18 July, 2024

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ACADEMY (Académies): Paul Cadmus – United States of America – ”The Bath” – 1951.

LADIES, and academic art lovers; this is the wonderful work of Paul Cadmus. The Bath, 1951 by Paul Cadmus.

An American academic artist and writer who was prolific in mid-20th century. His works focus on men and some historians always feel his work is homoerotic. We agree and disagree. Paul Cadmus is documenting a time in history. Men who were platonic relationship, sharing an apartment in NYC would bath together, prior to going to work. 

He described the image as simply a domestic scene. Due to homophobia, he did mention the viewer can read into the work what they thought. Many people in the 1950s urban art sphere, did not see two gay men. Many saw the history of the time. Paul Cadmus is widely known for his egg tempera style paintings of gritty social interactions within urban and working-class settings. He also produced many highly finished drawings of single nude male figures, with emphasis on captured their male power and continuing the work of Greco-Roman idealism with a “pulp fiction” viewpoint of middle-class Americana. His paintings always combine elements of eroticism and social critique in a style often called Magic Realism. Cadmus is often considered the “Father of Magic Realism.” However, some art historians disagree, but still credit him with being a strong player in the school or genre.

The models were Jack Fontan and Jenson Yow. Both were also subjects for the talented photographer George Platt Lynes and can be found online. They also later posed for Paul Cadmus too.

Paul Cadmus lived a colorful life and is considered to be a gay artist by some and a “bisexual artist,” by others. Most of his relationships were with men, but he did have an intimate relationship with his lover, Jared French’s wife, Margaret Hoening. Many in NYC and their Fire Island art community called them PaJaMa as a humorous way to describe the relationship. Paul Cadmus considered himself a romantic and whoever he loved, he did so with passion. 

In 1999, he died at his home in Weston, Connecticut, due to advanced age, five days before his 95th birthday (almost making it to 100). Paul Cadmus is an American genius and talent in the academic figurative arts. He needs a movie or biopic.

Kisses from Paris!!

Photo/Artwork: The Fleet is In – 1934. A WPA work that created a lot of controversy. We’ll revisit this in another essay post on Paul Cadmus.

ABOUT:

Paul Cadmus, ”The Bath,” 1951. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Tickets for this masterpiece can be purchased from the Whitney. Click here for booking details (works courtesy of The Whitney Museum of American Art): https://whitney.org/