Kobal was born in Linz, Austria, but the family emigrated to Canada when Kobal was ten and settled in Ottawa.
Kobal had a short-lived career as an actor in early 1960s London. He was an inveterate collector: magazines, postcards, pictures, any movie memorabilia. It was a chance encounter with Marlene Dietrich in Canada in the 1950s that led Kobal to develop his affection for the Golden Age of Hollywood. He used his contacts from a BBC appointment in New York from 1964 to acquire Hollywood related photographs, eventually numbering about 4,500 images dating from the end of the silent era to about 1960. The material was then considered of little value and regularly dumped.
The author of 30 books, Kobal was responsible for organising the first exhibition of Hollywood related photographs at London's Victoria and Albert Museum in 1974. The critic John Russell Taylor has described Kobal's contribution to film studies as "unique".
Kobal died aged 51 of AIDS-related pneumonia in London.
The John Kobal Foundation, to which he donated his collection, was established as a registered charity at the end of 1992 and presented an annual award in Portrait Photography between 1993 and 2002.
The Kobal Collection can be found at http://www.picture-desk.com. The collection is split between the London and New York offices of The Picture Desk and now consists of more than 200,000 images. The Collection also continues the exhibition work begun by John Kobal, mounting several exhibitions commissioned by the International Festival du Film, Cannes, and prestigious department stores in Japan.
Hollywood Unseen: Photographs from the John Kobal Foundation by Robert Dance
Hardcover: 244 pages
Publisher: Antique Collectors Club Dist (November 16, 2012)
Amazon: Hollywood Unseen: Photographs from the John Kobal Foundation
Foreword by Joan Collins
Hollywood Unseen is a tribute to the incredible inventiveness and ingenuity of the great Hollywood film studios: Columbia, Paramount, MGM, Universal, Warner Brothers, RKO and Twentieth Century Fox. From the late 1920s to the early 1950s these studios presided over the 'Golden Age of Cinema', and their publicity departments created some of the most stunning and iconic images of Hollywood's stars ever taken.
Here, for the first time, are photographs showing the 'ordinary lives' of the stars, including Rita Hayworth, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe. In reality, these photographs were as carefully constructed and prepared as any classic portrait or scene, and they depicted the actors and actresses exactly as the studios wanted them to be seen. The publicity departments cleverly formed an idealised view of the husbands, wives, children, pets, parties, premieres and hobbies of the stars. Ironically, many of the images were only used once or twice, and were then never seen again. Drawn from the extensive archive of the John Kobal Foundation, this book showcases an extraordinary collection of these hidden photographic gems.
John Kobal was an authority on Hollywood portrait photography, who established a preeminent collection of works featuring iconic stars of the day.
The Getty Image Library in London will be hosting an exhibition of these images to coincide with the publication of this book.
Hollywood Glamor Portraits: 145 Photos of Stars, 1926-1949 by John Kobal
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Dover Publications; 1st Ed. (U.S.) edition (July 1, 1976)
Amazon: Hollywood Glamor Portraits: 145 Photos of Stars, 1926-1949
145 striking, black-and-white photos capture famous actors from 1926 to 1949 — Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Hedy Lamarr, Marlene Dietrich, Robert Montgomery, Marlon Brando, Veronica Lake — 94 stars in all. Portraits do not duplicate those found in Kobal's Movie Star Portraits. Introduction. Captions.
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