Drawing by legendary artist Al Herschfeld sells for record $84K at Swann auction

NEW YORK — An early drawing of the summer theater circuit by the late Al Hirschfeld fetched $84,000 at Swann Galleries’ American Art auction on June 12. The signed and inscribed pen and ink drawing entitled  “A Backstage Warning — Country Theater, Suffern,” which appeared in the New York Times in August 1938, was the top lot in the sale and set an auction record for a work by the artist.

David Leopold, Archivist for the Al Hirschfeld Foundation and curator of a 1998 exhibition, “FOOTLIGHTS AND FIREFLIES: Summer Theater As Seen by Hirschfeld,” said, “The summer theater drawings reveal a side of Hirschfeld not seen in other works. There’s more reporting and satirical commentary than in his regular cast drawings.”

Other highlights among the 25 original Hirschfeld drawings from private collections featured in the auction included a striking pen and ink with watercolor illustration, “Bette Davis as Sadie Thompson in a Sketch from ‘Two’s Company,’” 1952, which sold for $13,475; and two pen and ink drawings, “Ziegfeld Follies, with Beatrice Lillie in foreground,” 1957, and “The New York Drama Critics Circle,” 1941, each of which sold for $12,000. 

Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, President of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation, said, “The Al Hirschfeld Foundation is extremely pleased with the strength and vitality of the market for Hirschfeld’s work. Nine decades after his first drawing, the Line King still rules!”

The Hirschfelds were part of a two-session auction that offered American Art in the morning, and Old Master, 19th and 20th Century Drawings in the afternoon. For complete results, a two-volume catalog with prices realized can be ordered from Swann Galleries, or viewed online at www.swanngalleries.com.