Robert MapplethorpeWilliam Burroughs 1980

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Artwork details

Robert Mapplethorpe (1946‑1989)
William Burroughs
Date 1980
MediumPhotograph, gelatine silver print on paper
Dimensionssupport: 341 x 341 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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