George Platt Lynes

George Platt Lynes was a world class fashion and ballet photographer of the early twentieth century, and he moved in some pretty high-class circles.  He counted among his friends Gertrude Stein, Glenway Westcott, Alfred Kinsey and Jean Cocteau, and by the end of his life in 1955 he had photographed such luminaries as Katherine Hepburn, Igor Stravinsky, Thomas Mann, Aldous Huxley and Yul Brynner.  Aside from his work for fashion magazines and the ballet, Lynes is best known for his nudes, particularly his male nudes, a large proportion of which was left to Alfred Kinsey and now belongs to Kinsey’s estate.  The following photo is unique for Lynes because he rarely photographed children.  This photo (or quite possibly a similar one of the same girl, which I seem to recall stumbling onto somewhere but have been unable to locate on the web) was clearly used as the central model for Daniel Lezama’s painting La Venus, el Rebel.


George Platt Lynes – Nude Girl Standing (Possibly Elizabeth)

Edit: A blogger at Nude Art Controversies, in a response to this article, posted a link to the original photo that was used as the reference for Lezama’s painting. I knew I’d seen it before somewhere, but I still cannot recall where, perhaps in a book. Anyway, here it is (it’s rather small), and this is clearly the reference image used by Lezama:


George Platt Lynes – (Title Unknown)

Wikipedia: George Platt Lynes

Queer Arts: George Platt Lynes


From artcontroversies on April 12, 2012
I haven’t been able to find a full sized scan but the photo that served as the prototype for Lezama’s painting is and is plate 78 in “Nude Photographs 1850-1980″ published by Harper and Row in 1980. If someone recognizes her face that would either prove or disprove the contention that it could be Elizabeth. Another place to find this photo is figure 13 in “Eric Fischl scenes before the eye: the evolution of Year of the drowned dog and Floating islands” published six years later by the University Art Museum at California State University. I also just learned that Elizabeth was George’s niece and there were definitely some other nudes he shot of her in 1952 and 1953. Her secondary sexual traits were already developing in 1953.

From pipstarr72 on April 12, 2012
Thanks! That is the photo indeed, and I knew I had seen it before. I assumed Elizabeth was someone related to him or possibly the daughter of a friend. The closest I could come to verifying her identity was that she might be the daughter of Richard Avedon, who worked around the same time and must have known Lynes, but admittedly the only evidence I had for that was that there’s a women named Elizabeth Avedon who is a fairly prominent fashion designer, though I could not verify that she was related to Richard or if Richard even had a daughter. Your theory sounds more probable.

2 thoughts on “George Platt Lynes

  1. The George Platt Lynes photograph of Elizabeth was used by Eric Fischl in the painting Bayonne but was covered by a figure of young girl in the ballet costume. What’s really interesting is Fischl painted the figure of the seated woman in the painting from a photograph by Bill Brandt, both the photographs by Lynes and Brandt are in the book Nude Photographs 1850-1980, so Fischl must have owned the book. Many of Fischl’s paintings deal with growing up, someone should do a post on him.
    Below are Fischl’s thoughts about the Lynes’ photograph:

    The young girl from the George Platt Lynes photograph appeared in an earlier version of Bayonne but was edited out. The panel that the woman and the chair are on was a larger canvas in which the Platt Lynes girl appeared in a washy, gestural way, and was covered by the panel with the young girl in the ballet costume. Only by moving off to the side would you have seen her. She was like an animus: she represented a more sexualized and maybe a more sexually vulnerable figure. The thing about Platt Lynes’s photography is that it’s oddly cold. You’re looking at a young, prepubescent girl who’s standing exposed, her legs spread apart, and its charge comes from the coldness in which she’s presented. Because you really don’t know how to respond, you don’t know why the picture was taken. It’s not clinical and it’s not explicitly sexaul, and its neutrality causes a tremendous ambivalence. That’s what animates it: you rush in to contextualize it – is it good, bad, desirable, not desirable- is it taboo?

    The Met Museum has six nudes of Elizabeth by Lynes online.

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