Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Catalog Data

Robert Mapplethorpe, 04 Nov 1946 - 09 Mar 1989  Search this
Robert Mapplethorpe, 04 Nov 1946 - 09 Mar 1989  Search this
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 61 x 50.8cm (24 x 20")
Frame: 83.8 x 71.1cm (33 x 28")
Exhibition Label:
Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe died of AIDS in 1989. The somber, dark contrast of this 1988 self-portrait with the youthful innocence and sexual playfulness of his 1975 self-portrait (seen elsewhere in this exhibition) could not be more marked. Although this image serves as a memorial and memento mori, Mapplethorpe is playful and rebellious to the last. Knowing how AIDS victims were demonized-not least because of the homoeroticism that Mapplethorpe celebrated in his work and life-Mapplethorpe poses as death in order to defy his critics. Here, he says, I will take on everything you accuse me of and turn it back to you in a work of art. Formally, the picture has the gravity of Mapplethorpe's portrait style while it also flirts with the dark side of his reputation: Mapplethorpe as devil, a legend that has only grown since his death.
Equipment\Walking stick\Cane  Search this
Self-portrait  Search this
Robert Mapplethorpe: Male  Search this
Robert Mapplethorpe: Visual Arts\Artist\Photographer  Search this
Portrait  Search this
Credit Line:
Owner: Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Object number:
Restrictions & Rights:
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission
See more items in:
Catalog of American Portraits
Data Source:
Catalog of American Portraits