Robert Mapplethorpe

Tattoo Artist's Son (1984)

About this artwork

This portrait shows an unknown punk, introduced to us as just the ‘Tattoo Artist’s Son’. He looks straight out of the frame with one intense eye, the other covered by his long fringe, a contrast to his shaven head. He appears full of attitude, his mouth slightly open as if caught mid-sentence. Despite the sitter’s casual body language the composition is structured. The sitter is centralised against the background which is split in half vertically - one side light, the other dark, his fringe creating a panel of dark swept into the light.

  • title: Tattoo Artist's Son
  • accession number: AR00190
  • artist: Robert MapplethorpeAmerican (1946 - 1989)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • medium: Gelatine silver print
  • date created: 1984
  • measurements: 47.70 x 37.60 cm (framed: 50.80 x 40.60 cm)
  • credit line: ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
  • copyright: © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve
This artwork is part of Artist Rooms

Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe

The American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe became famous, not to say, notorious, in the 1970s and 1980s for his photographs of the male nude and sexually explicit, gay imagery. Although often considered controversial, Mapplethorpe tested the right to individual freedom of expression. These images were not meant to be titillating or obscene but beautiful in a traditionally classical way. His work, therefore, holds a significant place in the history of artistic struggle to depict the world as it is, with honesty and truth. His nudes, when considered alongside his portraits of children and flower photographs, show him to be overwhelmingly interested in the beauty and transience of life. Mapplethorpe, even when facing death from AIDS, affirmed the beauty of the here and now.