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April 6, 2022

Stunning Portraits of Bette Davis Taken by George Hurrell in 1939

George Hurrell was a studio photographer in Hollywood starting in the late 1920s. Created with an 8×10 view camera and heavily retouched by hand, his portraits made the beautiful look perfect, and enhanced – or even made – Hollywood careers with shots carefully calculated to match the screen personas of his subjects.

These portraits of Bette Davis are from a portfolio of stars including Gary Cooper, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Barbara Stanwyck, and Mae West. Its richly smooth texture is evocative of painted portraits and epitomizes what Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., in a statement accompanying the portfolio, referred to as the “honest, yet idealized, glamour” of Hurrell’s pictures.

George Hurrell was born in Covington, Kentucky in 1904. He studied at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the early 1920s, moving on to California where he was commissioned to photograph artists working in Laguna Beach.

Hurrell soon discovered that he could make a living taking portraits, and by the 1930s he was photographing Hollywood’s major movie stars. His photographs, showcased at museums throughout the world and in numerous publications, are also represented in the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the International Center for Photography, New York; the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, among many others.


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