Albert “Al” Hirschfeld ( 1903 – 2003) was an American caricaturist best known for his simple black and white satirical portraits of celebrities. He had the unique ability to capture a person’s likeness with few and simple lines. His eight-decade career included drawing the entire casts of Broadway plays to include alongside reviews in The New York Times and illustrating the covers of newstand TV Guide issues.
Hirschfeld achieved additional fame for hiding the name of his daughter, Nina, in most of his drawings. The name “Nina” would be scrawled in the lace of a sleeve, the locks of an actress’s wavy hair, or somewhere in the background. On occasion, “Nina” would show up more than once in a drawing. In those cases, Hirschfeld would then add a number next to his signature, designating how many times “Nina” would appear. On a few rare occasions, Hirschfeld would write “Nina” flopped, creating a reverse image of the name.
“Though Nina was a popular feature in his illustrations, with many enjoying the game of searching for them, on more than one occasion Hirschfeld would lament that the gimmick had overshadowed his art. On occasion he did try to discontinue the practice, but such attempts always generated harsh criticism. Nina herself was reportedly somewhat ambivalent about all the attention.
In…[an] interview with The Comics Journal, Hirschfeld confirmed the urban legend that the U.S. Army had used his cartoons to train bomber pilots with the soldiers trying to spot the NINAs much as they would spot their targets. Hirschfeld told the magazine he found the idea repulsive, saying that he felt his cartoons were being used to help kill people. In his 1966 anthology The World of Hirschfeld, he included a drawing of Nina which he titled ‘Nina’s Revenge.’ That drawing contained no Ninas. There were, however, two Als and two Dollys (‘The names of her wayward parents’).”
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