Robert Mapplethorpe

Waves (1980)

About this artwork

Mapplethorpe rarely photographed nature outside in the raw and wild. The sea, with its changeable and unpredictable moods, would seem to be an unlikely subject for him, but the way that he tackles it gives it order and regularity - elements that are central to Mapplethorpe’s aesthetic. He photographs it head on, so that the horizon, the waves and shoreline line up in horizontal bands. Note also how he gives the sky and the shore equal spaces in the composition.

  • title: Waves
  • accession number: AR00224
  • artist: Robert MapplethorpeAmerican (1946 - 1989)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • subject: Seascape
  • medium: Gelatine silver print
  • date created: 1980
  • measurements: 34.10 x 34.20 cm (framed: 61.10 x 58.80 x 3.80 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.