Very Good. Item #6156
N.p.: S.i., 1968. Original self-portraits in graphite and colored pencil on white stock, each measuring 14” x 11”. Both matted and under glass in red frames. Apology 2 depicts a pregnant woman with yellow and red discharge from the mouth and a fetus in utero. Letters appear on her forehead and breast and on the fetus, with illegible words in her hair on one side. The womb is suggestively ocular. “68. Apology 2” written in pencil at bottom. Apology 3 shows a ¾ perspective profile, with Smith’s birthdate “30 december 1946” and time?/place “6:00 Chicago Illinois” on her cheek, a large red “M” on her forehead, and “Patti Smith” in the tumbles of her hair down one side of her face. At bottom Smith has written “ME // Patti Smith makes this one final apology. 3 Apology 68 to me. Patti Smith [illegible].” Under this is a later inscription “To Korby same Time same sphere same city same drift same wind. xx Patti Smith Mar. 73.”
Early art by Smith, predating most if not all the self-portraits and other works we’ve so far found in print collections, online records, and institutions. Smith writes in her memoir Just Kids that she turned to self-portraits in the summer of 1968, shortly after breaking up with artist Robert Mapplethorpe and moving out of their shared apartment to her own, writing that “Leaving my circus animals behind [a previous series of drawings], I became my own subject,” and that these pieces, “emphasized a more feminine, earthy side of myself” (Smith 73). Two in a series of three, the third apology is by its own claim to herself, and the second likely a reference to the daughter Smith bore and gave up for adoption in 1967, just months before moving to New York City. We have been unable to locate or find mention of the presumed companion Apology 1, though our guess, given the timing of the series and Smith’s admission in Just Kids that she felt at the time she failed him after he wrote candidly to her about his relationships with men, is that it could have been addressed to Maplethorpe, who she met upon arriving in the city and with whom she spent that first year in a romantic and creative partnership.
Provenance: Both portraits given in 1973 to Burt Britton and his wife Korby, with Apology 3 inscribed to the latter. Burt Britton was a well-known bookseller, collector, and devourer of books, who James Barron writes in Britton’s New York Times obituary was “the kind of idiosyncratic New York personality who was not a household name but influenced the influential.” Britton is perhaps best known for the vast collection of self-portraits he would ask writers, artists, and other personalities to draw for him, and was a mainstay at the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan, where both he and Smith worked in the 1970s. Korby managed a boutique in Manhattan, then later ran an antiques shop with Harry Belefonte’s second wife, Julie. Acquired from a long-time close friend of Burt Britton’s, another collector and book-devourer our store works with regularly.