Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sam Norkin's Album Cover Art

Sam Norkin (1917-2011), was a renowned caricaturist and illustrator who created over 4000 published drawings over a seven decade career, depicting theater performers, film and TV actors, opera singers, ballet dancers, and jazz, pop and classical musicians.

Sam Norkin self-portrait
Norkin was also the most well-known of the various imitators of the legendary theatrical caricaturist, the great Al Hirschfeld. The good natured Hirschfeld even laughingly refers to Norkin in the documentary "The Line King" as his imitator.

From 1940 to 1956, Norkin's Hirschfeld-esque illustrations were featured in the New York Herald Tribune and then from 1956-1982 his work was featured weekly in the New York Daily News. 

Sam Norkin was also hired to create many record covers over the years which is the work I most enjoy of his. So if you've always just thought of him as just a Hirschfeld imitator, check these album covers out. Several of these covers were clearly Hirschfeld-influenced, but most were drawn and designed in his own graphically distinctive style. 

                     Thanks to John Wendler for supplying some of the cover images.

        All about Sam Norkin's Jerry Lewis Mural at Brown's Hotel & Resort:


  1. So wonderful to see these. Such a talented, gracious fellow. We spent many hours together at the Berndt Toast Gang lunches. I have linked to your blog and added a couple of my own Sam stories here:

  2. I like Norton's work, but that Bix Beiderbecke caricature is off the mark. Beiderbecke died at the age of 28 and the caricature looks like someone in his forties.

  3. These are awesome Drew. I see his work in some press books, but wow--the color paintings of Key, Frank, and Bing (and Eddie Cantor too) are just fantastic. And Drew from what I can tell about caricaturists--they seem to live long, wonderful lives--they must know something we don't, they "draw" from the fountain pen of youth or something :)

  4. Maybe superficially Norkin's work looked like Hirschfeld's -- and I can imagine that being a result of the demands of the specialized market -- but Norkin's work is much more about form and mass, while Hirschfeld's was almost pure line. One's not better than the other, but the distinction is enough to take Norkin beyond the merely imitative.