George Platt Lynes

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George Platt Lynes
Born(1907-04-15)April 15, 1907
DiedDecember 6, 1955(1955-12-06) (aged 48)
EducationBerkshire School
Yale University
Known forPhotography

George Platt Lynes (April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955) was an American fashion and commercial photographer who worked in the 1930s and 1940s.[1] He produced some photographs featuring many gay artists and writers from the 1940s that were acquired by the Kinsey Institute after his death in 1955.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born in East Orange, New Jersey to Adelaide Sparkman and Joseph Russell Lynes (died 1932).[1][3] His younger brother was Joseph Russell Lynes, Jr. (1910–1991). Lynes spent his childhood in New Jersey but attended the Berkshire School in Massachusetts, where he was a classmate of Lincoln Kirstein (1907–1996). He was sent to Paris in 1925 with the idea of better preparing him for college. His life was forever changed by the circle of friends that he would meet there including Gertrude Stein, Glenway Wescott, Monroe Wheeler. He attended Yale University in 1926, but dropped out after a year to move to New York City.[4]


He returned to the United States with the idea of a literary career and he even opened a bookstore in Englewood, New Jersey in 1927. He first became interested in photography not with the idea of a career, but to take photographs of his friends and display them in his bookstore.

Returning to France the next year in the company of Wescott and Wheeler, he traveled around Europe for the next several years, always with his camera at hand. He developed close friendships within a larger circle of artists including Jean Cocteau and Julien Levy, the art dealer and critic. Levy would exhibit his photographs in his gallery in New York City in 1932 and Lynes would open his studio there that same year.

Commercial work[edit]

Photograph of Marianne Moore taken by Lynes in 1935.

He was soon receiving commissions from Harper's Bazaar, Town & Country, and Vogue[1] including a cover with perhaps the first supermodel, Lisa Fonssagrives. In 1935, he was asked to document the principal dancers and productions of Kirstein's and George Balanchine's newly founded American Ballet company (now the New York City Ballet).[2][5]

Private collection[edit]

He was also most notably friends with Katherine Anne Porter,[5] author of the novel Ship of Fools, with whom he often enjoyed photographing wearing elaborate evening gowns and occasionally reenacting Shakespeare.[6]

During his lifetime, Lynes amassed a substantial body of work involving nude and homoerotic photography. In the 1930s, he began taking nudes of friends, performers and models, including a young Yul Brynner, although these remained private, unknown and unpublished for years.[2] Over the following two decades, Lynes continued his work in this area passionately, albeit privately. "The depth and commitment he had in photographing the male nude, from the start of his career to the end, was astonishing. There was absolutely no commercial impulse involved — he couldn't exhibit it, he couldn't publish it." - Allen Ellenzweig, art and photography critic who wrote the introduction to George Platt Lynes: The Male Nudes, published in 2011 by Rizzoli.[7]

In the late 1940s, Lynes became acquainted with Dr. Alfred Kinsey and his Institute in Bloomington, Indiana.[7] Kinsey took an interest in Lynes work, as he was researching homosexuality in America at the time.[2] A large number of Lynes' nude and homoerotic works were left to the Kinsey Institute after his death in 1955.[4] The body of work residing at the Kinsey Institute remained largely unknown until it was made public and published later.[8] The Kinsey collection represents one of the largest single collections of Lynes's work.[7]

Personal life[edit]

For over ten years, Lynes had a love affair with both Monroe Wheeler, the curator, and Glenway Wescott (1901–1987), the writer.[8] He later got together with his studio assistant and, after he died in World War II, Lynes moved in with the younger brother of the assistant.[8]


By May 1955, Lynes had been diagnosed terminally ill with lung cancer. He closed his studio and was reported to have destroyed much of his print and negative archives, particularly his male nudes. However, it is now known that he had transferred many of these works to the Kinsey Institute. "He clearly was concerned that this work, which he considered his greatest achievement as a photographer, should not be dispersed or destroyed...We have to remember the time period we're talking about—America during the post-war Red Scare..."[7]

After a final trip to Europe, Lynes returned to New York City, where he died in 1955, while living with his brother and his family.[1]

Solo exhibitions[edit]

  • 2014, George Platt Lynes, Wessel + O'Connor Fine Art, Lambertville, NJ
  • 2012, George Platt Lynes, Steven Kasher Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2011, George Platt Lynes, Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, NY
  • 2008, Vintage Ballet Photographs, Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
  • 2005, George Platt Lynes, Wessel + O'Connor Fine Art, New York, NY
  • 2005, Fashioning Celebrity: Photographs of George Platt Lynes, Harry Ransom Center, Austin, TX
  • 2003, George Balanchine and his Dancers: the Ballet Photography of George Platt Lynes, The Kinsey Institute Gallery, Bloomington, IN
  • 1993, George Platt Lynes: Photographs from the Kinsey Institute, Grey Art Gallery at New York University, New York, NY
  • 1980, Fleeting Gestures: Treasure of Dance Photography, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1960, Portraits by George Platt Lynes, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
  • 1932, Julian Levy Gallery, New York, NY

