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George Hurrell, American, (6/1/1904–5/17/92)
Joan Crawford, 1932, 1981
Silver gelatin print on paper
11 in. x 14 in. (27.94 cm x 35.56 cm)

Object Type: Photography
Technique: Gelatin silver Process
Credit Line: Gift of the Yarema Family Trust
Accession Number: 2006.4.5

George Hurrell was a photographer whose work defined Hollywood glamour for decades. Hurrell first picked up a camera in order to photograph his paintings. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, and got his first photography job after school taking pictures of artists and their works. Soon after, he moved to California and became a full-time portrait photographer when he found that there were more assignments to be had in that field. Hurrell’s first famous subject was female aviator Poncho Barnes, followed by actor Ramon Novarro and actress Norma Shearer. Hurrell’s photos of her landed him a contract with MGM as the studio’s portrait photographer. Hurrell photographed the stars there for two years, then, then went on to Warner Brothers, and later, Columbia Pictures. During World War II, Hurrell was placed with the First Motion Picture Unit of the U.S. Army Air Force, making training films. When he returned to Hollywood, glamour photography (a term coined originally to describe Hurrell’s work) was out of fashion, but Hurrell found work shooting advertisements and fashion spreads in New York, and in the late fifties became a unit still photographer for movies. After his retirement in the late 1970s, Hurrell saw a revival of his career, during which time he photographed such actors and musicians as Sean Penn and Natalie Cole. In this photo, Joan Crawford, the popular screen actress, lit dramatically, gazes over her shoulder at something out of frame. At this point in her career, Crawford was moving away from her previous persona in the 1920s of a young, wild flapper, and attempting to work as a more serious actress. This photo was taken in 1932, the same year that one of Crawford’s darker films, Rain, was released. The portrait reflects Crawford’s new image as a glamorous, but serious, actress, her somber gaze complemented by the dramatic lighting. Lisette Vega ’10 Wilson Intern 2010

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