About this artwork
This photograph is from a series of images of black men in which Mapplethorpe celebrated the sculptural beauty of the human form. Here Mapplethorpe presents the lithe feet of an unidentified sitter, toes pressed closely together, as a portrait in their own right. The artist’s fascination with classical and antique sculpture is evident in his use of light and shadow to create a sense of three-dimensionality in these works. Mapplethorpe’s nude studies have been seen as part of the studio-based art-historical tradition of nude portraiture. Their formal qualities have been linked to the work of American photographer Edward Weston who photographed curled, athletic bodies to create human landscapes rich in light, shade and texture.
- title: Feet
- accession number: AR01141
- artist: Robert MapplethorpeAmerican (1946 - 1989)
- gallery: In Storage
- object type: Photograph
- materials: Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
- date created: 1982
- 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.
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.