Joel-Peter Witkin influence on Alexander McQueen


1. Design Museum – “The shows are inspired by cult films by Stanley Kubrick, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Alfred Hitchock, or by the dark photographs of Joel-Peter Witkin. It Witkin’s work which inspired McQueen’s spring/summer 2001 show. Models staggered around, trapped in a mirrored box that obscured their view of the audience. Their bandaged heads and confused expressions evoked disease both physical and psychological. The spectacle ended as the walls of the glass box shattered to the floor to reveal an obese model wearing nothing but a gas mask, surrounded by hundreds of moths.”


2. Met Museum – “VOSS (spring/summer 2001), which featured a number of exoticized garments, including a coat and a dress appliquéd with roundels in the shape of chrysanthemums, was inspired by a photograph of Joel-Peter Witkin entitled Sanitarium (1983), which depicted an obese woman connected via a breathing tube to a stuffed monkey. On McQueen’s runway, the fetish writer Michelle Olley played the role of the woman. Typical of McQueen’s collections, VOSS offered a commentary on the politics of appearance, upending conventional ideals of beauty. For McQueen, the body was a site for contravention, where normalcy was questioned and the spectacle of marginality was embraced and celebrated.”

See more at: http://blog.metmuseum.org/alexandermcqueen/about/#sthash.BWpdDn8G.dpuf

3. “Joel-Peter Witkin’s photograph “Sanitarium” inspired the final presentation of Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2001 collection based on avian imagery, the walls of another box within the faux psychiatric ward collapsed to reveal a startling tableau vivant: a reclining, masked nude breathing through a tube and surrounded by fluttering moths.”



It’s clear that disciplines cross so easily, and inspiration comes from all over the place. Photography and fashion can easily go hand-in-hand and Witkin’s photograph being the inspiration for McQueen’s 2001 collection proves that very well.

Influenced By Painting

His constant reference to paintings from art history, including the works of Bosch, Goya, Velasquez, Miro, Botticelli and Picasso are testaments to his need to create a new history for himself. By using imagery and symbols from the past, Witkin celebrates our history while constantly redefining its present day context.


the-garden-of-earthly-delights-1515-7 Bosch

botticelli.venus Botticelli

the-old-guitarist Picasso

I can definitely see how Witkin is influenced by painters. Especially Bosch’s detail and extravagance, and the darker paintings of Picasso’s work, with a more contemporary and dark twist to his images.


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