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Estimate: $ 25,000 - $ 35,000
AL HIRSCHFELD. Paul Robeson as Othello. Illustration for the 1943 Broadway revival of Shakespeare's tragic play, published in The New York Times, August 9, 1942; subsequently published in "The American Theatre as Seen by Hirschfeld," (New York: Braziller, 1961). Ink and masking fluid on board. 270x583 mm; 10 3/4x23 inches, on 17x27 1/2-inch board. Signed in right center image and titled by Hirschfeld, lower margin (caption partially obscured by old matte adhesive). The Times' "Thursday Early Run" production stamp and scattered pencil printer's notes in margin and verso. Provenance: Al Hirschfeld to José Ferrer.
The iconic image from the groundbreaking production of Othello, which premiered on Broadway on October 19, 1943 at the Shubert Theatre. This was also the first and only Robeson portrait by Hirschfeld. It was the first American production of the play to cast a black actor in the title role with a white supporting cast which included Uta Hagen as Desdemona, José Ferrer as Iago, and Margaret Webster as Emilia (Webster also staged the play). While Robeson played the role in Britain in 1930, where he was the first black Othello in a century since Ira Aldridge, Webster chose him for this production at a time when racial intolerance in the U.S. forced him to pick venues in more socially open cities. Such was his celebrity that his demands for racial equality were unwavering and his contract denied his appearance at any theater with segregated audiences. With 296 performances and a national tour, this Othello still holds the record for the longest-running Shakespeare revival in Broadway history.
This drawing was recently on display at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center as part of its special exhibition, "The People's Theater: Celebrating 75 Years of New York City Center,' which ran from October 23, 2018 to March 2, 2019.