Online exhibition showcases the lone artist, performer


Self Portrait in Barber Chair, 1989

© The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. All rights reserved.



There is an art to being alone.

And at least when it comes to the theater, few have captured that art on paper better than the legendary Al Hirschfeld.

Hirschfeld (1903-2003) was an American caricaturist. In particular, many remember him for his black and white portraits of celebrities and Broadway stars. His drawings represent one of the most innovative efforts to establish the visual language of modern art through caricature in the 20th century.

In this time of social distancing, The Al Hirschfeld Foundation (AHF) is presenting a new online exhibition. It’s titled Socially Distant Theater: The Solo Show As Seen by Hirschfeld. This collection of 25 drawings, paintings, collages, and prints document a half century of one-person shows. The exhibit will remain online through June 20. View it by logging onto

In an introduction, AHF creative director David Leopold wrote: “In the world of the theater, the one-person show is perhaps the best situation and the worst. It is a supreme test of assurance and ability; of magnetism and charisma. But the format is also frightening; there’s no one to play against, to lean on, to share the criticism. For an actor, if there is no one else to take the blame, there is also no one to share the credit with as well. The applause at the end is only for one performer.”

Further, Leopold notes that in many ways, performers in solo shows are all caricatures. Why? Because they convey exaggerated elements of their subject to bring a whole life or a story to life. In essence, then, Hirschfeld was the ultimate solo artist. He was “the ideal portraitist for this unique form of theater,” Leopold explains.

Viewers will be able to examine Hirschfeld’s artwork in detail “as it has never been seen before.” In addition, the exhibition includes links to videos featuring parts or the whole of solo performances. Specifically, they include Henry Fonda as Clarence Darrow, Julie Harris as Emily Dickinson, and Robert Morse as Truman Capote.

“Or, you can see Eric Bogosian, Whoopi Goldberg, and John Leguizamo channel a seemingly endless parade of characters from their solo shows,” notes a press release. “It turns out being alone has never been so interesting.”

In keeping with Hirschfeld’s spirit, the exhibition is free and open to everyone. The show is part of the foundation’s continuing mission to promote interest in the theater and the performing and visual arts. To support the foundation’s arts education program, an online gift shop includes merchandise connected. You can access the gift shop at

Meanwhile, a special episode of The Hirschfeld Century Podcast is dedicated to the works featured in “Socially Distant Theater.” The show received a “Best NYC Podcast” nomination by the 2020 Apple Awards. You can view the podcast starting May 20 at, iTunes, and other popular podcast sites.

To learn more about Hirschfeld, log onto



 Christopher Plummer in Barrymore, 1997

© The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. All rights reserved.


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