Robert Mapplethorpe

Lowell Smith (1981)

About this artwork

This is a beautiful example of the way that Mapplethorpe would often photograph the human body, or parts of it, against a geometrical, abstract background. The white board is viewed at a 90-degree angle so that it appears only as surface, as a white rectangle. There is little sense of depth, so that the man’s hands and arm stand out in contrast. Mapplethorpe may have been inspired to do this and other close-ups of parts of the body by the photographs that Alfred Stieglitz took of Georgia O’Keeffe’s hands around 1918-20 or that Man Ray took of Meret Oppenheim’s inked arm and hand in 1933.

  • title: Lowell Smith
  • accession number: AR00161
  • artist: Robert MapplethorpeAmerican (1946 - 1989)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • medium: Gelatine silver print
  • date created: 1981
  • measurements: 35.30 x 35.50 cm (framed: 60.50 x 58.60 x 3,5 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.