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From Cary Grant To Groucho: Captured In Caricature

Sam Berman Sculpture of Carole Lombard-Nothing Sacred

I love caricatures and always have. This Wednesday, my friend Drew Friedman, one of today’s most inventive artists, is joining his gifted colleague Stephen Kroninger in presenting an illustrated lecture called “12 Legendary Caricaturists You’ve, (probably), Never Heard Of” at the Society of Illustrators in Manhattan. They plan to show more than 300 prime examples of celebrity caricatures that span the 20th century—many of them unseen in decades—by  such unsung masters as John Johns, Alan Jedla, Lou Hirshman, Sam Berman, George Wachsteter, Abel Ianiro, Bill Utterback, Al Freuh, Einar Nerman, Alex Gard, Jacques Kapralik, and William Auerbach Levy.

Groucho and Harpo Marx by William Auerbach LevyAt one time, almost every newspaper and magazine employed at least one such artist, before photography supplanted the more whimsical approach to celebrity portraiture.

Some of these men were celebrated in their time, like Freuh, Berman, and Levy, while others (like John Johns, who worked mostly in his native Pittsburgh) never attained the notoriety of an Al Hirschfeld or Jack Davis. All of them did exceptional work which deserves to be better known today.

Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart-by Jacques Kapralik

Movie buffs may be most familiar with the easily identifiable decoupage pieces by Kapralik, whose praises I have sung before. (Click HERE.) His caricatures even turned up onscreen every now and then in the main titles of major movies, as did Sam Berman’s sculptures of Carole Lombard and Fredric March for the opening of Nothing Sacred (1937).

Marlene Dietrich by Alex Gard

Some of the more obscure artists in this program only became known to Friedman and Kroninger in recent years—thanks to the Internet. It’s nice to gaze at these images online, but wouldn’t it be great to assemble some of them in a traditional coffee table book?

To learn more about the Wednesday program, or to purchase tickets, click HERE.

To hear a lively interview with Drew and Stephen from The Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC, click HERE.

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