Made in Hollywood: Photographs from the John Kobal Foundation and Manet: Portraying Life

Picture it: the golden age of Hollywood where the likes of Clark Gable and Greta Garbo were transformed into gods and goddesses who ruled the screens and stole the hearts of adoring movie-goers. Equally significant but generally less recognizable are the photographers who helped launch these icons into stardom through their timeless photographs.

Made in HollywoodPhotographs from the John Kobal Foundation travels to the Toledo Museum of Art, showcasing more than 90 prints by the most important photographers working in Hollywood from 1920–1960. This exhibition celebrates the finest portraits and still photography drawn from the London-based archive of late author and collector John Kobal. The show highlights the importance of photography through the classic images of idols such as Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart.

“For those familiar with Garbo, Dietrich, Swanson, Cooper, Harlow, Hepburn, Bogart, the photographs will seem like old friends,” said Tom Loeffler, assistant curator of works on paper. “For those unfamiliar, the shear mastery of the medium by more than 30 different photographers—all able to portray variously the vulnerability, invincibility, sexuality and humor of the stars—will astonish them.”

Master photographers George Hurrell, Clarence Sinclair Bull and Ruth Harriet Louise memorialized these leading actors and actresses through their iconic imagery, utilizing dramatic lighting, unique camera angles and deft retouching. They captured the magic that Hollywood symbolized by immortalizing the stars, the scenes and the sets that American studios created.

The traveling exhibition was organized in 2008 by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Also shown at the National Portrait Gallery in London—where it brought in a record-setting amount of visitors—Made in Hollywood makes its final stop at TMA. Karen Sinsheimer, SBMA curator of photography, and Robert Dance, film historian and co-author of Garbo’s Garbos, co-curated the show.

Kobal, founder of the fine art archive, was born in Austria where he developed a love for movies as a boy. At the age of 18 he met his first celebrity, Dietrich, by posing as a journalist and speaking in German to get her attention. This would be only one of his many encounters with some of the top actresses and actors in Hollywood. Later, he sought to understand the vital role photographers play in the creation of movie stars by shifting the focus away from the icons themselves.

“John Kobal was a pioneer, being among the first to examine seriously the photographs taken to promote the stars and their studios,” said Sinsheimer. “More than any other individual, Kobal was committed to recording the talents of Hollywood’s leading photographers. Without his tireless collecting and assembling of original material, much of Hollywood history would be lost.”

The works in the exhibition were selected from The John Kobal Foundation, which has archived more than 4,500 original vintage photographs. Most works in the show are original, vintage 11×14” prints. There also are eight large-scale images printed specifically for the exhibition from original 8×10” negatives.

Tickets to the exhibition are $8 for adults and $5 for seniors and students. Children 5 and under are admitted free with a paid adult admission. TMA members receive free unlimited admission to Made in Hollywood. Combination tickets, which allow discounted admittance to Made in Hollywood and Manet: Portraying Life, opening the same day, are also available.

Exhibition Opening

Event Details:


  • When: 

    Sunday, October 7, 2012
    12:00 p.m.

  • Where: 

    Toledo Museum of Art
    2445 Monroe Street
    Toledo, Ohio

  • More information: 

    Event website.

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