Robert Mapplethorpe

Katherine Cebrian (1980)

About this artwork

Katherine Cebrian was one of the ‘grandes dames’ of San Francisco society, who famously said: “I don’t even butter my bread. I consider that cooking.” When Mapplethorpe was in town for the opening of a show at the Lawson/DeCelle Gallery, its owner, Edward DeCelle, arranged for Mapplethorpe to photograph her. Mapplethorpe turned up at her house wearing a black leather outfit and a studded belt, spelling out the word ‘SHIT’. DeCelle recollected: “I held my breath, but then Mapplethorpe worked his quiet charms on the elderly woman…talking softly to her while he set up his tripod in the sitting room. Mapplethorpe placed her in a window seat, with her face in profile.”

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  • title: Katherine Cebrian
  • accession number: AR00205
  • artist: Robert MapplethorpeAmerican (1946 - 1989)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • medium: Gelatine silver print
  • date created: 1980
  • measurements: 34.10 x 34.00 cm (framed: 61.30 x 58.70 x 3.9 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.