The J. Paul Getty Museum

Patti Smith

Object Details


Patti Smith


Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946 - 1989)




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


negative 1975; print 1995


Gelatin silver print

Object Number:



35.8 × 35.5 cm (14 1/8 × 14 in.)


© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Credit Line:

Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation

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Object Description

A man's jacket slung over one shoulder, the cuffs of her shirt cut off with scissors, the Bohemian poet and performer Patti Smith levels her gaze outward with authority and calm. The set of her jaw and lift of her chin suggest she wears confrontation lightly. Simultaneously, a waifish delicacy haunts her tiny body. She touches the ribbon around her neck with long fingers cupped near her heart --a shy gesture and nod to the garb of the 19th-century Romantic poets she admires. With quiet ferocity, the portrait hovers between masculine and feminine, strength and vulnerability.

Intimately bonded in life and work, Mapplethorpe and Smith made this image for the cover of her debut rock album, Horses.It is one of his earliest celebrity portraits, a genre in which he went on to distinguish himself. He often amplified the glamour of his subjects, but modernized conventional portrayals with provocative depictions of race, gender, and sexuality. For example, record executives, concerned that Smith with her lack of makeup and messy hair wasn't conventionally pretty enough to sell records like other "girl singers," wanted to airbrush this image. Knowing Mapplethorpe would back her up, Smith refused and the image and album shaped the start of both their iconoclastic careers.

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)
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art (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

Smith, Patti. Horses, record (New York: Arista, 1975), cover ill.

Mapplethorpe, Robert. Robert Mapplethorpe: 1970-1983, exh. cat. (London: Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1983), p. 18 (variant).

Mapplethorpe, Robert. Certain People: A Book of Portraits (Pasadena: Twelvetrees Press, 1985), unpaginated.

Marshall, Richard. Robert Mapplethorpe, exh. cat. (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art in association with New York Graphic Society Books, 1988), p. 39 (variant).

Danto, Arthur C. Mapplethorpe (New York: Random House, 1992), pl. 54.

Morrisroe, Patricia. Mapplethorpe: A Biography (New York: Random House, 1995), unpaginated, ill. after p. 176.

Baldwin, Gordon. Robert Mapplethorpe: Portraits, exh. cat. (Palm Springs: Palm Springs Art Museum, 2009), p. 43, pl. 3; pp. 252-53, no. 88.

Smith, Patti. Just Kids (New York: Ecco, 2010), p. 251.

Martineau, Paul and Britt Salvesen, eds. Robert Mapplethorpe: The Photographs, exh. cat.  (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2016).