Group exhibitions[edit]

  • 2013, Fashion: Photography from the Condé Nast Archives, Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia, Milan, Italy
  • 2011, Psyche & Muse: Creative Entanglements with the Science of the Soul, Beinecke Library at Yale University, New Haven, CT
  • 2011, An Intimate Circle, DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2011, Narcissus Reflected, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland
  • 2010, 25 Years / 25 Works, Wessel + O'Connor Fine Art, Washington, D.C.
  • 2010, Staff Picks 2010, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2010, Nature & Nurture: Exploring Human Reproduction from Pregnancy through Early Childhood, The Kinsey Institute, Bloomington, IN
  • 2010, Flirting with Bling, Corkin Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 2008, Pre-Revolutionary Queer: Gay Art and Culture Before Stonewall, The Kinsey Institute, Bloomington, IN
  • 2008, Vintage / Vantage, Wessel + O'Connor Fine Art, New York, NY
  • 2007, MODE: BILDER, NRW Forum Kultur und Wirtschaft, Düsseldorf, Germany
  • 2007, Classic Beauty: Part 2 Photographs of the Male Nude, Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, NY
  • 2007, VIP, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia
  • 2007, Igor Stawinsky - ich muss die kunst anfassen, Museum of Moderne Rupertinum, Salzburg, Austria
  • 2006, Busy going crazy: The Sylvio Perlstein Collection, La Maison Rouge, Paris, France
  • 2006, American Icons, Corkin Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 2005, 20th Anniversary Show, Wessel + O'Connor Fine Art, New York, NY
  • 2005, Beyond Real Part 1 Dressing Up, Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney, Australia
  • 2005, From the Source, Fashion Photographs, Corkin Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 2005, Summer Skin, Stephen Cohen Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 2003, Herb Ritts Private Collection, Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 2003, Artseal Gallery Photo SF Preview, Artseal Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 2003, Flesh Tones - 100 Years of the Nude, Robert Mann Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2002, Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 2001, Interwoven Lives: George Platt Lynes and his Friends, DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY
  • 1999, Figurescapes, Radiant Light Gallery, Portland, ME
  • 1992, Classic Dualities: The Photographs of Len Prince taken at the Tampa Museum of Art, Fay Gold Gallery, Atlanta, GA
  • 1992, Figure/Form: The Nude in 20th Century Photography, Jan Kesner Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1977, documenta 6, Documenta, Kassel, Germany
  • 1951, Abstraction in Photography, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
  • 1937, Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
  • 1932, Murals by American Painters and Photographers, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY




  1. ^ a b c d "GEORGE PLATT LYNES". The New York Times. December 7, 1955. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d "Review/Photography; Another Side of a Life's Work, Elegantly Revealed". The New York Times. 24 September 1993. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  3. ^ "DR. J. R. LYNES DIES: QUIT BAR FOR CHURGH". The New York Times. December 3, 1932. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  4. ^ a b "GEORGE PLATT LYNES". Robert Miller Gallery. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  5. ^ a b Johnson, Ken (12 October 2001). "ART IN REVIEW; 'Interwoven Lives' -- 'George Platt Lynes and His Friends'". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  6. ^ Titus, Mary (2005). The Ambivalent Art of Katherine Anne Porter. Atlanta, London: University of Georgia. pp. 155, 168–77, 187. ISBN 978-0-8203-2756-3.
  7. ^ a b c d George Platt Lynes, The Male Nudes: Rizzoli International Pub, 2011 ISBN 978-0-8478-3374-0, Afterward, Ellenzweig, Allen
  8. ^ a b c Limnander, Armand (5 March 2009). "Landed Gent". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  9. ^ "Artists in the Cape Breton University Art Gallery Permanent Collection" (PDF). Cape Breton University. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  10. ^ Vogel, Carol (20 November 1998). "INSIDE ART; The Modern Seeks Money". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 August 2016.


  • James Crump (1993). George Platt Lynes: Photographs from the Kinsey Institute. Bulfinch Press/Little Brown & Company. ISBN 978-0-8212-1996-6.
  • James Crump and Anatole Pohorilenko (1998). When we were three: The travel albums of George Platt Lynes, Monroe Wheeler, and Glenway Wescott, 1925-1935. Arena Editions. ISBN 0965728048.
  • Leddick, David (2000). George Platt Lynes. New York: Taschen. ISBN 978-3-8228-6403-6.
  • Leddick, David (2000). Intimate Companions: a Triography of George Platt Lynes, Paul Cadmus, Lincoln Kirstein, and Their Circle. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-27127-5.
  • Woody, Jack (1994). Portrait: The Photographs of George Platt Lynes, 1927-1955. Santa Fe: Twin Palms Publishers.
  • Lynes, George Platt (2011). George Platt Lynes: The Male Nudes. New York: Rizzoli International Publications. ISBN 978-0-8478-3374-0.

External links[edit]