Since I first saw his work, I have always had a love for the line work of Al Hirschfeld. His ability to capture the likeness of an individual with a minimal amount of elegant lines is breathtaking. A number of years ago I watched the documentary on him, The Line King, and I was surprised at how painstakingly slow he created the lines that appear to be so smooth and effortless.
Last month while visiting the Boston Museum of Fine Art, I saw my first original Hirschfeld. It was an illustration of the famous photographer Yousuf Karsh (seen below).
When given the opportunity I like to get close to art work to see details and how it was done. Again I was surprised at the line. In print his lines look so smooth and clean, but on closer examination (see below) you can see the sketchy quality and the fussiness of the line.
This is an example of why knowing how your work will be reproduced is so important. It seems to me that Hirschfeld knew that when it is printed at a smaller size the line becomes more smooth. At some point, I hope to see more of his original drawings to check to see if this holds up with all of them.
If you do have an opportunity I would encourage a visit to the MFA in Boston and see the exhibit. Karsh's Photographs of iconic figures from the Golden Age of Hollywood are gorgeous, and you'll get to see the Hirschfeld Illustration as well. You can see more information and what else is on exhibit at the museum here.