Neal Baer Collection

George Platt Lynes

Jonathan Tichenor, Fire Island

c. 1948

Gelatin silver print

7 x 7 in; 17.8 x 17.8 cm

George Platt Lynes (1907-1955) was a major 20th century photographer whose influential work in commercial, portrait, and fashion photography paralleled a more private practice featuring photographs of nude men. Born in New Jersey, Lynes attended the Berkshire School where he met Lincoln Kirstein. Lynes was sent to Paris after boarding school where he met Glenway Wescott and Monroe Wheeler, with whom he would live in a menage à trois from 1934 to 1946. Lynes attended Yale University for a year before going back to Europe and traveling over the next few years, developing friendships with Jean Cocteau and dealer Julien Levy, who would first show Lynes’ photographs in his New York gallery in 1932. His official society portraits, portraits of many figures of the literary, art, and dance worlds, especially Kirstein and Balanchine’s American Ballet Company, and fashion editorial work earned Lynes the reputation to head Vogue’s West Coast office in 1946. Two years later, Lynes was back in New York and abandoned the more stylized, staged look of his earlier photographs for a more realistic, straightforward aesthetic in his nude photography.

Jonathan Tichenor, the subject of this photograph, was Lynes’ assistant and lover for whom he left Wescott and Wheeler.

Lynes’ quasi-lurid photographs of the “lower depths” as well as his photographs of the higher, sanitized eroticism of fashion—they have their own kind of make-believe luridness—could not exist without the bourgeois vice of looking but not touching, contemplating but not acting. Lynes’ photographs embody such bourgeois detachment and curiosity as much as they embody sexual and artistic involvement. But perhaps they are most important for the paradoxical revelation that their overdramatic, forced character affords: the more one looks at them, the more they seem to reveal the vulnerability of their subjects…For all the artifices of sexual and social meaning Lynes uses to give his figures aura and style, he reveals their self-presentation as a self-deception.

Donald Kuspit, George Platt Lynes at Grey Art Gallery, Artforum, January 1994

In 1949, Lynes began a personal and professional friendship with Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, who published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male the previous year, and conducted research on homosexuality and gay male erotica at his Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, now known as the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. Although buying and selling nude male photographs was illegal at the time, Kinsey purchased over 600 of Lynes’ prints along with several hundred negatives for his new archive. When Lynes died from lung cancer in 1955, he left a large number of nude and homoerotic work to the Kinsey Institute.


Paul Cadmus (1904-1999), Weston, Connecticut.
Jon F. Anderson (1937-2018), Weston, Connecticut, by descent from the above, 1999.
Estate of the above, 2018.

Bonhams Paris, 1 June 2023, Lot 18

See also

PaJaMa, Untitled [Portrait of Paul Cadmus], c. 1940s

George Platt Lynes in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

George Platt Lynes in the collection of the MoMA

George Platt Lynes in the collection of the Whitney Museum of Art

George Platt Lynes in the collection of the Centre Pompidou

George Platt Lynes at Howard Greenberg Gallery

Hal Fischer on George Platt Lynes at Stephen Wirtz Gallery