The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery | George Hurrell Star Power: Photographs From Hollywood’s Golden Age

By East City Art Editorial Team on February 26, 2024

Fri, March 1 2024 — Sun, January 5 2025


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

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will present “Star Power: Photographs from Hollywood’s Golden Age by George Hurrell,” an exhibition exploring timeless images of film royalty from the 1930s and 1940s. George Hurrell, the acclaimed Hollywood portrait photographer, captures these stars in their most enchanting light. Among those featured are film icons, ranging from Jean Harlow and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson to Greta Garbo and James Wong Howe. Selected from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection, which includes 70 recently acquired Hurrell portraits, the exhibition is curated by senior curator of photographs Ann Shumard. It will be on view from March 1 to Jan. 5, 2025.

“Through his expertly crafted, mesmerizing portraits, George Hurrell burnished the luster Hollywood’s most memorable stars of the 1930s and ’40s,” Shumard said.

In 1930, Hurrell began his Hollywood career as a photographer for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), the studio claiming to have “more stars than there are in heaven.” Shortly after joining MGM, Hurrell became the studio’s principal portrait photographer. His keen eye for lighting, composition and artful posing glorified Hollywood’s stars and influenced popular standards of glamour. In 1933, Hurrell established his own studio on Sunset Boulevard, where he continued to photograph actors for MGM and those working for other major studios. After closing his studio in 1938, he ended the decade as the head of photography for Warner Bros.

Featuring more than 20 vintage photographs, this exhibition portrays some of Golden Age Hollywood’s most memorable stars at the height of their fame, including John Barrymore, Jimmy Durante, Rosalind Russell, Spencer Tracy, Loretta Young and many more.

The National Portrait Gallery is located at Eighth and G streets NW.