8 Robert Mapplethorpe Favorites

Courtesy The J. Paul Getty Trust

A closer look at some of the groundbreaking photographer’s work. 

Author and DEPARTURES contributing editor Patricia Morrisroe interviewed Robert Mapplethorpe 28 years ago for her book Mapplethorpe: A Biography (1997). In time for the collaborative retrospective of his work at the Getty Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which runs through July 31, the writer revisits some of her favorite works by the avant-garde artist.

Self Portrait in tuxedo, 1986
Mapplethorpe took this picture the year he was diagnosed with AIDS. Dressed atypically in a tuxedo, he adopts a skeptical pose, as if questioning not just his attire but life itself. 

Ken Moody and Robert Sherman, 1984
Both models suffered from alopecia, a disease that left them without any hair. Mapplethorpe compared their skin to bronze and marble.

The Coral Sea, 1983
This uncharacteristic Mapplethorpe picture of an aircraft carrier is rendered even more beautiful by the luminous quality of the platinum print.

Calla Lily, 1986
Here Mapplethorpe makes it perfectly clear that flowers are the sexual organs of plants.

Patti Smith, Horses, 1975
This iconic photograph was used for the cover of Smith’s first studio album. The record label thought it too “androgynous.”

Thomas, 1987
Mapplethorpe considered the model’s body “perfect,” inspiring him to create a series of geometric studies that underscored his obsession with the human form.

Lucy Ferry, 1986
With a nod to Cecil Beaton’s famous photograph of Nancy Cunard festooned with ivory bracelets, Mapplethorpe turns the ex-wife of musician Bryan Ferry into a totally exquisite creature.

Lisa Lyon, 1983
Mapplethorpe picked this photograph for the cover of Lady, the book he did with body builder Lisa Lyon. He liked the way her muscular body played against stereotypes of femininity.

Read Morrisroe's story from our March/April issue, The Ecstasy and the Agony of Robert Mapplethorpe »