I first learned about the the work of Paul Cadmus (1904-1999) when I was researching the photographer George Platt Lynes for a theatre piece called mindlynes. That work eventually lead to my play III about the 15-year relationship between Lynes, Glenway Wescott and Monroe Wheeler. Cadmus traveled in their circle as a friend and artistic contemporary. He even painted a picture called Conversation Piece, a portrait of the three men outside of their New Jersey home, Stone-blossom.
I never forgot Cadmus' work, his paintings in particular, as he found a way to create images that captured the beauty of the human body and juxtaposed it against the often times garish reality of the human condition. His painting Sailors and Floozies (1938) illustrates this concept beautifully: the idealized physical depiction of drunken sailors versus the harder visual representation of the women pursuing them. The painting caused controversy in its first showing, and Cadmus continued to create this kind of effect with his work. Described as a calm and generally uncontroversial figure by his friends and colleagues, he allowed his art to spark the controversy and instigate a dialogue. He was also unapologetic about his relationships with men and never hid his sexual orientation.
For all of these reasons, Paul Cadmus is the artist I chose to highlight this week. His work is also the subject of a new project I'm working on, so I'm learning a ton by seeing some of his paintings and drawings here in NYC and reading all I can find. Stay tuned for more about Cadmus, his contemporaries, and most of all, his art.