Robert Mapplethorpe

Self Portrait (1981)

About this artwork

As in his portrait of Nick Marden, Mapplethorpe photographs himself from behind, but here the emphasis is on abstract design. The “V”-shape of the wall-mounted frame (actually one of Mapplethorpe’s own sculptures) echoes the diagonals of his heavily coiffed hair and intersects the inverted “V”-shape of the white piping on his leather jacket. The effect is very Art Deco. Surface style takes precedence over character depiction or psychological insight.

  • title: Self Portrait
  • accession number: AR00228
  • artist: Robert MapplethorpeAmerican (1946 - 1989)
  • depicted: Robert Mapplethorpe
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • medium: Gelatine silver print
  • date created: 1981
  • measurements: 34.10 x 34.10 cm (framed: 68.60 x 65.90 x 2.8 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.