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SIDE BY SIDE: Theater Drawings From The 1930s by Al Hirschfeld & Ben Solowey
In the 1930s, Broadway was king. Even Hollywood revered Broadway as the height of entertainment, and frequently made films about its glamour and sophistication. In 1930, theater audiences had more than 200 productions to choose from in a season. While this number would be cut in half during the decade of the Depression, the American Theater produced some of its finest works during this period - plays that are still performed today like You Can't Take It With You, Little Foxes, Babes In Arms, Room Service, Of Mice and Men, and Of Thee I Sing to name a few.
The theater reached an even wider audience in the Sunday editions of New York's 14 newspapers which prominently featured theater drawings. The larger than life personalities of the stage were rich subjects for portraitists. Two of the great court artists of the Broadway kingdom were Al Hirschfeld (1903 2003) and Ben Solowey (1900 1978). Hirschfeld made his debut in late 1926 and continued to contribute theater drawings until his death in January of this year, just short of his 100th birthday. Solowey's tenure was shorter, from 1929 to late 1942 when he made his permanent move to Bucks County. In that thirteen year period, their works appeared side by side more than 100 times in the pages of in The New York Times and Herald Tribune. (right: Al Hirschfeld (1903 2003), Paul Haakon and Evelyn Thawl in The Show Is On, 1937, ink on board, private collection, © The Estate of Al Hirschfeld)
In honor of the Hirschfeld Centennial, The Studio of Ben Solowey announces a new exhibition, SIDE BY SIDE: Theater Drawings From The 1930s by Al Hirschfeld & Ben Solowey which will reunite these two artists' works for the first time in more than 70 years. The exhibition will open to the public on June 1, 2003, at the Solowey Studio in Bedminster, PA with a reception from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The installation will continue Saturdays and Sundays, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., through June 29, 2003.
"Although their styles could not be more different, their approach to their subject was the same, they drew from life, visiting rehearsals or performances" says David Leopold, Director of the Studio of Ben Solowey. "In Solowey's case, actors also came to his studio in the Village. Hirschfeld's method was to sketch a performance, and create his drawings back at his studio on 57th Street. (right: Ben Solowey (1900 1978), Ann Miller in George White's Scandals, 1939, charcoal on paper, collection of David Rieger, © The Ben Solowey Collection)
"For me this is a special show. In 1988 I started to document Ben Solowey's career, and in 1990 I began to work with Al Hirschfeld as his archivist. I have had the pleasure of seeing nearly 900 of Solowey's Theater Portraits and almost 8,000 works by Hirschfeld. These are the artists' finest pieces available from the time they shared the drama page." In addition to the remarkable collection of theater drawings, there will be works by Hirschfeld from his nine decade career on view, as well as a new installation of Solowey works in Solowey's handcrafted studio.
Visiting the exhibition "you understand why Ben gave up the great life he had in New York in the theater and exhibiting his canvases at the top museums and galleries," explains Leopold. "He wanted to live on this beautiful farm where his studio maintains the atmosphere of the artist at work." The inviting studio, and the 34 acre property it sits on, were created and landscaped by Solowey after he left New York in 1942. The Studio has been featured in Architectural Digest, Pennsylvania Heritage, The Discerning Traveler, and Bucks County Town and Country Living.
"In honor of our opening on June 1st we will continue our tradition of serving homemade refreshments in the Solowey home, " says Leopold. "The two hundred-year old farmhouse was restored by Ben and is filled with museum quality furniture handcrafted by him. We only open the house twice a year, so this truly is a special event. Also on June 1st only we are waiving our $5 admission fee."
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This page was originally published in 2003 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.
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