Gene Tierney, 1944
Joan Crawford, 1932


(1904 - 1992)

Born in 1904 in Cincinnati, Ohio, George Hurrell moved to Long Beach, California in 1925 and began his photographic career. He gained success after the head of production at MGM Studios saw his work.  During the golden decades of glamour that were the 1930 and 1940s, Hurrell had the opportunity to photograph every star that worked with MGM: Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Rita Hayworth, and Humphrey Bogart, among many others. His black and white images are known for their iconic elegance, composition, and sophisticated style.  He was known for printing all his own work and having the highest standards for the quality of his images. Esquire Magazine in 1936 said it best “A Hurrell portrait is to the ordinary publicity still about what a Rolls-Royce is to a roller skate…”

He said, “As long as I can remember I wanted to be an artist.  As a boy, I was drawing all the time, in school and out.  Art was my favorite class in high school.”  He enrolled at the Chicago Art Institute, and later took night school classes at the Academy of Fine Arts studying painting. Hurrell became acquainted with the camera while in art school because students typically photographed various indoor and outdoor scenes to use as reference while painting.  Also, serious art students made sure they had a ready inventory of photographic images that they wanted to paint, so that they could use these as reference during the cold winter months when it snowed.

In 1925 Hurrell followed famed landscape painter, Edgar Alwyn Payne, an alum of the Art Institute, to Laguna Beach, CA.  Although he was interested originally in painting he found that taking photos of local artists and the social scene paid more readily than painting and got to know some key people in Hollywood.  In October 1929, Hurrell was offered a job as portrait photographer at MGM.  After being known as “the” Hollywood photographer of the 30s and 40s golden era, in the 1950s, Hurrell worked briefly within different photographic realms. Later in his career he returned to portraiture of modern-day stars like Brooke Shields, Sharon Stone, and John Travolta. He kept working in his very unique style until the end of his career leaving behind a rich full life and record of Hollywood glamour.