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Al Hirschfeld's Chair, Desk Going to Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center
This drawing provided by Keith Sherman & Associates is a self portrait by show-biz caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, who immortalized the world of theater with his fluid ink-and-pen portraits while seated in a barbershop chair behind a worn century-old drafting desk. Now, eight years after the celebrated artist's death, his widow is donating the sturdy tools of his trade to the Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. (AP Photo/Keith Sherman & Associates.

By: Ula Ilnytzky, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP).- Show-biz caricaturist Al Hirschfeld immortalized the world of theater with his fluid ink-and-pen portraits while seated in a barbershop chair behind a worn century-old drafting desk in the fourth-floor studio of his Manhattan town house.

Now, eight years after the celebrated artist's death, his widow is donating the sturdy tools of his trade to the Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.

"It took eight men to get the chair down" the four flights of stairs, Louise Hirschfeld Cullman, a theater historian who married Hirschfeld in 1996, said in an interview Tuesday.

"I thought this library was the right place for his work," she said. "He lived most of his life in New York. His main focus was New York City and the theater. ... his personal vision and style was something I felt belonged in New York."

The artifacts were scheduled to be unveiled at a reception at the library Tuesday night.

Hirscfeld made Virtually all of his drawings while he was ensconced in his chair at the old desk with his subjects seated on a sofa across from him.

Hirschfeld, who captured the appearance and personality of theater people for more than half a century with a distinct linear calligraphic style, died in 2003 at the age of 99.

His widow, who has remarried, recalled how Wynton Marsalis arrived at the house to have his portrait drawn, "blowing his trumpet all the way upstairs." Another time, Michael Tilson Thomas, walking past the grand piano for his sitting, stopped to tickle the ivories with George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

Among the last notable figures to pose for his portrait in the studio was Nicolas Cage, she said.

The two artifacts will be displayed in the lobby of the performing arts library.

Its executive director, Jacqueline Davis, said 2,200 to 2,500 people a month walk through the door where they will "immediately be hit by this desk and chair ... and discover Al Hirschfeld and his creativity."

"It stretches the imagination how he worked, both by the work he did and the setting in which he worked," Davis added.

"The chair was like his throne," it's height allowing him to "look down at his studio," Hirschfeld Cullman said.

It came from a barbershop in the Chrysler Building in 1993, replacing another barber chair that had fallen apart from wear.

The drafting table is from the early 1900s and "had many little drawers for his pen stubs and pencils, and a variety of beautiful brushes which he never used, but they were so theatrical looking," his widow said.

Hirschfeld took his daily afternoon tea at the desk and chair, napped in it, read in it and did his finances in it, she said.

The Al Hirschfeld Foundation also will be donating a variety of Hirschfeld letters, photographs, memorabilia and other items of interest to the library over the next few months, said Hirschfeld Cullman, who is the foundation's president.

Among the letters will be ones from his daughter, Nina, whose name he imbedded in the lines of all his drawings.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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