Collection Artwork
George Hurrell (Covington, Kentucky, 1904 – 1992, Los Angeles, California)
Katharine Hepburn
1941, printed 1979-1980
gelatin silver print
Creative Art Investments, Inc. (born Los Angeles, California)
image size: 13 3/8 x 10 1/2 in.
paper size: 14 x 11 in.
The Jack Shear Collection of Photography at the Tang Teaching Museum
photographed at the artist's Rodeo Dr. studio, Los Angeles, California, United States, North America
Inscribed in black ink, lower left, in margin: 38/190
Signed in black ink, lower right, in margin: Hurrell/ [sic]

Object Label

In 1925 George Hurrell left his Midwestern Catholic upbringing behind and moved to Laguna Beach, California, to study landscape painting. He fell in love with photography while taking snapshots of landscapes to use as inspiration for future paintings. Hurrell gained a reputation among friends as a photographer who could make anyone beautiful. Through word-of-mouth endorsements among Southern California’s elite, Hurrell spent years illuminating the glamour that existed within his subjects. In doing so, he contributed to the formation of an archetype for glamour that required white skin.

Hurrell accepted a position at MGM in 1929 as a portrait photographer. His images were used to advertise the studio’s blockbuster films. These photographs circulated widely in advertising, fashion, and media and played a major role in defining the visual markers of glamour. He photographed some of the most famous Hollywood actresses of the day, including Rita Hayworth, Jean Harlow, and Marlene Dietrich. Although the portraits were staged and therefore inherently unrealistic, women across the country strove to obtain the perfectly curled and silky hair, daring eyes, flawless makeup on porcelain skin, and impeccable style of the photographer’s sitters. However, the prototype for glamour that Hurrell popularized was not one that could be easily replicated, especially for women of color. The selection of black portraiture in this exhibition demonstrates that for black women, glamour is constructed within a diverse culture and is not defined by an outdated template based in whiteness.

From the exhibition: New Ms. Thang (May 4 – May 18, 2019)

Ongoing Research

Research on our collection is ongoing. If you have resources you’d like to share, please contact Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.
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