1. Jared French, George Platt Lynes, c. 1935
2. George Platt Lynes, Alfonso Ossorio, n.d.
3. George Platt Lynes, Pavel Tchelitchew, n.d.
4. George Platt Lynes, Paul Cadmus, c. 1940
5. George Platt Lynes, Jared French, c. 1946
6. George Platt Lynes, Glenway Wescott, n.d.
7. George Platt Lynes, Katharine Hepburn, c. 1946
8. George Platt Lynes, Margaret French, c. 1940
9. George Platt Lynes, Christopher Isherwood, n.d.
10. George Platt Lynes, W.H. Auden, 1947
11. George Platt Lynes, Henri Bendel, c. 1950
12. George Platt Lynes, Henri Bendel, c. 1950
13. George Platt Lynes, Birth of Dionysus, c. 1945
14. George Platt Lynes, Cyclops (Fred Danieli), 1937–1939
15. George Platt Lynes, Pygmaleon & Galatea, c. 1937
16. George Platt Lynes, Caenus, c. 1937–1939
17. George Platt Lynes, Tanaquil LeClercq & Todd Bolender, Metamorphoses, 1952
18. George Platt Lynes, Bridget Chisholm, c. 1945
19. George Platt Lynes, Ruth Ford with Hummingbird, c. 1939
20. George Platt Lynes, Swimsuit Advertising, c. 1950
21. George Platt Lynes, Tanaquil LeClercq, Western Symphony, c. 1956
22. George Platt Lynes, Errante, 1935
23. George Platt Lynes, Apollo & the Muses, Lew Christensen & William Dollar, Balanchine's Orpheus & Eurydice, 1936
24. George Platt Lynes, Show Piece, The Ballet Caravan, 1937
25. George Platt Lynes, Illumination, Nicholas Magallanes & Brooks Jackson, c. 1950
26. George Platt Lynes, Les Illuminations, 1950
27. George Platt Lynes, Age of Anxiety: Todd Bolender, Roy Tobias, Jerome Robbins, Tanaquil LeClercq, 1950
28. George Platt Lynes, Jeremy Jackson, 1935
29. George Platt Lynes, Ted Starkowski, c. 1950
30. George Platt Lynes, José Martinez, c. 1937
31. George Platt Lynes, Untitled, n.d.
32. George Platt Lynes, Bill Harris, c. 1942
33. George Platt Lynes, Charles "Tex" Smutney & Charles "Buddy" Stanley, 1941
34. George Platt Lynes, Charles "Tex" Smutney & Charles "Buddy" Stanley, 1941
Keith de Lellis Gallery showcases the portrait photography of noted fashion photographer and influential artist George Platt Lynes (American, 1907–1955) in its spring exhibition. Though largely concealed during his lifetime (or published under pseudonyms), Lynes’ male nude photographs are perhaps his most notable works today and inspired later artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Herb Ritts.
Primarily self-taught, Lynes was influenced by Man Ray when he visited Paris in 1925, where he also met Monroe Wheeler, Glenway Wescott, and John Cocteau. Publisher Jack Woody wrote, “surrealism, neo-romanticism, and other European visual movements remained with him” when he returned to New York (Ballet: George Platt Lynes, Twelvetree Press, 1985). Lynes first exhibited with surrealist gallerist Julian Levy in 1932, and was featured at many galleries and museums in his lifetime, including three group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art.
He opened his New York studio in 1933, finding great success in commercial portraiture for fashion magazines (Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, etc.) and local elites. The artist relocated to Los Angeles in 1946 to lead Vogue’s west coast studio for two years, photographing celebrities such as Katharine Hepburn and Gloria Swanson, before returning to New York to focus on personal work, disavowing commercial photography. While his commercial work allowed him to support himself and brought him great recognition as a photographer, it did not fulfill him creatively, leading the artist to destroy many of those negatives and prints towards the end of his life.
In New York, the artist counted Wheeler, Westcott, and New York City Ballet founder Lincoln Kirstein as members of his inner circle, gaining him introductions to many of his models for his figure studies. The artist was introduced to Dr. Alfred Kinsey, human sexuality researcher, during the late 1940s. Much of his nude and homoerotic work was purchased by Kinsey or left to the Kinsey Institute after his death in 1955.
Lynes’ favorite explorations focused on the human figure in the form of male nudes and the principal dancers of the New York City Ballet. Choreographer George Balanchine spoke highly of Lynes’ work: “His photographs have several lives of their own: as a record, as portraiture, as social-history of the taste of an epoch, and as beauty” (Ballet: George Platt Lynes).
Various models of his have reflected on the artist’s charm and persuasiveness in achieving his desired composition, coaxing increasingly revealing and daring tableaus out of his sitters, which included friends, lovers, neighbors, and assistants. Bruno Gmünder commented that Lynes’ made “pictures which are almost like sculptures,” turning his models into idealized objects of desire (George Platt Lynes, Bruno Gmünder, 1990). One series explored Greek mythology through dramatic nudes: high-contrast, Surrealist-inspired portraits such as “Birth of Dionysus,” in which Lynes combined two negatives into one image of the demigod being born from his father Zeus’ thigh.
Photographs by George Platt Lynes are featured in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and more.
Lynes’ pioneering photographs display his expert and artful control of lighting, perspective, gesture, and composition, on view in George Platt Lynes at the Keith de Lellis Gallery through May 23, 2019.