Morris Hirshfield was born in a small Polish town near what was then the German border. Beginning his interest in art as a young boy carving wood, Hirshfield and his family immigrated to the United States when he was eighteen. After settling in New York City, he found employment with a factory that manufactured women's coats. After several years, Hirshfield and his brother started their own business, producing first women's coats and later slippers. The brothers became one of the most successful slipper manufacturers in New York, but poor health forced Hirshfield to retire in 1935. He began his first paintings in 1937 with Beach Girl and Angora Cat.
Leopard Family of 1943 is a masterwork of Hirshfield's oeuvre, demonstrating the artist's distinctive style of highly patterned images composed with a repetition of forms. In Leopard Family, Hirshfield presents three ferocious felines--a mother protecting her two young cubs--with their mouths open and teeth bared with large, menacing claws. With their ears erect and alert, they are trapped by bushes and rocks, confined to their space, making them more agitated. Adding to the franticness, the hills behind the beasts are lined with a convoluting and confusing pattern and the clouds are not soft, billowing clouds, rather diagonal forms emanating from the animals, echoed in the leopards' spots.
Although the artist was not traditionally trained as a painter, Hirshfield's occupational background and early interest in wood carving in textiles can be seen in Leopard Family. The design and repetitive patterning is similar to those of various fabrics and textures. A dominant theme in Hirshfield's works is his use of curvilinear forms, similar to that of cutting around the contours of patterns. The leopards' curling tails are echoed in the undulating landscape and he uses curved, irregular shapes for the animals' spots. Also, reminiscent of his days in textiles, the artist employs a herringbone pattern for the bushes. Hirshfield's inimitable, unusual style is masterfully manifested in Leopard Family.