In 1934 he painted The Fleet's In! while working for the Public Works of Art Project of the WPA. This painting, featuring carousing sailors, women, and a homosexual couple, was the subject of a public outcry and was removed from exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery. The publicity helped to launch his career. "The Battle of the Corcoran" was a critical turning point in the career of the young, 29 year-old Greenwich Village artist who was suddenly thrust into national prominence. Involving elements of overt censorship, it was brought back into the limelight decades later.
As a young scholar, Philip Eliasoph was given unprecedented access to work with Cadmus to record for posterity the biographical details of his career. Completing 'Paul Cadmus:Life & Work' [SUNY at Binghamton, 1979] Eliasoph realized there was a missing piece as Cadmus' notorious sailor painting was created for the first New Deal art project, the P.W.A.P. and rightfully belonged in the public domain as Federal property. 'The Fleet's In!' had been seized by Navy admirals at the behest of Roosevelt administration officials for the Corcoran's premier event showcasing the first examples of New Deal art patronage, the sexually explicit painting was overtly censored. Secretary of the Navy Swanson stated the [painting] "represents a most disgraceful, sordid, disreputable, drunken brawl.." [Time, April, 30, 1934]. Cadmus defended himself: "I owe the start of my career to the Admiral who tried to suppress it. I didn't feel any moral indignation about those sailors, even though it woundn't be my idea of a good time. I always enjoyed watching them when I was young. I somewhat envied the freedom of their lives and their lack of inhibitions."
Paul Cadmus and Jon Anderson by Jon Gilbert Fox, 1999
Paul Cadmus was an American artist. He is best known for his paintings and drawings of nude male figures. Jon Andersson, who became Paul Cadmus's longtime companion of 35 years, was a subject of many of his works. The two met on a pier on Nantucket in 1964, when Andersson was twenty-seven and Cadmus was fifty-nine. "I never wanted to be with anyone else", Cadmus remarked. Thirty-six years later, at sixty-three and ninety-five, when Paul died, there were still together.
The Fleet's In!, 1933, Navy Art Gallery, Washington Navy Yard
"This, then, is my viewpoint – a satirical viewpoint: and I think I'm correct in saying that genuine satire has always been considered supremely moral," Cadmus wrote in his "Credo", a broadside for his first exhibition at Midtown Gallery in 1937. In the tradition of Hogarth, Rowlandson and Daumier, Cadmus felt the urgency to use his artistic expression towards exposing the "replusive" and "malignant" aspects of human behavior towards a "nobler" society. In preparing for the artist's first and only national Retrospective tour in 1981, Eliasoph sought restitution of the painting. He sought out the counsel of Karel Yasko, Counselor for Fine Arts and Historic Preservation of the General Services Administration, in Washington D.C. Since the end of the New Deal, the GSA had been given supervisory authority for federal property created by artists. Cadmus showed Eliasoph evidence that his painting – which he had last seen when he delievered it to Juliana Force at the old Whitney Museum on 8th Street in 1934 – had been confiscated and sequestered in an elite private men's social club in Washington. The Alibi Club on "I" street had received the painting from FDR's cousin, Henry Latrobe Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and a club member. The second 'Battle of the Corcoran' ensued when Eliasoph commenced a legal campaign to recover the painting aided by Yasko's threat to the club to seize it using federal marshalls. With amicable negotiations, and a public airing of this "censorship" matter in The Washington Post, the painting was legally transferred back to the U.S. Navy Historical Center in Washington, D.C. where it is now proudly displayed. It was not until the opening night of Cadmus' retrospective, at the Miami University Art Museum, in Oxford, Ohio, that Cadmus was re-united with the work he had not seen in over 47 years.
