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Glamour of the Gods: Hollywood Portraits – National Portrait Gallery

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Glamour of the Gods: Hollywood Portraits

David Franchi – Friday, 8th July 2011

“iconic and previously unseen portraits”

Showing until 23/10/11

The National Portrait Gallery exhibition “Glamour of the Gods: Hollywood Portraits” poses an intriguing excursus on picturing famous people and photography.

The National Portrait Gallery exhibition cover a period of forty years of the Hollywood story and it displays portraits of many famous actors and actresses such as Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Vivien Leigh, Loretta Young and Joan Collins never previously exhibited in the UK. It is the first museum exhibition of vintage prints from the John Kobal Foundation. It is a rare opportunity to view important artworks of a now extinct Hollywood studio system.

Glamour of the Gods: Hollywood Portraits” analyses the impact of the photography in generating notoriety of the Hollywood stardom system from 1920s to 1960s. Therefore it looks at the photographers work and how they could turn actors and actresses into international mass phenomenon icons.

This new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery displays photographs which are vintage prints drawn from the John Kobal Foundation archive. Portraits are of Cary Grant, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor and Rita Hayworth by nearly forty photographers including George Hurrell, Clarence Sinclair Bull, Laszlo Willinger, Bob Coburn and Ruth Harriet Louise.

Glamour of the Gods: Hollywood Portraits” shows both iconic and previously unseen portraits and various of these are shown alongside film scene. Some of the images are very famous and they have been used so many times that it is easy to recognise them immediately, for example, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers for ‘Swing Time’, James Dean for ‘Rebel without a Cause’ and Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan for ‘The Kid’. There are also a Marilyn Monroe nude, Laurel and Hardy and Louise Brooks. Stills photographs were used for lobby cards and posters and had to summarize the film and attract film-goers in just one image.

The Hollywood studios, still today, heavily control the image of the stars. The photographers in this exhibition were the leading photographers at that time. Davis Boulton was one of the few British photographers working for the Hollywood studios. Ruth Harriet Louise the only woman to run a studio photo gallery. Clarence Sinclair Bull build up a relationship with Greta Garbo, and also Joan Crawford and George Hurrell did the same.

Paparazzi did not exist. These photographs were the only connection between stars and fans. Thousands of them were sent out worldwide both to fans and to publications. To allow the widest possible publicity they were stamped ‘copyright free’, so the names of many photographers remained unaccredited.

John Kobal (1940-1991) was a collector and author. He began collecting photographs in the 1950s, visiting Los Angeles frequently when many of the major studios were being bought by corporations who cared little for the history of the film industry. Kobal tracked down the surviving photographers of great Hollywood and through a series of major exhibitions and books sought to gain them the recognition they deserved.

The exhibition is organised by the Santa Barbara Museum of Arts and supported by the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

Published for: www.remotegoat.co.uk
Direct Link: http://www.remotegoat.co.uk/review_view.php?uid=7162

Written by davidfranchi

July 9, 2011 at 11:35 pm

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