Robert Mapplethorpe (1946 -1989) was born in Queens, NY.
He went to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in the 1960s, and earned a B.F.A. majoring in graphic arts but mainly made collages and photographic objects. While at Pratt he met Patti Smith, the poet, musician, and artist, who became his intimate friend, model and muse. Mapplethorpe’s first portraits were of her taken with a Polaroid camera.
Mapplethorpe interest in portraits and self-portraits in particular, continued throughout his life. His elegant stylized nudes, flowers, portraits and erotic and sadomasochistic subjects made him immediately internationally renown and notorious. By the early 1980’s always striving for the perfect picture, he created images of timeless elegance, formal classical beauty became prominent in his nudes, still life, flowers and formal portraits; fragments of classical statuary became part of his visual vocabulary.
In 1988, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, The Institute of Contemporary Art at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and the National Portrait Gallery in London, organized exhibitions that presented some of the more controversial works by Mapplethorpe that sparked an international, ongoing debate about public funding of the arts, censorship and other First Amendment concerns. *
Since Mapplethorpe’s first exhibited in 1976, more than 200 solo shows have featured his work. Major museums continue to organize exhibitions, including traveling retrospectives, offering art scholars opportunity for new insight that continues to stir debate and secure the artist sustained relevance in the 21 century. **
Mapplethorpe’s work is represented in numerous public collections, including the Guggenheim Museum, The Whitney Museum of American Art, LACMA, and the Getty Museum.
Robert Mapplethorpe died at the age of 42 from complications of AIDS in 1989 in Boston, MA.
* Partially excerpted from the official web sites of the Sean Kelly Gallery
** Partially excerpted from the official web sites of the Getty Museum.
All images are used by permission.