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The Hollywood Portrait

From the earliest days of cinema the Hollywood studios created, controlled and promoted their stars - the chosen few whose features and personalities registered well on the screen and who developed followings that verged on the fanatical by the 1930s.

The portrait became the studio's chief tool to keep the faces of favorites in the minds of audiences. Through the skill and invention of the still camera artists, such as George Hurrell and Clarence Sinclair Bull, the faces of the Hollywood greats were memorialised. Dramatic lighting, unique camera angles and deft retouching created icons of glamour – Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly – and male stars – Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando and Rock Hudson.

These stars would sit for portraits for each film, sometimes in costume and sometimes wearing stylish contemporary fashions. These portraits would be used to advertise the upcoming film in newspapers and magazines. Many of the portraits in this exhibition appeared in one of the dozens of fan magazines that were widely circulated from the 1930s to the 1950s.

photo of Press Room at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Press room at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
by unidentified photographer

photo of Gary Cooper

Clarence Sinclair Bull photographing Clarke Gable and Vivien Leigh for Gone with the Wind, 1939
by Fred Parrish