence-capturing caricature and insulting cartoon, particularly when it comes to race, so it takes as practiced and bighearted an artist as Hirschfeld (1903-2003), whose caricatures of various cultural figures graced the pages of the New York Times for decades, to take on the challenge of depicting historical Harlem. Parts of this extensive 9" x 12" collection, featuring 30 full-color plates and 90 black-and-white drawings printed on art stock, were originally published, as Hirschfeld says, "in a book the size of a swinging door" the day before Pearl Harbor, with the publisher going bankrupt a few months later. This edition is roughly divided between this original "Harlem Portfolio" of color lithographs and selections from more recent black-and-white line drawings of leading African-American figures, with new commentary by such stars as Eartha Kitt, Bobby Short, Lena Horne, and Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis. Each commentator focuses on a single piece, which allows drawings that might appear disturbingly dated to be interpreted into a common past. Hirschfeld's own commentary on his sketches, in the last third of the book, leaves no doubt as to his admiration for the talents of actors, musicians and dancers like Paul Robeson, Sidney Poitier, Marian Anderson, Duke Ellington and scores of others, as well as of his anger at the way promising talents, such as Canada Lee's, were squandered. Perhaps most fun are the drawings, such as "Stompin' at the Savoy," in which Hirschfeld loses himself in the infectious energy of nighttime Harlem, where stern-faced, impeccably dressed residents blur into crackling lines of movement, individuals becoming manifestations of a neighborhood amazingly rich in history, culture and expression. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Opening this book of drawings by the legendary Hirschfeld (1903-2003) is like stepping into the vibrant life of Harlem in the first half of the 20th century. The original version published in 1941 has long been out of print, so hurrah for this new, enlarged, and expanded version, which presents a marvelous combination of images, reminiscences, and commentary on black American art and life. Each of the first set of 39 color illustrations is accompanied by the comments of many outstanding Harlem artists and critics, while the traditional Hirschfeld black-and-white drawings that follow include the artist's brief narratives. From the "Lenox Avenue Strollers" to the hip-thrust figure in "The Dinner," from "Jam Session" to "Lindy Hop," every page has a magical intensity, depicted with rare honesty and warmth. While Hirschfeld's drawings of stage figures may be familiar (see, e.g., Hirschfeld On Line), in this context they have an added depth, for they embody both the personalities and the accomplishments of black artists and musicians. Saroyan's personal appreciation is followed by Buckley's brief but excellent history of the period, which was, as the artist himself described it, "grand profound ritual." Highly recommended for all public and academic collections as well as for anyone who loves New York City.-Paula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art Lib., New York Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Glenn Young Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 12.00(h) x 0.64(d)

What People are saying about this

Al Hirschfeld
I have been so continuously enchanted with the Harlem I had grown up near and visited my whole life. . .Harlem people just keep rising above whatever met them at eye level; regardless of the rugged terrain or the economic weather, Harlem residents had their own means of levitation. They perfected an art form beyond the Arts, beyond the stage, beyond the Cotton Club. Very real people meeting reality head on and then stubbornly transcending it. Some commentators have made much of the fact that these aren't Hirschfeld's typical performers. Well, they're not on that stretch of Broadway I had covered before or since. But these Harlemites are performers all right. They are in rehearsal for the performance of their lives. It's that grand profound ritual I hope to have captured here.
January 2003, from his preface, Drawing on Harlem

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