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Sam Norkin, 1917-2011
posted January 1, 2012


Sam Norkin, a widely-published caricaturist and cartoonist whose work spanned seven decades and whose clients included entertainment industry publications and major newspapers, died in his sleep July 30 in New York. He was 94 years old.

Norkin was born in Brooklyn in 1917. He initially studied under the muralist Mordi Grassner before receiving a more formal arts education at a variety of institutions: classes at Cooper Union, the Brooklyn Museum Art School and Metropolitan Art School among them.

Norkin's first sale was a drawing of Alfred Hitchcock directing a stageplay version of the popular detective serial Mr. and Mrs. North in 1940 created a market for his work by focusing on access to a theatrical, opera or dance productions before the show opened, which was typically the point at which photographers were allowed in to capture the show. He had a long-time gig with the New York Herald Tribune from 1940 to 1956 (it was that paper that bought the Hitchcock drawing), and then worked at the Daily News until the early 1980s. He also worked as an art critic and wrote articles on culture for the Daily News. In recent years, he provided art to InTheater. He occasionally provided illustration to theater-related books. Tom Richmond notes that Norkin would occasionally do caricatures at privates functions, something many such artists avoid when they build a career like Norkin had.

His best-known book is 1994's Sam Norkin: Drawings, Stories, which came out from Heinemann. He was widely exhibited, and won honorifics from his work from the Drama Desk (he was at one point that organization's president) and the League of American Theatres and Producers. Active in the National Cartoonists Society, he won the Special Features Award in 1980 and the Silver T-Square Award (1984). The Drama Desk recently instituted an award in Norkin's name, the "Sam Norkin Off-Broadway Award," which will become part of that group's awards program starting in 2012.

Norkin's body was donated to Presbyterian Hospital in New York. He is survived by a wife, a son, a daughter, a step-daughter, a step-son and several other family members.