Marx Brothers

Marx Brothers
Although Al Hirschfeld is best known today for his black-and-white drawings, his colorful cover art once graced such magazines as American Mercury and TV Guide. Whether drawing politicians, journalists, or actors, he relied on the theatricality of performance. Indeed, he discovered that public figures could be disappointing outside of the limelight. Hirschfeld once joked after meeting a famous actor that he was not a perfect likeness of himself, only a striking resemblance. He was equally disillusioned when he met Franklin Roosevelt. "The GOD became man-size," he noted. "As the end of the allotted fifteen minutes drew near, I was thankful that I had never met President Lincoln."

Most caricatures of the Marx Brothers merely replicated the comedians' own characteristic costumes and leers, but Hirschfeld went beyond the obvious in his witty collage. Combining such luxury and everyday materials as fur, steel wool, and cotton, he playfully contrasts their rough, smooth, and soft textures. The cluttered patchwork background of music fragments refers to the brothers' most recent movie, A Night at the Opera, while conveying both the antic confusion of their performance and all three brothers' substantial musical skills.

Chico Marx 18911961, Groucho Marx 18901977,
Harpo Marx 18931964

Al Hirschfeld (born 1903)
Collage with sheet music, silk, felt, steel wool, fur, cotton, string, ink, and opaque white on board, 1935
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Collage reproduced by special arrangement with The Margo Feiden Galleries Ltd., New York, NY

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