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Western art


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Julion Osion, New York City

printed 1990


Lynn Davis

United States of America

1944 -


A curious interest in the intimate psychological encounter of the portrait led Lynn Davis to explore the representation of the body. Davis’s nude photographs communicate the intensity of a non-verbal dialogue that she establishes with the sitter after acquainting herself with them over a period of time. Her studies at the San Francisco Art Institute brought her into contact with the teachings of Berenice Abbott and fellow student Robert Mapplethorpe with whom she formed a lifelong friendship, the two of them later exhibiting together. Over two decades she documented the body, intrigued by the corporeal form with much of the work appearing sculptural and object-like. An interest in modernist perspective and geometry was subsequently explored from 1986 with monumental photographs of the landscape – icebergs, architecture and the sacred cultural sites of China and Egypt.

Davis’s work with dancers involved pushing them to investigate the extent of their bodies through extreme discipline in movement, forming shapes, contrasts and physical tensions in the photographs that she found exhilarating in their abstractions. Like Ruth Bernhard, Davis’s interest was in the elements of the body, the contrasts, the harmony, rather any formal portraiture, preferring to omit the face altogether. The body of Julion Osian is caught in mid-action, the shoulders in extreme tension as his arms extend at an angle above his head. The acute incline of the head and neck into the void of the background emphasises, through the exquisite tonal variations of the skin, the sculptural abstraction of the form. Accentuating the form in light and shadow and assisted by the tight visual cropping, the muscular and skeletal structure is revealed under the skin, heightening the disjuncture between body and void, model and sculpture.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007



printed 1990

Media category


Materials used

gelatin silver photograph




48.2 x 48.4 cm image; 60.6 x 50.5 cm sheet

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r.verso, ink "Lynn Davis 1990".


Gift of Edron Pty Ltd - 1996 through the auspices of Alistair McAlpine


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Lynn Davis

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

  • Body Parts, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 26 Sep 2015–31 Jan 2016

Referenced in 2 publications


Donna Brett, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'A postwar modernist vision', pg.209-225, Sydney, 2007, 212 (illus.), 223 (illus.).

Peter Weiermair (Editor), Lynn Davis: "Body Work" 1978-1985, Switzerland, 1994, 45 (illus.).