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The Grand Master of the Hollywood Portrait: George Hurrell

50 Photographs of Hollywood Stars
Hurrell’s Men
October 1 - December 31, 2005 at the Hudson River Museum

YONKERS, NY. August 14, 2005 —George Hurrell’s photographs conjure the spell of “star quality.” Most often Hurrell’s work is associated with the female film stars of the 1930s and 1940s, such as Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, and Jean Harlow. Hurrell’s Men highlights his portfolio of equally compelling images of male movie stars.Focusing on more than 50 of his portraits, Hurrell’s Men is at the Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, from October 1 – December 31.

Hurrell’s visual vocabulary is expanded in his portraits of men to incorporate a raw energy not readily apparent in his images of women. From the androgynous perfection of Ramon Novarro to the brutish bulk of Wallace Beery, the tailored elegance of Robert Montgomery or the classic profile of John Barrymore, the energy of Hurrell’s Men is balanced by the perfection of the surface. They transgress the boundaries that usually segregate masculinity from glamour.

The Hurrell portrait is at once idealized yet attainable; perfected yet understandable; iconic yet intimate. His use of light and shadow, his vocabulary of angle and crop, and the fragile movement that he, and we the viewers, share with his celebrity subjects are typical of Hurrell’s style. While his subjects are draped within an exquisite sensuality, unblemished perfection, and immaculate styling, there is always an underlying connection with his subjects: a psychological and personal point of entry that renders the physical perfection palatable.

Born in 1904 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Hurrell studied painting and graphics at the Art Institute of Chicago and Academy of Fine Arts. His photographic experiments with sunlight and his work, in the late 20s, for Edward Steichen, America’s leading photographer, led him to do portrait photography at MGM. For the next 60 years, he pursued his art independently and the great film studios. He respected his subjects, commenting famously, They just didn’t walk in the door…They arrived … It was as if they had internal trumpets that blew for them just as the door opens.

 The exhibition is organized by the Sheldon Art Galleries , St. Louis . Photographs courtesy of the Pancho Barnes Trust Estate. Hurrell’s Men has been made possible with support from AVR Realty Company.

The Hudson River Museum is located at 511 Warburton Avenue, Yonkers, NY.
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