Robert Mapplethorpe

Lisa Lyon (1982)

About this artwork

In 1980 Robert Mapplethorpe met Lisa Lyon, the first World Women’s Body Building Champion. For the next few years they would collaborate several times creating various portraits and figure studies included both full and fragmented body images. This series of collaborations, which saw Lyon take on multiple guises and ‘types’ of women would result in Mapplethorpe’s book ‘Lady: Lisa Lyon’ (1983). Writing in the book’s introduction, the British writer Bruce Chatwin stated of Mapplethorpe that “his eye for a body is that of a classical sculpture in search of an ‘ideal.’” In this photograph Lyon evokes Christ’s crucifixion - the cross is a symbol which would appear in Mapplethorpe’s work throughout his career and many of his sculptures were in the shape of a cross.

  • title: Lisa Lyon
  • accession number: AL00180
  • artist: Robert MapplethorpeAmerican (1946 - 1989)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • date created: 1982
  • measurements: 50.80 x 40.60 cm
  • credit line: ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Lent by Anthony d'Offay 2010
  • copyright: © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.
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.