Bruno Bernard, professionally known as Bernard of Hollywood, was one of the most sought-after glamour photographers of Hollywood's Golden Era. He is the undisputed master of the Pin Up Genre in photography, and an artist who launched untold careers via his lens.
Born into poverty in 1912 in Berlin, he grew up in an orphanage but, having been encouraged to get an education, attended Kiel University where he received his doctorate in Criminal Law. He was in the two percent of Jews to gain a doctorate in 1934 and in 1937, at the age of 26, he escaped Nazi Germany and immigrated to America. He continued his post-graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, but by 1940 he was overwhelmingly drawn to the arts and moved to Los Angeles to become a directorial apprentice under Max Reinhart's Actor's Workshop.
He set up his first darkroom in the basement of his Hollywood apartment and with no previous formal training, began to explore the art of photography. Inspired by his background in psychology, his recent brief education in directing, and a collaboration with the world famous Pin-Up artist Alberto Vargas, Bruno Bernard developed his own unique style of glamour portrait that he called the “posed candid”.
Bernard soon opened his first professional photography studio on Sunset Blvd and began shooting portraits of the wives and children of the many Hollywood insiders that he had met during his residency at the Reinhardt School. As word spread of his masterful results and his connected clientele, he became known as “Bernard of Hollywood”, a moniker he would use as his trademark for many years to come.
By 1942, Bernard had opened two more high-profile studios in Las Vegas and Palm Springs, and was renowned for his glamorous clientele and exclusive access. He first met the young Norma Jean Dougherty in 1946 while she was just starting out as a working model, and she returned to him for more work when her second film contract was not renewed in 1949.
That same day, Bernard invited Norma Jean to the Palm Springs Racquet Club for an advertising photo-shoot he had booked, telling her that it would be a good place for her to go, as “there are a lot of directors and producers sitting around there.” She jumped at the chance, and was soon introduced to Johnny Hyde, VP of William Morris Talent Agency who promptly fell head over heels for the young ingenue. Within months Hyde had successfully negotiated a 7-year contract with 20th Century Fox for the newly crafted “Marilyn Monroe”, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Bernard continued his work with the elite Hollywood crowds, and maintained a busy advertising photography schedule for many years. Inevitably he photographed Marilyn several more times, perhaps most notably in 1954, on the set of The Seven Year Itch, where he captured some of the most iconic shots ever taken of Marilyn with her white dress billowing up around her.
In 1999, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City would select Bernard's Marilyn in White, from The Seven Year Itch session as "The Symbol of the Century," reproducing it as a 60 foot billboard on Fifth Avenue to advertise their Fame After Photography exhibition, along with subway posters, the sides of busses, in phone booths, and full-page ads in The New York Times.
Shortly after Marilyn’s death in 1962, Bernard sold his three landmark studios to return to his homeland, and became a foreign photojournalist, covering the Eichmann trial for Der Spiegel. He was so moved, he compiled the best seller; Israel Impressions. In 1969 he moved to Spain and began building a three-story Mediterranean villa on the pristine beaches of Palma de Mallorca. In the 1980s he returned to Los Angeles, to be near his family. He died in 1987.
Bruno Bernard was the first still photographer to be honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in 1984 with an honorary exhibition of 150 of his photographs of such luminaries as Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Gregory Peck, Ginger Rogers, John Wayne, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, Elvis Presley, Lucille Ball and others.
Since his passing, his daughter, author Susan Bernard, founded Bernard of Hollywood/Renaissance Road, Inc. to preserve, exhibit, publish and license internationally his legendary work and famous trademark, introducing his art to a new generation. Sadly, Susan passed away suddenly in 2019.
Collector's Note: Susan Bernard began producing "Estate-signed" limited editions of each of the below photographs in multiple sizes in 2012. Photographs were typically only produced for display or to fulfill sales, so relatively few were printed and signed by her (on behalf of her father's estate) when she passed.
There is no current production or plan to produce any further limited edition photographs from this archive. This status may change in the future, please contact us with any interests or questions.
The pieces shown below with prices represent the only known available authorized photographs from this archive. As we hosted the very first exhibition of these photographs, the vast majority of the pieces in stock are the #1 in their editions. Only one of any single item listed with a price is available. Each piece comes with a certificate of authenticity, as with any artwork sold by SFAE. Please act fast if you wish to own one of these important photographs!