American Painter (1904 - 1999)
Paul Cadmus' life spanned the century, beginning with his birth on the upper west side of Manhattan in 1904 and ending suddenly (and peacefully) on December 12, 1999 at his home in Weston, Conn., five days before his 95th birthday. In between, his combination of meticulousness and exuberance made him one of America's greatest artists--a "magic realist" in more ways than one.
Everything about him shouted rectitude, from his ramrod posture to the piercing blue eyes of his magnificent face. He became an unlikely cause celebre in 1934, when the U.S. Navy went berserk over The Fleet's In! a glorious depiction of uniformed sailors that included prostitutes and a homosexual pickup. Because of that brouhaha, his first one-man show, at Midtown Galleries in Manhattan, attracted more than 7,000 visitors. ("I owe that admiral a very large sum," Cadmus remarked six decades later.)
Artists are frequently less appealing than the work they produce; George Orwell remarked famously that one ought to be able to remember "simultaneously" that Salvador Dali is both "a good draughtsman and a disgusting human being." Cadmus was the polar opposite of Dali; his personality was as luminous as his painting. He sincerely cared about other people, which may sound like a small thing but is actually quite rare among famous men. "He had a remarkable memory," says Josef Asteinza, an architect who lived down the road from Cadmus in Connecticut. "We brought scores of people there and he always enjoyed meeting them and he never forgot a name. Edith Sitwell's brother said, `A gentleman is never unintentionally rude,' but Paul said, `I don't think a gentleman should ever be rude under any circumstances.'"
Asteinza's lover, Randy Bourscheidt, remembers of Cadmus, "What you saw when you talked to him was a spiritual grace that derived from high moral decency and elegance of spirit--and from his own connection to art." Lincoln Kirstein, who cofounded the New York City Ballet, was his most important patron (as well as his brother-in-law), but his favorite friend--even a role model--may have been E.M. Forster, with whom he began to correspond during World War II. Both men were "formal and traditional moralists," as Kirstein put it. "I admire the virtues of long-term friendships and all the things that Forster writes about: tolerance, sympathy, and kindness," Cadmus told me. In 1949, Cadmus went to England and sketched Forster, while the author read the painter the manuscript of his unpublished gay novel, Maurice.
01.12.11: BIOGRAPHY II
U.S. painter, also highly accomplished draughtsman and print maker, of contemporary life and social interaction. His The Fleet's In! (1934) was controversial due to its depiction of sailors and women carousing in an uninhibited sexual manner. This atmosphere permeates much of his work. Satire and Social Realism were also characteristic of his subsequent Sailors and Floosies (1938). His subject matter meant, however, that his remarkable technique, in the tradition of Renaissance painting and drawing, which he self-consciously emulated, was sometimes overlooked.
01.12.11: 2 SCAN GALLERY (IMAGES © ESTATE OF PAUL CADMUS)
FROM THE BOOK, THE MALE NUDE
FROM THE BOOK, THE MALE NUDE
Old Paul Cadmus Website
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