The J. Paul Getty Museum


Object Details




Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946 - 1989)




New York, New York, United States (Place Created)


negative 1980; print 1990


Gelatin silver print

Object Number:



35.6 × 35.6 cm (14 × 14 in.)


© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Credit Line:

Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation

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Object Description

I don't want to be labeled anything.
-- Robert Mapplethorpe

Despite his elaborate pompadour and face so attractive as to be almost pretty, the artist's stare in this self-portrait is forceful and direct.

Mapplethorpe's sophisticated use of lighting gives the outlines of his mouth, nostrils, and earlobes a refined, even sculptural quality. The same elements of glamour and striking simplicity for which he is known in his celebrity and fashion portraiture are visible here, including a tightly cropped composition and uncluttered background that further dramatize the face. Mapplethorpe drew on his early commercial work for magazines, including Vogue. This aspect of his career followed the examples of other noted photographers such as Edward Steichen, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, and Herb Ritts.

His work encompassed portraits, nudes, and still lifes, often with strong erotic, homosexual, and sadomasochistic themes. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, his work provoked an American culture war over whether public funds should support art some deemed blasphemous and obscene.

In Focus: Robert Mapplethorpe (October 23, 2012 to March 24, 2013)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), October 23, 2012 to March 24, 2013
Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium (March 15 to July 31, 2016)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 15 to July 31, 2016
Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium (September 10, 2016 to March 4, 2018)
  • Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Montréal), September 10, 2016 to January 22, 2017
  • Kunsthal Rotterdam, April 22 to August 27, 2017
  • Art Gallery of New South Wales (Sydney), October 28, 2017 to March 4, 2018

Mapplethorpe, Robert. Robert Mapplethorpe: Flowers, exh. cat. (Tokyo: Galerie Watari, 1983), unpaginated.

Mapplethorpe, Robert. Robert Mapplethorpe: 1970-1983, exh. cat. (London: Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1983), p. 7.