John Kobal (1940–1991) was an expert on vintage Hollywood and authored more than 30 books on the topic. He began to collect photographic relics from Hollywood’s early years in the 1960s and 1970s, a moment when memories of the old studio and star system were quickly fading. He interviewed forgotten stars and sought out the photographers who captured the ambiance of Hollywood sets. For Kobal, these images constituted a valuable record of how the studios developed and promoted their assets—the stars and their films.
Kobal’s efforts elevated the status of studio photographers, bringing critical attention to their artistic accomplishments. A gay man living with AIDS, Kobal created the John Kobal Foundation a year before his death to preserve his collection and continue his legacy of scholarship on Hollywood photography. His foundation still maintains the original photographic negatives and licenses images for public use.
From the 2022 exhibition Photographs from Hollywood’s Golden Era: The John Kobal Foundation Collection, curated by Michael Hartman, Jonathan Little Cohen Associate Curator of American Art and Katherine W. Hart, former Senior Curator of Collections and Barbara C. & Harvey P. Hood 1918 Curator of Academic Programming
Photographs from Hollywood's Golden Era: The John Kobal Foundation Collection, Katherine Hart, Sol LeWitt and Class of '67 Galleries, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover New Hampshire, February 19 - May 21, 2022.
Robert Dance, Glamour of the Gods, Photographs from the John Kobal Foundation, Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2008, illustration page 97.
John Kobal Foundation Limited, London, England; sold to present collection, 2019.
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