Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Moving Pictures: Hirschfeld Caricature of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

For a brief post, I'd like to share a small caricature that I found whilst searching for pictures of my favorite stars. It's really a caricature of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, who are "caught" in a beautiful dance move looking as graceful, elegant and beautiful as they appeared on screen.
This etching was created by the legendary artist, Al Hirschfeld. I actually recognize some of the work he created in his decades long career and I can't help but like it. Hirschfeld was a genius by all accounts: able to capture likeness and personality in a minimal number of lines. For years, he worked in both Broadway theaters and Hollywood studios, capturing the likenesses of some of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century. You name one, Hirschfeld probably has a dead-on caricature of them.
Hirschfeld died in 2003, but his work lives on and is still incredibly popular. This sketch, for instance is currently on sale, for quite a pretty penny too. Check out the link if you have a couple grand to spend.
I don't know when exactly he created this etching. He released a few in the 80s and the 90s, which leads me to believe that they were created around then. I actually found the studio shot that he based the sketch on, which leads me to believe that even if he was around Fred and Ginger on set, he didn't create it while there. This publicity shot was for the later Fred and Ginger film, The Barkleys of Broadway (which, coincidentally, I also wrote about). That explains why both look a little more mature and older, opposed to their youthful, ev
en elfin selves that appeared in their early, 30s RKO films. Of course, regardless of age, its so very clearly them.
The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)
Fred and Ginger were so easily cartoon-ized. Fred, with his long face, limber body and trademark top hat and tails was tailor-made for a caricature. Ginger is perhaps a little more difficult, but not by much. Hirschfeld just as aptly got her perfectly: from her beauty mark on the chin, to her high, elfin cheekbones- I just can't help but feel its perfect. And of course: how could you create a piece of art about Fred and Ginger without putting them in each other's arms: dancing as only they could literally in the spotlight.
In a way a prefer portraits like these: simple, but still sharp and fresh; able to capture a person's personality in a few single strokes. And Hirschfeld really is the personification of this aestheticism. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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