George Platt Lynes The Intimate Circle

Apr 29–Jul 30
Corkin Gallery ⁠ accessible_forward
    George Platt Lynes, Tex Smutney and Buddy Stanley, 1941 (gelatin silver print). Courtesy of Corkin Gallery

Celebrating the legacy of American photographer George Platt Lynes, the male nudes, portraits, and ballet scenes featured in this exhibition highlight the artist’s memorable vision. Lynes illuminated the faces of a community of queer intellectuals and artists in Paris and New York who defined culture in the first half of the 20th century.

A self-taught photographer, Lynes developed experimental techniques nurtured by his Surrealist friends and associates. Using his affiliation with the Parisian avant-garde in the 1930s as a point of departure, he produced inventive stylistic portraits of nearly every writer, painter, and musician of importance, including Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, and Christopher Isherwood. 

The artist’s longtime friendship with publisher Monroe Wheeler and his companion, writer Glenway Westcott, also proved instrumental for his work. On Fire Island, Wheeler, Westcott, and his sister-in-law, Barbara Harrison, were the hub of an important movement that forged connections between U.S. artists and writers: notables such as Kirk Douglas, Marsden Hartley, and Janet Flanner became part of this circle, where intimate relationships blurred the boundaries between life and the arts.

Lynes’ lifelong interest in the nude resulted in the production of a vast number of photographs, many of which were not publicly exhibited during his lifetime. The body of work later served as inspiration for such photographers as Robert Mapplethorpe, Bruce Weber, and Herb Ritts. The artist explored unusual poses, montage effects, and lighting techniques, using everyday objects as props in surprising ways, creating a unique and imaginative style. Until his death in 1955, he continued experimenting, maintaining his commitment to the photographic visualization of a psychosexual landscape.

Presented by Corkin Gallery

George Platt Lynes (1907–55) had his first solo exhibition at the Leggett Gallery in 1932, followed by a two-man exhibition at Julien Levy with the well-known photographer Walker Evans. By 1933, Lynes was a central figure in the New York photography world. He quickly became known for his highly stylized images characterized by expressionistic lighting, surrealistic props, and suggestive settings. He was soon receiving commissions from Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country, and Vogue. In 1935 he was asked to document the principal dancers and productions of Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine’s newly founded American Ballet company (now the New York City Ballet). Lynes’ later photographs, particularly his nudes, are marked by a significant change of style. He abandoned the highly staged tableaux of his earlier nudes in favor of a straightforward, even minimalist, aesthetic. After being diagnosed with lung cancer in 1954, Lynes destroyed many of his negatives and prints, including his fashion photography, as well as his nudes.