November 22, 2014 through January 9, 2015
On display in the Lobby of The Algonquin Hotel
Return of the Vicious Circle is a unique installation that will bring back members of the famed Algonquin Round Table and their friends to the lobby of the Algonquin. Twenty-five portraits by the “Line King” will peer down from the walls of the lobby, seemingly ready with a quip or observation, very much like they were in their heyday. Hirschfeld’s drawings of the figures cover a half century of his work, and shows how his lines were as incisive as any member of the Round Table. His celebrated group portrait of the Round Table, so iconic it was featured in their Encyclopedia Britannica entry, will hang framed right above the historic Round Table itself.
This installation made possible by:
© The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org Portraits selected by David Leopold and Katherine Marshall
The Algonquin Round Table – a group of 20-somethings who favored the hotel as a daily meeting spot – set the standard for literary style and wit beyond its ten-year duration.
After World War I, Vanity Fair writers and Algonquin regulars Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and Robert E. Sherwood began lunching at The Algonquin. In 1919, they gathered in the Rose Room with some literary friends to welcome back acerbic critic Alexander Woollcott from his service as a war correspondent. It proved so enjoyable that someone suggested it become a daily event. This led to a daily exchange of ideas, opinions, and often-savage wit that has enriched the world's literary life. George S. Kaufman, Heywood Broun, and Edna Ferber were also in this August assembly, which strongly influenced writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Perhaps their greatest contribution was the founding of The New Yorker magazine, which today is free to guests of the hotel.
Owner, Frank Case, treated the talented, but low paid, young writers to free celery and popovers and provided them their own table and waiter, thereby guaranteeing daily return luncheon visits. The group expanded to a core membership that included Edna Ferber, Franklin P. Adams, George S. Kaufman, Heywood Broun, and Marc Connelly.
Though society columns referred to them as The Algonquin Round Table, they called themselves the Vicious Circle. "By force of character," observed drama critic Brooks Atkinson, "they changed the nature of American comedy and established the tastes of a new period in the arts and theatre."
Most of The Round Table members were critics, and as they lunched they would exchange ideas and gossip, which found their way into Adams’ “conning Tower” column in the Tribune the next day. From one glorious beginning in June of 1919, members’ opinions and writing strongly influenced young writers like Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Harold Ross, legendary editor and friend of The Round Table, created The New Yorker and secured funding for it at the hotel. The magazine made its debut February 21, 1925. Today, each Algonquin guest receives a complimentary copy of the magazine.
Mrs. Parker and her friends were immortalized in 1987 in Aviva Slesin’s Academy Award-winning documentary, The Ten Year Lunch. In 1994, the group was once again transported to the big screen in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, produced by Robert Altman and starring Jennifer Jason Leigh as Mrs. Parker. The premieres of both films were followed by gala parties at The Algonquin.
Years after the original Round Table members disbanded, The Round Table restaurant continues to be one of the most sought-after dining destinations in New York City. Many visitors specifically request to sit at the original “round table” where the renowned personalities met. Over delightful cuisine, today’s literary, business, creative and artistic elite gather here to share ideas and animated conversation, just as the original Round Table members were so famous for.