Robert Mapplethorpe

John McKendry (1975)

About this artwork

Born in Canada, John McKendry was a curator of prints and photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It was through McKendry that Mapplethorpe was exposed to photography in a new light and began to consider it as an art form of its own standing. However, McKendry was an alcoholic and this photograph of him was taken in hospital the day before he died, his face slathered in royal jelly moisturiser. Mapplethorpe’s brilliant cropping concentrates our attention on his discriminating eye, for which he was famous, and on the single electrical cord hanging from the socket. Mapplethorpe knew that he didn’t have long to live.

see more information
  • title: John McKendry
  • accession number: AR00209
  • artist: Robert MapplethorpeAmerican (1946 - 1989)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • subject: Death
  • medium: Gelatine silver print
  • date created: 1975
  • measurements: 34.10 x 34.10 cm (framed: 50.80 x 40.60 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.