Art Auction 2018 | George Hurrell


George Hurrell

Anna May Wong
Silver gelatin print, from the edition of 250; photograph taken 1937, printed 1979-80
20 x 16 inches
Courtesy of Michael H. Epstein and Scott E. Schwimer
Value: $1,500
Starting bid: $750

The photographer George Hurrell (1904–92) played a major role in creating the culture of glamour in early Hollywood. In his youth he aspired to become a painter and took up photography solely as a means to make a living. While a student at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, he met artist Edgar Payne—soon-to-be founding president of the Laguna Beach Art Association—who brought him to California. Making his way to Los Angeles, he found early success photographing screen icons Ramon Novarro and Norma Shearer. Word of his talent quickly spread to MGM executive Irving Thalberg, who hired Hurrell as the head of the studio’s portrait photography department. He would be instrumental in publicizing and in some cases launching the careers of numerous Hollywood legends.

The first Chinese-American movie star, Anna May Wong is perhaps best known for her performance alongside Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express (1932). She was highly sought-after by photographers, who were drawn to the exoticism she and the studios cultivated around her.

Selected collections

Laguna Art Museum
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The Smithsonian Institute/National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

Selected exhibitions

Masters of Starlight, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1987
The Art of the Great Hollywood Portrait Photographers, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., 1984
The Hollywood Portrait Photographers, 1921–1941, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1981

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