Joseph Hirsch


Quick Reference


Painter, printmaker, and draftsman. Like other social realists associated with the American Scene movement, he affirmed the value of the individual beset by social and economic stresses. The Prisoner (Whitney Museum, 1942) sympathetically depicts a German prisoner of war under interrogation. Authority is represented only by the hands of a questioner, writing on a clipboard in the foreground. Facing him, the defeated soldier in uniform bleakly responds without making eye contact. In other works, Hirsch sometimes satirized self-important elites, such as businessmen, implicitly condemning their soulnessness. Born in Philadelphia, Hirsch studied at the Philadelphia Museum School (now University of the Arts) before going to New York where he worked with George Luks in 1932. Soon afterward, he was employed by federal art projects, for which he completed three mural commissions in Philadelphia. In 1943–44, he served as a World War II artist-correspondent in Italy, Africa, and the South Pacific. Hirsch's later work combines realistic observation and colorful patterning to examine varied experiences. Invocation (Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio, 1966–69) focuses on the individuals playing official roles in a college graduation ceremony. He died at his home in New York.

Subjects: Art.

Reference entries