elvis’ golden caricatures volume 7 (elvis by hirschfeld)

Es­ti­mated reading time is 6 min­utes.

THE FIRST CARICATURE of Elvis Presley ap­peared in July 1956 in Col­lier’s mag­a­zine. The drawing was by the inim­itable Hirschfeld, and it was clean, simple, and ef­fec­tive. But it was a rather bland drawing, lacking the pizazz usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with his work—as if he wasn’t par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in his sub­ject. Nonethe­less, Hirschfeld con­tinued to draw Presley sev­eral times through the years.

Long known only by his last name, Hirschfeld is con­sid­ered one of the most im­por­tant fig­ures in 20th-century drawing and car­i­ca­ture, having in­flu­enced count­less artists, il­lus­tra­tors, and car­toon­ists. His car­i­ca­tures are al­most al­ways draw­ings of pure line in black ink on the whitest of il­lus­tra­tion board.

He was born on June 21, 1903, and on Jan­uary 20, 2003, died six months shy of his 100th birthday. By that time, he had been the most fa­mous and cel­e­brated car­i­ca­turist in the world for sev­eral generations.

Hirschfeld him­self found nothing in­ter­esting about car­i­ca­tures that ex­ag­gerate and dis­tort their sub­jects’ faces. In fact, he es­chewed the des­ig­na­tion of car­i­ca­turist al­to­gether, calling him­self a char­ac­terist in­stead


Hirschfeld PhotoInStudio

During his eight-decade ca­reer, he gained fame by il­lus­trating the ac­tors, singers, and dancers of Broadway plays. His draw­ings nor­mally ap­peared in The New York Times to herald the play’s opening. While best-known for his draw­ings about the­ater, he ac­tu­ally drew more for movies than for plays. 

In ad­di­tion to Broadway and film, Hirschfeld also drew politi­cians, ac­tors, and celebri­ties of all stripes. He car­i­ca­tured jazz mu­si­cians such as Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gille­spie, Billie Hol­iday, and Glenn Miller. He also drew a few rock & rollers, in­cluding the Bea­tles, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Jerry Garcia, Bruce Spring­steen. 1


Elvis in the ’50s

Hirschfeld and Elvis: Hirschfeld's first drawing of Elvis from early 1956.

The first na­tion­ally pub­lished car­i­ca­ture of Elvis Presley ap­peared in the July 6, 1956, edi­tion of Col­lier’s mag­a­zine. Hirschfeld’s drawing is of a fairly generic-looking Elvis: white jacket over a black shirt, head thrown back in song. 2


Golden Caricatures Volume 7: front cover to Elvis's first LP album ELVIS PRESLEY (RCAVictor LPM-1254) from 1956.

There are two likely in­spi­ra­tions for the drawing: Pres­ley’s ap­pear­ance on the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show in a light jacket and dark shirt, or the iconic photo on Pres­ley’s first LP album, Elvis Presley. For more in­for­ma­tion, refer to “The First Pub­lished Car­i­ca­ture of Elvis Presley.”

Hirschfeld and Elvis: Hirschfeld's drawing of Elvis in 1956 titled "Blue Suede Shoes."

Hirschfeld and Elvis: Hirschfeld's limited edition print of Elvis in 1956 titled "Blue Suede Shoes."

Ti­tled Blue Suede Shoes, this drawing was used for a lim­ited edi­tion print (300 copies) in 1999. I have placed it in 1956 as the Elvis seems to be taken from that year.


Elvis in the ’60s

Golden Caricatures Volume 7: drawing of Sinatra and Elvis in 1960 by Hirschfeld.

This full-page ad for Frank Sina­tra’s Timex-sponsored tele­vi­sion spe­cial was pub­lished in TV Guide. Also known as “Frank Sina­tra’s Wel­come Home Party for Elvis Presley,” it was broad­cast on May 8, 1960, from 8:30 to 9:30 PM (EST). More than 40% of the viewing au­di­ence tuned in to watch Elvis sing both sides of his first post-army single, Stuck On You and Fame And For­tune.

