Robert Mapplethorpe

Philip Glass and Robert Wilson (1976)

About this artwork

Mapplethorpe took this iconic photograph of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson in the same year as the production of Glass’s landmark opera, ‘Einstein on the Beach,’ which Wilson directed. The similar poses that the two men have adopted, as well as the geometry of the composition, emphasise their close collaboration – as well as their differences. The walls behind them are not the same. The white wall behind Wilson stands a few inches in front of the coloured wall behind Glass. Whereas Glass is unkempt, quite scruffily dressed and holding his hands in a contorted fashion, Wilson is well-groomed and generally more self-composed.

  • title: Philip Glass and Robert Wilson
  • accession number: AR00214
  • artist: Robert MapplethorpeAmerican (1946 - 1989)
  • depicted: Philip Glass
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • medium: Gelatine silver print
  • date created: 1976
  • measurements: 34.10 x 34.10 cm (framed: 61.20 x 58.70 x 3.80 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.