Signs of Man
William Saroyan. Texts by Sidney Janis, Oto Bihalji-Merin, William Saroyan
1975 / 144 PAGES
Awestricken by painting in later life, Hirshfield poured his energies into depicting lionesses, kittens on sofas, and female nudes. Today considered one of America’s great artists, he is celebrated here by another great naïve, William Saroyan.
Enlightenment presented itself to Morris Hirshfield, a 64-year-old Polish Jewish immigrant to New York, in 1937, in the form of a white angora cat. Sitting on a strange sofa, the cat looked at Hirshfield with Beatrice's eyes. The old man decided to paint it. From then to the day of his death, Hirshfield painted about seventy pictures. He depicted flowers, lionesses, kittens and many female nudes, substituting imagination (or memory) for models, and evading his wife's scoldings with clever mirror tricks. Seeking paintings for an exhibition of unknown American painters, critic and gallerist Sidney Janis discovered the angora cat in a small art gallery, and the animal's eyes had the same effect on him as on Hirshfield. Janis exhibited it in 1939. In this volume, Morris Hirshfield is in conversation with William Saroyan, the great naïve of American literature, who added him to the cast of his now famous human comedy; an introduction by Sidney Janis takes us back to the years of Hirshfield's discovery, while Oto Bihalji-Merin, the most famous critic of naïve art, talks about him as a contemporary, revealing the secrets of his modest eroticism.