Robert Mapplethorpe
William Burroughs 1980

Artwork details

Robert Mapplethorpe 1946–1989
William Burroughs
Date 1980
Medium Photograph, gelatine silver print on paper
Dimensions Support: 341 x 341 mm
frame: 611 x 588 x 39 mm
Acquisition ARTIST ROOMS
Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
Not on display

Online caption

William Burroughs (1914-1997) was a novelist, a guru and one of America’s underground heroes. His greatest novel, ‘The Naked Lunch’ (first published in France in 1959) was banned on the grounds of obscenity until, in a groundbreaking trial in 1966, it was declared not obscene. By 1980, when this photograph was taken, Burroughs was a countercultural giant. Mapplethorpe portrays him as a secular saint in prayer. Almost half the composition is taken up by Burroughs’s dark jacket, which thereby throws into sharp relief his head and clasped hands.

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