But first, Elvis sang a verse of the opening number, It’s Nice To Go Trav­eling, with other mem­bers of the cast. Presley and Sinatra did a duet in which Elvis sang Sina­tra’s hit Witch­craft while Frank sang Love Me Tender, with a little har­mo­nizing and clowning around at the end. 3

The ren­di­tion of Elvis in the drawing above re­sem­bles the Elvis-like char­acter in the mu­sical Bye Bye Birdie, for which Hirschfeld had al­ready done pro­mo­tional draw­ings (below). So, the real Elvis that would be ap­pearing on tele­vi­sion in May was based on the fake Elvis that had ap­peared at the Martin Beck The­ater in a New York stage in April. 4


Hirschfeld and Elvis: Hirschfeld's drawing for 1960's "Bye Bye Birdie."

This drawing is of the orig­inal cast of the Broadway stage pro­duc­tion of Bye Bye Birdie, which was based loosely on Pres­ley’s in­duc­tion into the Army in 1958. Hirschfeld’s drawing was pub­lished on April 10, 1960, in The New York Times.

The focus of Hirschfeld’s drawing is Dick van Dyke and his dancing partner Chita Rivera, even though Dick Gau­tier as Conrad Birdie (the Elvis-ish figure) al­most dom­i­nates the image. Other cast mem­bers in­clude Susan Watson (on the floor) and Kay Med­ford and Paul Lynde. 5

Elvis caric Hirschfeld FollowX copy 1

The drawing is of Elvis, Arthur O’­Con­nell, Anne Helm, and kids in the Mirisch Com­pany movie Follow That Dream. Filmed in 1961, FTD was re­leased to the­aters in April 1962. This drawing was done for the film’s dis­trib­utor, United Artists, for use in advertisements.

Hirschfeld and Elvis: Hirschfeld's drawing for the 1962 movie KID GALAHAD.

The drawing of Elvis with an un­known spar­ring partner was for the Mirisch Com­pany movie Kid Galahad. Filmed in 1961, KG was re­leased to the­aters in Au­gust 1962. This drawing was done for the film’s dis­trib­utor, United Artists, for use in advertisements.


Hirschfeld and Elvis: Hirschfeld's drawing of Elvis from the 1968 NBC-TV Special.

Hirschfeld and Elvis: Hirschfeld's limited edition print of Elvis without guitar in the '68 NBC-TV Special.

The drawing of Elvis at the top was pub­lished by The New York Times on De­cember 1, 1968, in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the broad­cast of the NBC-TV spe­cial Elvis on De­cember 3, 1968. The other draw­ings were done at the same time and later used by the artist to make lith­o­graphs. 6


Caricatures Volume 7: Hirschfeld's drawing of Elvis, Barbra, Louis, Billie, and Ella.

This 1974 drawing is ti­tled “Amer­ican Pop­ular Singer – Great Amer­ican Singers” and fea­tures Elvis from the 1968 tele­vi­sion spe­cial Elvis (above). The other singers are (counter-clockwise) Barbra Streisand, Louis Arm­strong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Hol­iday (center).


Hirschfeld and Elvis: Hirschfeld's drawing of 20 celebrities titled "There's No Business Like Show Business."

This 1988 print is ti­tled “There’s No Busi­ness Like Show Busi­ness.” The top row is Grace Kelly, Charles Chaplin, John Wayne, Yul Brynner, and Louis Arm­strong. The middle row is Elvis, Judy Gar­land, James Dean, Fred As­taire, Susan Hay­ward, John Lennon, and Mar­ilyn Monroe. The bottom row is Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, In­grid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, Na­talie Wood and Henry Fonda, and Al­fred Hitch­cock and Steve McQueen.


Hirschfeld and Elvis: Hirschfeld's limited edition print of various celebrities including Elvis.

