Some longtime visitors to Grapefruit Moon Gallery have been wondering where they can find the vintage Hollywood and fine art photography on the new site. It’s migrated into the Fine and Decorative Arts category, and these images are both some of the finest and most decorative we have come across. Beautiful black and white stills from the likes of studio photographers George Hurrell, Clarence Sincalir Bull, and Alfred Cheney Johnson, giants who originated the glamour shots of the 1920s and 30s. The technique, lighting, and moods captured by these studio greats serves up the imagined glamour of the era, and led to the Hollywood mystique of the 40s and 50s.
Not only are these technically precise examples of early photography, the stills were instrumental in creating our current conception of film stars, both vintage and modern. The mystiques of Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo were developed in partnership with a photographer, who became responsible for the public image of actresses in the fame machine.
Clarence Sinclair Bull was head of MGM’s stills department, responsible for portraits of the most celebrated Hollywood film stars, however, he is particularly known for his photographs for Garbo who was almost exclusively photographed by Bull from 1926 to 1941. Bull was the ideal collaborator for this sensitive soul. Their first set of proofs showed it, images that would be printed, published, reprinted, and seen all over the world.
Joan Crawford was one of the most photographed women in the entire world. Famed photographs such as George Hurrell photographed her image and brought out her bone structure, large blue eyes, exaggerated lips, and radiant smile. Hurrell was the principal auteur of the photographic idiom known as the Hollywood glamour portrait. Hired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1930, Hurrell threw out the conventional “soft focus,” and replaced it with a sharp, dramatic look. Coupled with this spot-lit style was his ability to make his subjects feel sensuous and look godlike. Thus Hurrell introduced a bold new idiom, one in which movie stars were idealized, glamorized, and ultimately turned into icons.