Morris Hirshfield. Tiger. 1940

Morris Hirshfield Tiger 1940

  • MoMA, Floor 5, 521 The Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Galleries

Perhaps influenced by the artist's work in textile manufacturing, the highly textured surface of this painting recalls the tactility of fabrics, and its repeating forms, symmetrical composition, thick outlines, and bold colors evoke the patterning and print motifs often seen on textiles. Hirshfield placed the tiger—based on an illustration in a children's book—within an imaginary and highly stylized natural landscape, transforming a simple image into what MoMA's founding director, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., called the most "unforgettable animal picture."

Gallery label from 2011.
Additional text

In 1939 art collector and dealer Sidney Janis stumbled upon a painting by Morris Hirshfield tucked out of view in a New York gallery. He immediately asked to borrow two works by the artist to include in the exhibition Contemporary Unknown American Painters, which he was organizing for The Museum of Modern Art. This was the first public exposure for Hirshfield, a self-taught painter who had only begun making art after retiring at age sixty-five from a career in textile and shoe manufacturing. In 1941, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., MoMA's founding director, acquired Tiger and Girl in a Mirror for the Museum, and he organized a monographic exhibition of Hirshfield's work at MoMA two years later. In its early years the Museum was committed to collecting and exhibiting the work of self-taught artists, exploring and bringing to the public what Barr considered to be a "tributary of one of the main streams of modern taste."

Gallery label from 2011.
Oil on canvas
28 x 39 7/8" (71.1 x 101.3 cm)
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund
Object number
© 2021 Estate of Morris Hirshfield/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA’s Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].