Free Time Friday: Glamour of the Gods: Hollywood Portraits

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Photo credit: richcd from
Put a note in your diary for an amazing new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Glamour of the Gods: Hollywood Portraits, Photographs from the John Kobal Foundation will examine the importance of photography in creating the stars of Hollywood from 1920 to 1960. Itwill include portraits of Marlene Dietrich, James Dean, Joan Collins, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe by nearly 40 photographers including George Hurrell, Clarence Sinclair Bull, Laszlo Willinger, Bob Coburn and Ruth Harriet Louise.
Nearly all of the photographs in the exhibition will be vintage prints drawn from the archive of the John Kobal Foundation. This will be a rare opportunity to view these important artifacts of a now extinct Hollywood studio system. The exhibition will show both iconic and previously unseen studio portraits of Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Vivien Leigh, Loretta Young, and Carole Lombard among others. These portraits will be shown alongside film scene stills including Lillian Gish for The Wind, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers for Swing Time and James Dean for Rebel without a Cause. Stills photographs which were used for lobby cards and posters and had to encapsulate the film plot, or be powerful and dramatic enough to attract film-goers in just one image.

John Kobal (1940-1991) was a collector and author who began collecting film photographs in the 1950s, he visited Los Angeles frequently when many of the major studios were being bought by corporations who cared little for the history of the film industry. At first John's interest was solely in the stars and their films but his interest began to shift to the photographers behind the portraits, many of whom were still alive and accessible at this time. Kobal tracked down the surviving members of the circle of great Hollywood photographers and sought to gain them the recognition they deserved. As a result, the significance of the Hollywood photographers is now widely acknowledged for their contribution to both the film industry and twentieth century photographic portraiture.

The exhibition will run from 7 July until 23 October 2011 in the Porter Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, London. For further information please visit

Admission £6. Concessions £5.50/£5.00. To book tickets please call 0844 248 5033

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