National Geographic, William N. Copley
William N. Copley
National Geographic
Back to top

William N. Copley

National Geographic, 1959

116.5 x 90.0 cm
Physical Description
Oil and safety pin on canvas
Inventory Number
Acquired in 2010. Property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.
Not exhibited


About the Work

An imposing, dark-skinned woman faces the viewer head-on, without actually looking at him. Black contours outline her body and emphasise her ample breasts. The reproduction of her body is reduced to striking effect and thus underlines the subject which runs like a golden thread throughout Copley's oeuvre: woman as an object of male desire. The ornamentally two-dimensional library in the background assembles masterpieces of Western intellectual history: Tolstoy's 'War and Peace', Einstein's writings on the Theory of Relativity, Sappho's poems, the Bible, artist monographs and volumes of the eponymous 'National Geographic'. The proud, foreign-looking woman contrasts in a deceptively humorous way with this pale cultural backdrop. Just as the painting hovers between Surrealism and Pop Art, so, too, does this malicious game of clichés remain curiously undecided - all the more because the nose ring as a sign of enslavement is ironically a real safety pin, which at the same time formulates a new pictorial concept as an objet trouvé.

Work Data

Basic Information

National Geographic (Original Title)
Period Produced
Object Type
Physical Description
Oil and safety pin on canvas

Property and Acquisition

Picture Copyright
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019
Acquired in 2010. Property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.

Work Content

Motifs and References

Main Motif
Associated Persons and Institutions
Medial Picture Elements
  • Ronald Penrose: Picasso. His Life and Work, 1956
  • Raymond Queneau: Zazie dans le métro, 1959
  • Bibel
  • Edgar Allan Poe: Tales
  • Sappho: Poems
  • Herman Melville: Moby Dick, 1954
  • Lev Nikolaevič Tolstoj: War and Peace, 1867/1869
  • Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland, 1865
  • Kate Douglas Wiggin: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, 1903
  • Jean-Paul Sartre: No Exit, 1944
  • Francis Scott Key: The Star-Spangled Banner, 1814
  • Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita, 1955
  • Franz Kafka: The Trial, 1925
  • David Herbert Lawrence: Lady Chatterley's Lover, 1928
  • National Geographic Magazine, Vol. 1-4, 1888-1891, Washington, D.C.
  • Betty MacDonald: The Egg and I, 1945
  • John Steinbeck: Of Mice and Men, 1937
  • Marquis de Sade: The 120 Days of Sodom or the School of Libertinage, 1904
  • Barnet Hodes: The Law of Mobile Homes, 1657
  • James Joyce: Ulysses, 1927
  • Marquis de Sade: Histoire de Juliette ou les Prospérités du Vice, 1797
Associated Medium
  • Margaret Mitchell: Gone with the Wind, 1936
  • Boris Leonidowitsch Pasternak: Doktor Zhivago, 1956


  • 41D92 woman (showing herself) undressed, quasi-nude
  • 31AA14(+1) human figure of ideal proportions, e.g. academic nude - AA - female human figure (+ front view)
  • 41D23 clothing for the lower part of the body
  • 41D2661 necklace
  • 41A7122 bookshelves

More to discover



Do you have any suggestions, questions or information about this work?

Last import