Robert Mapplethorpe

Patti Smith (1975)

About this artwork

This portrait of the American singer-songwriter Patti Smith was taken in the same year that her first album, ‘Horses’, appeared. Indeed, this photograph was taken during the same session in which the album’s cover image was shot. Mapplethorpe and Smith had lived together in the late 1960s and remained close friends after they parted. In this photograph Mapplethorpe captures Smith’s unconventional and androgynous side. The pose looks very informal, but Mapplethorpe has taken care to align the verticals of the tie and the side of Smith’s face and has set up a series of diagonals with her arms and the other half of the tie.

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  • title: Patti Smith
  • accession number: AR00185
  • artist: Robert MapplethorpeAmerican (1946 - 1989)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • medium: Gelatine silver print
  • date created: 1975
  • measurements: 34.10 x 34.10 cm (framed: 61.30 x 58.70 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.