The third "Battle of the Corcoran" took place decades later when the homo-erotic photographic exhibit of Robert Mapplethorpe was removed due to pressures about its funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. In a published letter to The New York Times, [Nov. 26, 1989] Eliasoph reminded readers of "The Other Time Censorship Stormed Into the Corcoran Gallery," noting: "while members of the curatorial staff..might be too young to remember the history of their predecessors, an earlier storm of controversy forced the censorship and removal of an offending artwork from the very same institution 55 years ago...As in most cases of artistic censorship, Mr. Cadmus' work seems mildly tame and lighthearted compared with today's notions of sexuality as seen in magazine ads and music videos."
He worked in commercial illustration as well, but Jared French, another tempera artist who befriended him and became his lover for a time, convinced him to devote himself completely to fine art.
Jon Andersson, who became Cadmus's longtime companion of 35 years, was a subject of many of his works. The two met on a pier on Nantucket in 1964, when Andersson was twenty-seven and Cadmus was fifty-nine. "I never wanted to be with anyone else", Cadmus remarked. Thirty-six years later, at sixty-three and ninety-five, when Paul died, there were still together.
In 1999 he died in his home in Weston, Connecticut due to advanced age, just five days short of his 95th birthday.
Cadmus's sister, Fidelma, was the wife of philanthropist and arts patron Lincoln Kirstein. Cadmus is ranked by Artists Trade Union of Russia amongst the world-best artists of the last four centuries.
Burial: Cremated, Location of ashes is unknown.
Paul Cadmus by George Platt Lynes
Paul Cadmus and Jon Andersson
Paul Cadmus by George Platt Lynes
Paul Cadmus by George Platt Lynes, 1953
Paul Cadmus and Jared French, Fire Island, by PaJaMa
Paul Cadmus and Monroe Wheeler, Clinton, New Jersey, 1941, by PaJaMa
Paul Cadmus, Provincetown, by PaJaMa
The painter Paul Cadmus felt "the naiveté of the public was a great benefit if one didn't want to be exposed. I don't think I ever worried about exposure exactly - although I like reticence and I don't like flaunting. But then the world has gotten much more extreme.
"There were never magazines like Screw", Cadmus continued. "The only gay publication that I knew in those days was published in Switzerland, called Der Kreis/Le Cercle. It was bilingual; I think it had French and English. It published some of my drawings and paintings. George Platt Lynes used the pseudonym Roberto Rolf when the magazine published his photos. It printed very good art and had very good stories - not necessarily very gay things but generally homoerotic, I suppose. Not porn. It was quite a charming magazine actually. I would send them photographs of my drawings. It was mailed in a plain wrapper, but it was not junk. I think they published Thomas Mann".
In 1937 Lincoln Kirstein met the painter Paul Cadmus, who pioneered his own style of "magic realism". Cadmus believed Kirstein championed Johnson (Philip n.d.r) later on mostly because he thought he was a good architect. "Lincoln's always been very supportive of good art", said Cadmus, "even when it wasn't popular. He didn't give a damn about what other people liked".
When Kirstein met Cadmus the talented painter had a gentle charm and a magnificent face, and many of their friends believed that Kirstein immediately fell in love with him. Cadmus said Kirstein fell in love with his work; in any event, the painter never reciprocated Kirstein's romantic feelings. "Quite soon after he met me, he met my sister", Cadmus remembered almost six decades later. "I think he met her twice, and then he came to see me one day, and he said "Paul, I want to marry Fidelma".
"But you hardly know her", Cadmus replied. "And she's not like me". But Kirstein was insistent. "I know what I want, I want to marry Fidelma".
"Please don't suddenly surprise her like this", said Cadmus. But "very shortly afterwards", Kirstein took Fidelma to the Plaza and proposed to her, and she soon accepted, although the engagement spanned three years. The marriage lasted until Fidelma was institutionalized for mental illness many years later, but Kirstein continued to sleep with men all his life. Partly through Fidelma, he also kept Cadmus close to him until Kirstein died in 1996. Kirstein also bought many of Cadmus's canvases, and eventually wrote a book that was an homage to the painter's work. In the 1970s, Kirstein built Cadmus a house on the grounds of his Connecticut estate. There, Cadmus lived with his lover, Jon Andersson, and the two of them took care of dinners for Kirstein and his weekend guests every Saturday for years - sort of a friendly catering service.
