The child of Americans living in Nuremberg, Germany, Hirsch was educated at the University of Zurich. When he came to New York in 1919, he met the painter Hamilton Easter Field, with whom he studied, as did Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Robert Laurent, during summers in Ogunquit, Maine. Hirsch subsequently became a founder and exhibitor at the avant-garde Salons of America (an alternative to the Society of Independent Artists) and an instructor in the art departments at Bennington College in Vermont and Bard College in upstate New York. Although Hirsch was represented in the collections of many museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, reviewers during the 1930s and 1940s found his work difficult to characterize. By the time of his death they called it “thoroughly modern, without being extreme” (New York Times, September 30, 1964). Although the subject of his paintings varied widely—Mexican landscapes, barnyard scenes, ruins, portraits, and the circus—Hirsch often painted scenes that represent the transition from rural to industrial life.
William H. Truettner and Roger B. Stein, editors, with contributions by Dona Brown, Thomas Andrew Denenberg, Judith K. Maxwell, Stephen Nissenbaum, Bruce Robertson, Roger B. Stein, and William H. Truettner Picturing Old New England: Image and Memory (Washington, D.C.; New Haven, Conn; and London: National Museum of American Art with Yale University Press, 1999)