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black and white headshot photo of a man and woman

Clark Gable and Joan Crawford by George Hurrell  / 1936, Gelatin silver print / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; acquired in part through the generosity of an anonymous donor

Star Power: Photographs from Hollywood’s Golden Age by George Hurrell

March 1, 2024 - January 5, 2025

During the 1930s and early 1940s, George Hurrell (1904–1992) reigned as Hollywood’s preeminent portrait photographer. Hired by the Publicity Department at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) when he was only twenty-five, Hurrell advanced rapidly to become the studio’s principal portraitist. With a keen eye for artful posing, innovative lighting effects, and skillful retouching, he produced timeless portraits that burnished the luster of many of the “Golden Age’s” greatest stars. “They were truly glamorous people,” he recalled, “and that was the image I wanted to portray.”

In 1933, Hurrell left MGM to open a photography studio on Sunset Boulevard. There, he created some of his most iconic portraits of MGM stars as well as memorable images of leading actors from the other major studios. After closing his Sunset studio in 1938, Hurrell worked briefly for Warner Bros. and Columbia Pictures before serving with a military film production unit during World War II.

Following the war, candid photographs, made with portable, small-format cameras, rose to replace the meticulously crafted, large-format studio portraits that epitomized Hurrell’s style. For George Hurrell, Hollywood’s “Golden Age” had come to an end. “When we stopped using those 8 x 10 cameras,” he declared, “the glamour was gone.”

This exhibition has been made possible in part through the generous support of Mark and Cindy Aron.

gallery icon   First floor | South Corridor 

tour icon   Curator Tour of the exhibition
         Sunday, April 14, 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
         G Street Lobby

text icon   Download the exhibition brochure

back arrow icon   Return to Current Exhibitions


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