"He had glamour of course", said Cadmus. "Very dynamic. He knew everybody. He used to have very good parties with people like Callas and Nelson Rockfeller". At a memorial service at the New York State Theater - a building that Kirstein had chosen Philip Johnson to design - Cadmus described his friend as a "benevolent hurricane".
During the war, Cadmus began to send food packages to E.M. Forster in England, after the painter's close friend Margaret French told Cadmus that Forster had seen his work in Time or Newsweek and greatly admired it. They began a correspondence that blossomed into a fine friendship. "He was not shy with me", Cadmus remembered. "He was very astute always. He was no ninny. And he was very scornful of people who didn't enjoy going to Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon. He thought those were wonders that people should see. He enjoyed visiting them very much".
Later Forster came to America and visited Cadmus and French in Provincetown, where she and her husband, Jared, had rented a house for the summer. "I and George Tooker were their guests for the summer there", said Cadmus. Provincetown was not particularly gay. "It wasn't like it is now. We weren't there for that. We were there to be at the beach and for working".
Then Cadmus visited Forster in his rooms in Cambridge. "I sat on the window ledge drawing his portrait as he read Maurice to me" - the gay novel that was first published many years after Forster's death. "In two sessions, I guess he read the whole book to me. I loved it. He had no intention of publishing it because of his relationship with his policeman friend. That would have been very damaging to him and (the policeman's) wife".
Like Forster, Cadmus considered himself a moralist: "I admire the virtues of long-term friendships and all the things that Forster writes about: tolerance, sympathy, and kindness".
Paul Cadmus remembered Capote at an outdoor café in Venice shortly after the war. "Truman lifted his cape up and down, up and down, and said, "Come to Taormina! Come to Taormina!"" Cadmus recalled. The painter took Capote's advice and met him at the Italian resort. One day Capote returned from the post office with the mail. "I bring tidings of disaster!" he shouted. "Tennessee's play is a great success!"
"I always liked Truman", said Cadmus. "He didn't give a damn what people thought of his voice or anything else. Brave little thing".
Paul Cadmus spent many happy hours gazing at the sailors who flooded Riverside Park: "A lot of my "gay life" was visual mostly. Not all of it, but more than I wanted. I was rather timid, I guess. I kept most of my dreams about sailors to myself. I used to like watching them, thinking what a good time they were having".--The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America by Charles Kaiser
Jerry, 1931, Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio (Jared French)
Paul Cadmus, Selfportrait, 1932
Mallorcan Fisherman, 1932
YMCA Locker Room, 1933
Shore Leave, 1933
Greenwich Village Cafeteria, 1934
Coney Island, 1934, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Aspects of Suburban Life: Main Street, 1935, D.C. Moore Gallery
The Gilding of the Acrobats, 1935
Aspects of Suburban Life: Golf, 1936, Virtual Museum of Canada
Polo Spill, 1936
Public Dock, 1936
Venus and Adonis, 1936
Sailors and Floozies, 1938, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City
Pocahontas and John Smith, 1938, Port Washington Post Office
Two Boys on a Beach #1, 1938, D.C. Moore Gallery
The Herrin Massacre, 1940, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio
The Aviator, 1941
The Shower, 1943
Point O' View, 1945, Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts
Fantasia on a theme by Dr. S, 1946
The Inventor, 1946
What I Believe, 1947–1948, McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Playground, 1948, Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, Georgia
The Architect, 1950 (Chuck Howard)
The Bath, 1951 (Alexander Jensen Yow and Jack Fontan)
Bar Italia, 1953
Night in Bologna, 1958, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
Sunday Sun, 1958–1959
Apple Peeler, 1959
Le Ruban Dénoué: Hommage à Reynaldo Hahn, 1963, Columbus Museum of Art (Philip J. & Suzanne Schiller collection), Columbus, Ohio
Male Nude, 1966, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Missouri
The Haircut, 1986
Final Study for the House that Jack Built, 1987, D.C. Moore Gallery
Me: 1940–1990, 1990, D.C. Moore Gallery
Jon Reading NM248, 1992, D.C. Moore Gallery
Jon Extracting a Splinter NM255, 1993, D.C. Moore Gallery
Book Buff, 1994 (Jon Anderson)
Paul Cadmus, Selfportrait
Paul Cadmus: The Male Nude by Justin Spring
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Universe (November 9, 2002)
Amazon: Paul Cadmus: The Male Nude
One of the most accomplished artists of the twentieth century, Paul Cadmus is best known for his provocative satires of American life. He first gained national recognition in 1934 when his bawdy painting The Fleet's In! was barred from a Public Works of Art exhibition in Washington, D.C. For more than six decades following, Cadmus led a career as a meticulous craftsman devoted to Renaissance-era traditions of figurative realism. But his drawings of the male nude, which always formed the heart of his work, were often overlooked.
