Long Island, 1946 - Boston, 1989

Robert Mapplethorpe

After studying drawing, sculpture and painting at the Pratt Institute of Brooklyn, Robert Mapplethorpe moved towards photography in the 1970s. His snapshots immortalised artists, musicians, actors and the rich and famous of the American "star system", but he also collaborated on commercial projects such as TV advertising, fashion photography and interiors. In 1980, he began his collaboration with Lisa Lyon, a world bodybuilding champion and inspirational muse, with a series of shots which join to create portraits, or rather studies of form, images which seem to respect and at the same time challenge the classic aesthetic norms. During the 1980s, he experimented with various techniques and formats, including process engraving and photos on platinum, paper and lino. In 1986, he was taken seriously ill, but despite the disease he continued with his creations, expanding the sphere of his photographic studies, and he also helped to stimulate and finance AIDS research through various initiatives. In 1988, one year before his death, the Whitney Museum of American Art organised his first retrospective.