George Platt Lynes was a highly influential photographer who laid the groundwork for a later generation of artists that explored male sexuality such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Herb Ritts. Considered radical at the time, his erotic photographs of the male nude are celebrated and widely exhibited today.
A prominent figure within fashion photography in the 1930s, Lynes created stylized photographs for high-profile publications including Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Concurrently, Lynes had multiple gallery exhibitions and quickly became a central figure in the New York photography world. Rapid exposure led to commissions for the School of American Ballet. Here he formed a lifelong personal and professional relationship with the Ballet’s co-founder Lincoln Kirstein. Lynes was the primary photographer for the Ballet, photographing the principal dancers and productions for twenty years
For most of his career, Lynes privately made nude photographs of the artists and writers within his social circle that accepted his sexuality. In 1948, he first met Chuck Howard, an aspiring fashion designer, whose sculptural features made him a favorite model for artists including Paul Cadmus, Jared French, and Bernard Perlin. Howard often posed for Lynes and became his muse over the years. Lynes extensively photographed his lover creating fashion images, personal portraits of their relationship, and erotic nudes that he is well-known for today.
Due to the conservative laws and cultural ideologies of the time, Lynes was unable to openly share his personal work with the world. In creating the photographs, both the photographer and his subjects were at great personal risk with the possibility of imprisonment and societal rejection; an unfortunate reality.
This collection of photographs has been held and viewed privately since their making. Today, most remain unpublished. Their provenance goes directly back to Howard who shared them with trusted friends during intimate dinner parties. Referring to them as the ‘baby pictures,’ Howard would go into detail describing the circumstances for each piece, illuminating the background for each photograph.
In the late 1940s, Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, author of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, was in the process of opening a research institute at Indiana University and sought out Lynes for discussions on erotic art. Even though it was illegal to buy or sell nude male photographs, he was ultimately able to purchase hundreds of photographs and negatives for the Kinsey Institute, which has preserved his legacy. In 2019, the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields organized a retrospective of Lynes’s photographs from the collection.
Various works by George Platt Lynes will be on offer in the May 11-20 Fine Prints online auction.