George Gershwin

George Gershwin
Moving effortlessly from Tin Pan Alley to Broadway, Hollywood, and the concert stage, composer George Gershwin integrated popular song, jazz, and classical music. The overwhelming success of his 1924 symphonic-jazz piece Rhapsody in Blue brought him fame. A string of successful Broadway and film musicals followed, generally written with his brother Ira as lyricist. In his short life-he died at thirty-nine of a brain tumor-he left an enduring legacy.

Ever willing to perform his own compositions, Gershwin was in demand at social occasions from New York to Paris. "I'd bet on George any time," George S. Kaufman once remarked, "in a hundred-yard dash to the piano." Although he hung caricatures of leading composers in his own lavish apartment, he was initially skeptical of this drawing. He asked the artist to remove the cigar: "It's so undignified stuck in the mouth at that angle." After the image appeared in the New York World, however, Gershwin called him to report, "everyone's crazy about that caricature. . . . I think it's a peach." He asked for the original.

George Gershwin 1898-1937
William Auerbach-Levy (1889-1964)
Ink on paper mounted on board for New York World,
February 22, 1925
Museum of the City of New York, New York, NY
Gift of Arthur Gershwin

NEXT portrait

BACK to "Personality, Celebrity and the Press"

Past Exhibitions | National Portrait Gallery Home