Robert Mapplethorpe

Henry Geldzahler (1979)

About this artwork

Mapplethorpe met Henry Geldzahler at John McKendry’s apartment in New York. Like McKendry he was a fellow curator (for twentieth-century art) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Geldzahler had close relationships with many artists and was portrayed by, among others, David Hockney, Alice Neel and Larry Rivers, and he figured as the sole character in a 90-minute film by Andy Warhol, in which he did nothing more than smoke a cigar. Mapplethorpe’s close-up photograph shows him with his trademark cigar and bow tie. It highlights Mapplethorpe’s interest in formal contrasts with Geldzahler’s prickly beard and patterned blazer set against his gleaming spectacles and a flat background.

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  • title: Henry Geldzahler
  • accession number: AR00153
  • artist: Robert MapplethorpeAmerican (1946 - 1989)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • medium: Gelatine silver print
  • date created: 1979
  • 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.