Robert Mapplethorpe

Clothespinned Mouth (1978)

About this artwork

If it were not for the title, it would be difficult to work out what is going on in this photograph. The use of close-ups that defamiliarise us with the body, as well as the photographing of sado-masochistic fetishes and clothes had been part of the surrealist photographers’ practice. The collar around the figure’s neck and the leather cuffs just visible, allude to the S&M scene of the 1970s that Mapplethorpe was involved in. The clothes-pegs in this photograph are reminiscent of the Crown of Thorns. Mapplethorpe’s strict Catholic upbringing made itself felt in many of his works.

  • title: Clothespinned Mouth
  • accession number: AR00201
  • artist: Robert MapplethorpeAmerican (1946 - 1989)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • medium: Gelatine silver print
  • date created: 1978
  • measurements: 34.00 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.