Elizabeth Taylor[medium]MGM, 1952, Davis Boulton[/medium]

Elizabeth Taylor MGM, 1952, Davis Boulton

Humphrey Bogart[medium]Warner Brothers, c.1939, Scotty Wellborne [/medium]

Humphrey Bogart Warner Brothers, c.1939, Scotty Wellborne

Idols and Illusions presents over sixty photographic images from the Golden Age of Cinema, 1925-1960. These now iconic publicity stills portray Hollywood legends, including Audrey Hepburn, Joan Crawford, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, Buster Keaton, Marlon Brando and Bristol’s own Archibald Leach (Cary Grant) going about their everyday business, promoting themselves and their movies.

These candid shots of stars relaxing on the beach, playing tennis or just ‘goofing around’ on the back-lots of the movie studios were produced in their thousands, providing endless fodder for their legions of fans, desperate to have a peak at their idols off-duty. However, these shots were far from ‘natural’. Stars were contractually obliged to perform for the static camera, as they did on set, with locations, props and wardrobe, all carefully selected and prepared to create an artificial wonderland, perpetuating the illusion of glamour.

These seminal images created a system of stars in which the cinema-going audience are complicit in their making: ‘in this sort of Photography the camera is the mirror and we the fans are basking in the polished beauty.’

All the works in this exhibition have been kindly lent by the John Kobal Foundation. John Kobal is widely recognised for rediscovering the great Hollywood Studio Photographers and the Foundation continues to promote this work, mounting exhibitions worldwide and publishing a number of books including Glamour of the Gods, Hollywood Unseen and Hollywood Dogs. To find out more please visit www.johnkobal.org


5 February – 16 March

Admission prices

Gift Aid admission:

Adults: £5.00 Concessions: £3.50

Standard admission:

Adults: £4.50 Concessions : £3.10

Art Fund card admission: £2

Under 16s/SGS, UoB & UWE students: FREE

Return ticket: £8 (unlimited repeat visits for exhibition duration)

Become a Friend (yearly membership): from £15, enjoy unlimited repeat visits, private view invitations, and other benefits.

For more details on admissions go to: www.rwa.org.uk/visit-us/admission/

Opening times

OPENING HOURS Galleries and café Closed Mondays Tuesday – Saturday: 10am – 6pm Sunday: 11am – 5pm Last admission 30 minutes before closing. Before travelling, please call ahead to check opening hours as we occasionally close for special events.