Robert Mapplethorpe

Lisa Lyon (1984)

About this artwork

Robert Mapplethorpe photographed Lisa Lyon, the first World Women’s Body Building Champion, multiple times in various guises and ‘types’ of women during the early 1980s. Lyon’s muscular and androgynous aesthetic is often highlighted in his studies of the body-builder. Here, like many of his photographs of Lyon, her face is absent and her naked back and buttocks are tied in what appears in a black leather strap perhaps referencing the S & M subculture, which is often prominent in Mapplethorpe’s work. Mapplethorpe’s photographs of Lyon appear to subvert the conventions of female iconography and beauty.

  • title: Lisa Lyon
  • accession number: AL00182
  • artist: Robert MapplethorpeAmerican (1946 - 1989)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • subject: Nudity
  • date created: 1984
  • 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.
  • 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.