The New York Drama Critics’ Circle, of which I am a member, was founded in 1935. Six years later Al Hirschfeld drew the then-current membership, portraying them in camera at the Algonquin Hotel:
Hirschfeld’s caricature was published in the New York Times in April of 1941. The original, I learned the other day, is being auctioned off later this month by Swann Galleries. I was fascinated to read the names of the members pictured therein: Rosamund Gilder, Joseph Wood Krutch, Richard Watts, Jr., John Mason Brown, Walter Winchell, George Jean Nathan, Sidney Whipple, Brooks Atkinson, Arthur Pollock, Grenville Vernon, Stark Young, Wolcott Gibbs, Burns Mantle, Richard Lockridge, Louis Kronenberger, Kelcey Allen, Oliver Claxton, John Anderson, and John Gassner. In their day, several of these critics wielded considerable power. Two or three of them are still remembered, and one or two others ought to be. The rest, however, are long forgotten–and rightly so.
“Never pay any attention to what critics say,” Jean Sibelius once told a colleague. “Remember, a statue has never been set up in honor of a critic!” While this is not quite true, it is, as they say, close enough for jazz. So I found it oddly touching to see that Hirschfeld, who for much of the twentieth century was one of America’s arbiters of celebrity, had once upon a time taken the trouble to draw nineteen of my erstwhile colleagues. It isn’t a statue, but it’s not bad.