Diane Arbus

Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1962

About this artwork

Arbus’s direct, confrontational approach to photography meant that her subjects did not always like their portraits. After seeing his, the writer Norman Mailer famously said, "giving a camera to Diane Arbus is like putting a live grenade in the hands of a child". Here the grenade is just a toy, yet Arbus again makes an unconventional portrait of her subject. On the contact sheet, it is evident that Arbus did make ‘typical’ portraits of the boy smiling, but she chose to print only this unusual shot. He stands stiffly, his hands clenched like claws, with a crazed expression on his face. The portrait seems sinister, yet it could reflect something more ordinary – the exasperation of any child made to stand still and have his picture taken.

Updated before 2020

  • artist:
    Diane ArbusAmerican (1923 - 1971)
  • title:
    Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1962
  • date created:
    1962; printed after 1971
  • materials:
    Gelatin silver print on paper
  • measurements:
    37.60 x 37.40 cm (framed: 61.80 x 61.90 x 1.90 cm)
  • object type:
  • credit line:
    ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
  • accession number:
    AR00524
  • gallery:
  • subject:
This artwork is part of Artist Rooms
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Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus