Robert Mapplethorpe

Bruce Chatwin (1979)

About this artwork

Bruce Chatwin was a British writer known for his travel writings such as ‘In Patagonia’ (1977). He collaborated with Mapplethorpe on the book ‘Lady: Lisa Lyon’ (1983), writing an essay for the publication. He was diagnosed with HIV in 1980 and died of an AIDS related illness in 1989, the same year Mapplethorpe himself succumbed to the virus. Chatwin is portrayed in close-up, face-on, looking intensely into the camera. His head and shoulders fill the frame. In this frank, frontal portrait, Mapplethorpe used an entirely dark background to bring Chatwin’s figure to the very fore of the picture plane, a technique that he often employed in his portrait photographs.

  • title: Bruce Chatwin
  • accession number: AR01139
  • artist: Robert MapplethorpeAmerican (1946 - 1989)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • subject: Writing and literature
  • date created: 1979
  • measurements: 50.80 x 40.60 cm
  • credit line: ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Presented by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation 2010
  • copyright: © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.
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.