EXTRAORDINARY SELF-PORTRAIT CARICATURE DRAWN AND INSCRIBED BY KATHARINE HEPBURN TO THE ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF THE AMERICAN SHAKESPEARE THEATRE, FRAMED WITH A BOLDLY SIGNED TYPED PRESENTATION LETTER BY HEPBURN TO THE MAN WHO PURCHASED THE CARICATURE AND A GLOSSY PUBLICITY PHOTOGRAPH
HEPBURN, Katharine. Self portrait inscribed. FRAMED WITH: Typed letter signed. FRAMED WITH: Publicity photo. Stratford, Connecticut, 1957; Likely Old Saybrook, Connecticut, 1970; and circa 1990. Self-portrait, measuring 4-3/4 by 6-1/2 inches; matted, measures 8-1/2 by 9 inches; single sheet of white letterhead measuring 7 by 10 inches, with original typed envelope; glossy color publicity photograph measuring 8 by 10 inches. Matted and framed together, entire piece measures 32-1/2 by 16-1/4 inches. $13,500.
Most exceptional caricature-style self-portrait skillfully accomplished by Katharine Hepburn and inscribed "Landau" in the margin to the associate director of the American Shakespeare Theatre and additionally inscribed on the mat by Hepburn: "Jack from His Portia"; framed with a boldly signed typed presentation letter from Hepburn to the purchaser—presumably at a charity auction—of the caricature and a publicity photograph from Hepburn's later years.
Accomplished in pencil, ink, watercolor, and crayon on textured paper, this caricature-style self-portrait by Katharine Hepburn depicts her in the role of Portia from "The Merchant of Venice." Hepburn is shown in profile, her hair pulled back into a sloppy topknot, with a high collar. In the upper marginal corner of the self-portrait, Hepburn has written the word "Landau." On the original mat, she has drawn a four-leaf clover or flower and inscribed it: "Jack from His Portia." Jack Landau served as associate director of the independent theater company, American Shakespeare Theatre (AST), in Stratford, Connecticut from 1956 to 1959. Hepburn was one of the first major stars to perform at the AST following its 1955 opening. The AST, as its name would suggest, focused primarily on Shakespeare and the theater company was headquartered in a round theatre building modeled after the Globe in London. Hepburn portrayed Portia during a July 10 to August 3, 1957 run of "The Merchant of Venice." Portia gives the famous "quality of mercy" speech in the play. However, a few theater critics at the time disapproved of Hepburn's delivery, characterizing it as halting and distracting. Nevertheless, "The Merchant of Venice" was AST's "most decorative and elaborate production" of the season with Italian renaissance scenery and costumes. Hepburn stayed with the AST for the rest of the season and performed the role of Beatrice from "Much Ado About Nothing. Indeed, Hepburn proved to be a frequent Shakespearian actor. In the 1950s, she toured Australia with the Old Vic, performing as Portia once again, as well as Kate from "Taming of the Shrew," and Isabella from "Measure for Measure." In 1960, she returned to the AST to take up the roles of Viola from "Twelfth Night" and Cleopatra from "Antony & Cleopatra." Few Hepburn caricatures exist and those were dedicated to people with whom Hepburn worked in film or theater: fellow actors, wardrobe mistresses, and directors. These starkly honest and unflattering caricatures often depict Hepburn with angular, bony features, freckles, and off-putting facial expressions, as in the present example. Sadly, Jack Landau, the recipient of this caricature, was murdered during a robbery in 1967. Up until that point, he had a thriving career in theater, and also became a university-level drama instructor and employee of CBS.
The accompanying typed letter on Hepburn's personal letterhead addressed to Earl Fagerstrom Esq. of Hartford, Connecticut reads in full: "VI - 3 - 1970. Dear Mr. Fagerstrom, That is a caricature which I gave Jack Landau when I worked with him at Stratford Connecticut [handwritten annotation: "—1960"]—I hope you had to pay a lot for it—I am keeping one photograph—if I may—[signed] Katharine Hepburn." The letter appears to suggest that Fagerstrom bought it in a charity auction, hence Hepburn's hope that he overpaid. Her attempt to guess the date of her work with Jack Landau is evidently incorrect as her performance as Portia took place in 1957. The letter is accompanied by the original mailing envelope. While the identity of Fagerstrom is unknown, he was notably a fellow Connecticut resident (Hepburn maintained a home in Old Saybrook for her entire life) and undoubtedly familiar with the AST.
Shallow chip to top edge of frame. Photo fine, light foxing to caricature, and letter fine with only slight soiling to envelope. Near-fine condition.