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George Hurrell

1904 – 1992

George Hurrell, born in Kentucky, began his working life studying painting at the Art Institute of Chicago. He moved west when commissioned to photograph paintings and painters at the art colony of Laguna Beach, California in 1925. Through the aviatrix Poncho Barnes, he met silent-screen star Ramon Novarro, who commissioned a series of portraits of himself. They caught the eye of the wife of MGM production chief Irving G Thalberg, the actor Norma Shearer, who was seeking a new sexier image. The resultant shots saw Hurrell hired as head of the MGM portrait department in 1930. Over the next two years, Hurrell photographed every star at MGM - Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, and Greta Garbo amongst them. Now credited as the man who invented 'glamour photography', Hurrell spent six-years in his own studio on Sunset Boulevard before moving to Warner Bros., where he boosted the careers of such stars as Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn, and James Cagney. At Columbia, he shaped the image of Rita Hayworth. After war service with the First Motion Picture Unit of the US Army Air Force, making training films and photographing generals at the Pentagon, Hurrell relocated to New York, where he shot advertising and fashion layouts. In 1956 he settled back into the film industry as a unit stills photographer. Following an exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1965, he published The Hurrell Style in 1976. Other commemorative books and special-edition prints of his work ensued. Over the 1970s he photographed stars including Liza Minnelli, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford. Even after his retirement in 1976, he continued to shoot the likes of Sharon Stone, Brooke Shields and John Travolta. Among his last assignments was photographing Warren Beatty and Annette Bening for Bugsy. During the last years of his life, Hurrell worked on Legends in Light, the first major retrospective of his work.

Updated 2018
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