Robert Mapplethorpe

Leaf (1989)

About this artwork

This is a black and white silver gelatin print of a single, rounded leaf shown against a flat, black background. The image possesses a sense of fragility and ethereality that differs from the fleshy quality of Mapplethorpe’s Orchid photographs. The delicate armature of the leaf, its veins spreading from a single, thin stem, is highlighted against the dark background. Mapplethorpe photographed different types of leaves, sometimes shown isolated as is the case here, at other times placed in a vase. These studio works are highly staged and, as with all of Mapplethorpe’s photographs, lit with precision.

  • title: Leaf
  • accession number: AR01146
  • artist: Robert MapplethorpeAmerican (1946 - 1989)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • date created: 1989
  • measurements: 61.00 x 50.80 cm (framed: 81.70 x 78.50 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.