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PHotoESPAÑA : George Platt Lynes


For the 2022 edition of PHotoESPAÑA, LOEWE and the LOEWE FOUNDATION present Spain’s first exhibition devoted to the U.S. photographer George Platt Lynes (1907 – 1955). Curated by María Millán, the show features 48 works ranging from Platt Lynes’ commercial fashion photography and dance portfolio to personal photos and a striking series of nude portraits created in secrecy.

Born in New Jersey, Platt Lynes began his career as a self-taught photographer while living in Paris in his early twenties, where he met author Gertrude Stein, art dealer Julien Levy, artist Salvador Dalí and playwright Jean Cocteau. Here, Platt Lynes’ photography acquired a stylised quality, borrowing dreamlike elements from the Surrealist art movement, such as the use of theatrical lighting and absurd props.

Upon returning to New York, this glamorous aesthetic was key to Platt Lynes’ success as a commercial and fashion photographer, with commissions from publishers like Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country and Vogue, for whom he photographed actors Janet Gaynor and Kirk Douglas and opera singer Lotte Lehmann. Also on display in the exhibition are Platt Lynes’ portraits of model Ruth Ford and artist Marc Chagall.

Casting a daring lens upon the eroticised male form, Platt Lynes’ series of male nudes is the most crucial part of his oeuvre, albeit one that he kept hidden from public scrutiny.

With nude photography illegal in the US, and homosexuality considered a mental illness, Platt Lynes and his sitters took remarkable risks with these works, whose compositions indicate the photographer’s fascination with Renaissance and ancient Greek art. Among the models are artists Paul Cadmus and Jared French, art director Romain Johnston, dancer Ralph McWilliams and other acquaintances.

Platt Lynes became a reputed dance photographer from 1935, when an old school friend, Lincoln Kirstein, and his associate, the choreographer George Balanchine, invited him to shoot their dance troupe, today the New York City Ballet. Platt Lynes also shot portraits of dancers like Leon Danielian and Mildred A. Lynes, and his sensitivity for ballet is visible in many works from his nude series, through images of dancers like Francisco Moncion and Nicholas Magallanes.

Although Platt Lynes destroyed many of his works before his death aged 48, he entrusted hundreds of them to the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, founded by the biologist and sexologist Dr Alfred Kinsey, who published groundbreaking academic research into homosexuality, namely ‘Sexual Behavior in the Human Male’ (1948).

The exhibition shines a light on the world of artists, ideas and cultures that Platt Lynes moved in, as well as the private but powerful bonds within his community. This tribute to a remarkable name in the canon of queer 20th century photography is part of LOEWE and the LOEWE FOUNDATION’s ongoing exploration of identity, gender and sexuality, which has included exhibitions on Minor White, Peter Hujar, David Wojnarowicz, Hervé Guibert and Divine.

The exhibition is possible thanks to the contribution of a private collection and Throckmorton Fine Arts Gallery.


George Platt Lynes
until 22 October 2022
Leica Gallery
Ortega y Gasset 34 | 28006
Madrid | Spain

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