Here for the first time in one volume are seventy of Cadmus's most stunning tributes to the male form. Cadmus continued to produce these works up until his death at age ninety-four, and this volume includes many drawings that have never been seen before. The artist's most frequent model was his lifelong partner Jon Anderson, and the drawings offer up not just an elegant fluency and technical virtuosity but also a tender emotional resonance. Introducing each era of the artist's career is an illustrated essay by respected critic and writer Justin Spring, placing Cadmus in the context of the rich history of the male nude.
Paul Cadmus reminds us-- poignantly, eloquently, humbly-- of the sincere beauty of the male form and of humanity itself with each masterful rendering. As Guy Davenport wrote in The Drawings of Paul Cadmus, "His drawings of male nudes are of bodies, but of achieved, perfected bodies that serve as symbols, as in ancient Greece, of a perfect unity of spirit and flesh, mind and body. For Cadmus the body is the person."
Paul Cadmus by Lincoln Kirstein
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Pomegranate; Revised edition (March 1992)
Amazon: Paul Cadmus
The Drawings of Paul Cadmus by Stephen Frankel
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Rizzoli; 1 edition (November 15, 1989)
Amazon: The Drawings of Paul Cadmus
First edition, first printing. Hardcover. Green cloth-covered boards with title stamped in white on cover and in gold on spine, with photographically illustrated dust jacket. Drawings by Paul Cadmus. Introduction by Guy Davenport. Includes a catalogue raisonné of prints. 144 pp., with 36 four-color plates, 85 black and white plates and numerous additional illustrations. 10-3/4 x 10 inches. From the publisher: "Cadmus has long been recognized as a superb draftsman of astonishing technical prowess and lyrical exuberance. Not since Michelangelo has any artist done so many studies of the male nude, a form that Cadmus delineates with the fluency, virtuosity and anatomical precision of the Renaissance masters...the images includes portraits, figure drawings, dancers, male and female nudes, nature drawings and still lifes...A special feature of the book is a separate catalogue raisonné of prints."
Intimate Companions: A Triography of George Platt Lynes, Paul Cadmus, Lincoln Kirstein, and Their Circle by David Leddick
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Stonewall Inn Editions; 1st edition (June 1, 2001)
Amazon: Intimate Companions: A Triography of George Platt Lynes, Paul Cadmus, Lincoln Kirstein, and Their Circle
Photographer George Platt Lynes, painter Paul Cadmus, and critic Lincoln Kirstein played a major role in creating the institutions of the American art world from the late 1920s to the early 1950s. The three created a remarkable world of gay aesthetics and desire in art with the help of their overlapping circle of friends, lovers, and collaborators.
Through hours of conversation with surviving members with their circle and unprecedented access to papers, journals, and previously unreleased photos, David Leddick has resurrected the influences of this now-vanished art world along with the lives and loves of all three artists in this groundbreaking biography.