Hollywood Icons

A new book compiles the collector John Kobal's many portraits of Golden Age Hollywood’s best-loved stars

The book Hollywood Icons centres around the private collection of John Kobal. It features portraits of golden age Hollywood’s best loved stars.

The book includes Alfred Hitchcock, Marlene Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Clint Eastwood, Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Humphrey Bogart. It features the work of photographers such as Ted Allan, Ernest Bachrach, Clarence Sinclair Bull and George Hurrell.

John Kobal developed his passion for golden age Hollywood while living in Canada in the 1950s – where his parents settled after emigrating from Austria. His interest was born after a chance encounter with the actress Marlene Dietrich, who let him sleep on her sofa in her hotel suite for one night.

After a short career in the movie industry, accumulating some contacts in the scene, John Kobal amassed a collection of around 4,500 images – dating from the end of the silent era to the early 1960s. The collection helped revive an interest in Hollywood’s still and portrait photographers, who documented the making of films and the private lives of their stars.

In his lifetime, Kobal published dozens of books and curated over 25 exhibitions at renowned museums such as the MoMA in New York. In Hollywood Icons, Kobal’s long-time friend Terrence Pepper says, “John was a mysterious but clearly very significant figure in the growing appreciation of the film star portrait”.

While John Kobal died in 1991, his collection continued through the John Kobal Foundation. The foundation currently exhibits works from Kobal’s collection around the world.