Robert Mapplethorpe
Robert Mapplethorpe
Robert Mapplethorpe
Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe, Sheffield

Opening Hours

Graves Gallery


American artist Robert Mapplethorpe pushed the boundaries of photography in both his subject choice and technique. This has led to him sometimes being remembered exclusively for his controversial and often explicit images. However, the outstanding collection of Mapplethorpe photographs in ARTIST ROOMS allows these ‘controversial’ works to be considered in the context of his entire oeuvre.

Mapplethorpe became famous, not to say, notorious, in the 1970s and 1980s for his photographs of the male nude and sexually explicit gay imagery. With these images he tested the right to individual freedom - they were not meant to be titillating, shocking or obscene, but beautiful in a traditionally classical way. His work therefore holds a significant place in the history of artistic struggle to depict the world as it is with honesty and truth.

In 1988 Mapplethorpe stated: “I don’t like that particular word ‘shocking.’ I’m looking for the unexpected. I’m looking for things I’ve never seen before... I was in a position to take those pictures. I felt an obligation to do them.” Yet Mapplethorpe also photographed more traditional subjects, such as flowers (in particular Orchids and Calla Lilies), formal portraits and classical nudes. His understanding of form and light, and his meticulous compositions create truly beautiful images that revel in the sensual quality of nature and the human body.

This was Sheffield's very first exhibition of works by Mapplethorpe, and featured highlights from throughout the artist’s career.

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