George Platt Lynes (April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955) was an American fashion and commercial photographer who worked in the 1930s and 1940s. He produced photographs featuring many gay artists and writers from the 1940s that were acquired by the Kinsey Institute after his death in 1955.
Born in East Orange, New Jersey to Adelaide Sparkman and Joseph Russell Lynes (died 1932). 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.
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.
He was soon receiving commissions from Harper's Bazaar, Town & Country, and Vogue 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).
He was also most notably friends with Katherine Anne Porter, author of the novel Ship of Fools, with whom he often enjoyed photographing wearing elaborate evening gowns and occasionally reenacting Shakespeare.
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nudes of friends, performers and models, including a young Yul Brynner, although these remained private, unknown and unpublished for years. 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.
In the late 1940s, Lynes became acquainted with Dr. Alfred Kinsey and his Institute in Bloomington, Indiana. Kinsey took an interest in Lynes work, as he was researching homosexuality in America at the time. A large number of Lynes' nude and homoerotic works were left to the Kinsey Institute after his death in 1955. The body of work residing at the Kinsey Institute remained largely unknown until it was made public and published later. The Kinsey collection represents one of the largest single collections of Lynes's work.
For over ten years, Lynes had a love affair with both Monroe Wheeler, the curator, and Glenway Wescott (1901–1987), the writer. 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.
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..."
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.
- 1932, Julian Levy Gallery, New York, NY
- 1960, Portraits by George Platt Lynes, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
- 1980, Fleeting Gestures: Treasure of Dance Photography, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
- 1993, George Platt Lynes: Photographs from the Kinsey Institute, Grey Art Gallery at New York University, New York, NY
- 2003, George Balanchine and his Dancers: the Ballet Photography of George Platt Lynes, The Kinsey Institute Gallery, Bloomington, IN
- 2005, Fashioning Celebrity: Photographs of George Platt Lynes, Harry Ransom Center, Austin, TX
- 2005, George Platt Lynes, Wessel + O'Connor Fine Art, New York, NY
- 2008, Vintage Ballet Photographs, Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
- 2011, George Platt Lynes, Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, NY
- 2012, George Platt Lynes, Steven Kasher Gallery, New York, NY
- 2014, George Platt Lynes, Wessel + O'Connor Fine Art, Lambertville, NJ
- 1932, Murals by American Painters and Photographers, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
- 1937, Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
- 1951, Abstraction in Photography, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
- 1977, documenta 6, Documenta, Kassel, Germany
- 1992, Figure/Form: The Nude in 20th Century Photography, Jan Kesner Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
- 1992, Classic Dualities: The Photographs of Len Prince taken at the Tampa Museum of Art, Fay Gold Gallery, Atlanta, GA
- 1999, Figurescapes, Radiant Light Gallery, Portland, ME
- 2001, Interwoven Lives: George Platt Lynes and his Friends, DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY
- 2002, Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- 2003, Flesh Tones – 100 Years of the Nude, Robert Mann Gallery, New York, NY
- 2003, Artseal Gallery Photo SF Preview, Artseal Gallery, San Francisco, CA
- 2003, Herb Ritts Private Collection, Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
- 2003, Boys of Summer, ClampArt, New York, NY
- 2005, Summer Skin, Stephen Cohen Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
- 2005, From the Source, Fashion Photographs, Corkin Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- 2005, Beyond Real Part 1 Dressing Up, Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney, Australia
- 2005, 20th Anniversary Show, Wessel + O'Connor Fine Art, New York, NY
- 2006, American Icons, Corkin Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- 2006, Busy going crazy: The Sylvio Perlstein Collection, La Maison Rouge, Paris, France
- 2007, Igor Strawinsky – ich muss die Kunst anfassen, Museum der Moderne Rupertinum, Salzburg, Austria
- 2007, VIP, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia
- 2007, Classic Beauty: Part 2 Photographs of the Male Nude, Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, NY
- 2007, MODE: BILDER, NRW Forum Kultur und Wirtschaft, Düsseldorf, Germany
- 2008, Vintage / Vantage, Wessel + O'Connor Fine Art, New York, NY
- 2008, Pre-Revolutionary Queer: Gay Art and Culture Before Stonewall, The Kinsey Institute, Bloomington, IN
- 2010, Flirting with Bling, Corkin Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- 2010, Nature & Nurture: Exploring Human Reproduction from Pregnancy through Early Childhood, The Kinsey Institute, Bloomington, IN
- 2010, Staff Picks 2010, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, NY
- 2010, 25 Years / 25 Works, Wessel + O'Connor Fine Art, Washington, D.C.
- 2011, Narcissus Reflected, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland
- 2011, An Intimate Circle, DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY
- 2011, Psyche & Muse: Creative Entanglements with the Science of the Soul, Beinecke Library at Yale University, New Haven, CT
- 2013, Fashion: Photography from the Condé Nast Archives, Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia, Milan, Italy
- 2019, Sex Crimes, ClampArt, New York, NY
- Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, National Gallery of Canada
- Cape Breton University Art Gallery permanent collection in Nova Scotia.
- Centre Pompidou Musée National d´Art Moderne, Paris
- Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg
- The Secret Museum, Montreal
- The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
- The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art – LACMA, Los Angeles, CA
- Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL
- Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
- National Portrait Gallery, London
- "GEORGE PLATT LYNES". The New York Times. December 7, 1955. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- "Review/Photography; Another Side of a Life's Work, Elegantly Revealed". The New York Times. September 24, 1993. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- "DR. J. R. LYNES DIES: QUIT BAR FOR CHURGH". The New York Times. December 3, 1932. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- "GEORGE PLATT LYNES". robertmillergallery.com. Robert Miller Gallery. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- Johnson, Ken (October 12, 2001). "ART IN REVIEW; 'Interwoven Lives' -- 'George Platt Lynes and His Friends'". The New York Times. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- 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.
- George Platt Lynes, The Male Nudes: Rizzoli International Pub, 2011 ISBN 978-0-8478-3374-0, Afterward, Ellenzweig, Allen
- Limnander, Armand (March 5, 2009). "Landed Gent". The New York Times. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- "Artists in the Cape Breton University Art Gallery Permanent Collection" (PDF). cbu.ca. Cape Breton University. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- Vogel, Carol (November 20, 1998). "INSIDE ART; The Modern Seeks Money". The New York Times. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- "George Platt Lynes". National Portrait Gallery, London. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
- 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 (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.
- Queer Arts Biopic
- George Platt Lynes at Find a Grave
- Portraits by George Platt Lynes at the National Portrait Gallery, London.
- George Platt Lynes Diaries and Memorabilia. Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
- George Platt Lynes Scrapbooks. Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.