This drawing fea­tures Shirley MacLaine and Lu­ciano Pavarotti above An­thony Quinn, Jackie Mason, and Michael Jackson. The middle row is Donald Trump, Abe Hirschfeld, and An­gelica Houston, Barbra Streisand. The bottom row is Mar­ilyn Monroe, Jackie Gleason, Elvis, Jacque­line Onassis, and Carol Channing.


Hirschfeld and Elvis: Hirschfeld's limited edition print of Elvis with guitar in the '68 NBC-TV Special.

The last Elvis that Hirschfeld drew was the 1968 Elvis. Ap­par­ently, the jump-suited singer of the ’70s did not at­tract the artist’s attention.

Hirschfeld’s draw­ings of Elvis began in 1956 and ended with the ’68 NBC-TV spe­cial. Click To Tweet

Hirschfeld and Elvis: Hirschfeld's limited edition print variation of Elvis with guitar in the '68 NBC-TV Special.

FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page was taken from one of the prints above. I cropped the image and fid­dled with the color and then dark­ened the whole so that the white print of the title was more readable.


Hirschfeld and Elvis: photo of Elvis in his gold suit in 1957.

POSTSCRIPTUALLY, I have planned four vol­umes of car­i­ca­tures of Elvis in the ’50s, and two each for the ’60s and the ’70s. There are at least two artists who have done enough high-quality car­i­ca­tures of Presley to merit a volume of their own, Al Hirschfeld and Al­berto “Sting” Russo. Here are links to the volumes:

•  The First Pub­lished Car­i­ca­ture of Elvis Presley
•  Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 1 (Rockin’ the 50s)
•  Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 2 (Rollin’ the 50s)
•  Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 3 (Rat­tlin’ the 50s)
•  Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 4 (Shaggin’ the 50s)
•  Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 5 (Stuck on the 60s)
•  Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 6 (Wild in the 60s)
•  Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 7 (Elvis by Hirschfeld)
•  Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 8 (Love Let­ters from the 70s)
•  Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 9 (Aloha from the 70)
•  Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 10 (Elvis by Russo)



1   His sole con­tri­bu­tion to rock cover art was Aero­smith’s DRAW THE LINE album in 1977.

2   There may have been car­i­ca­tures of Elvis that were done prior to the Hirschfeld drawing for smaller news­pa­pers in the South and South­west, but none have survived.

3   The gen­esis of the show is in­ter­esting: Ol’ Blues Eyes had bad­mouthed rock & roll music ear­lier and had just launched his own record im­print, Reprise Records. He needed a hit show and having Elvis guar­an­teed that. Of course, he had to pay Elvis the ex­tra­or­di­nary sum of $125,000 for his ap­pear­ance on the show.

4   The Martin Beck The­atre was built in 1924 by vaude­ville pro­moter Martin Beck, who man­aged it until his death in 1940. In 1968, the building was sold. In 2003, it was re­named the Al Hirschfeld The­atre in honor of the artist who had chron­i­cled live the­atre for seventy-five years.

5   In 1963, a movie was made of Bye Bye, Birdie with Jesse Pearson playing Conrad Birdie (the Elvis-based char­acter) as though he were an education-deprived hick. The movie’s brightest point was Ann-Margret, who was nom­i­nated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Ac­tress in a Mo­tion Pic­ture Mu­sical or Comedy.

6   The spe­cial is also known as “Singer Presents Elvis,” the “NBC-TV Spe­cial,” and the “’68 Come­back Special.”


[Hirschfeld and Elvis: poster for a Hirschfeld retrospective with 29 images including Elvis.

The Hirschfeld Spec­tac­ular In­stal­la­tion was ex­hib­ited from No­vember 14 through Jan­uary 2, 2014. Henri Bendel of New York worked to create a truly unique pre­sen­ta­tion of the late illustrator’s work. This spe­cial 37″ x 28″ poster was cre­ated for the event. 



Notify of
Rate this article:
Please rate this article with your comment.
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x