Jean Harlow

George Hurrell
Jean Harlow
Gelatin silver print, 1934, printed 1979-1980
Portfolio I, edition 47 of 250
16 1/8 x 20 inches
Gift of Susan Rathbone
1980.120.007
© HurrellPhotos.com

Of photographing Harlow, Hurrell said: “I always positioned my key light at a low angle, because her eyes were deep set and you had to get the light under them or her eyes would just get too dark.” The great tragedy of this talented star was that she died in 1937 of uremia brought on by kidney failure. She was only twenty-six.

Considered Hurrell’s signature work, this photo was taken at Bullock’s Wilshire department store. In 1965 Eugenia Sheppard wrote in New York (the New York Herald Tribune’s Sunday magazine) that Hurrell’s women “were available, untroubled and ready to play. . . . The name of the game was sex appeal with all its heavy eye-shadowed, white-satin voluptuousness; occasional props such as the snarling beast being leaned on by Harlow, were used to supercharge the presentation in case anyone missed the idea.”