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Paul Cadmus

Paul Cadmus (b. 1904, New York, NY – d. 1999, Weston, CT) was an American painter best known for his highly stylized depictions of male nudes as well as provocative satires of American life. Born to a family of artists, Cadmus began his artistic career studying at the Arts Student League in 1928. There, he met fellow artist Jared French, who introduced him to the early Renaissance medium of egg yolk tempera that would come to define Cadmus’ signature style. Together they travelled around France and Spain and settled in Mallorca, before returning to the United States in the throes of the Great  Depression in 1933. Cadmus was one of the earliest artists to be commissioned by the Public Works of Art Project of the Works Progress Administration.

Cadmus’ works were defined by Italian Renaissance painterly traditions—a genre that came with a rich culture of eroticized nudes—and satire, a form of expression designed to dismiss its subject through ridicule. In his paintings, drawings and prints, Cadmus updates the dignity of classicism by placing antiquated figures into 20th century clothing, and American locker rooms. He pokes fun of the heroic by his jaunty treatment of the stoic.

Through this improbable mix of genres, Cadmus drew a portrait of American society that teased and toyed with many of its cultural institutions. It is through this surprising blend of  styles that Cadmus was able to draw homoerotic imagery within the context of the 1930s—an era in which homosexuality was all but invisible in the public eye, and all but unspeakable in civil discourse.

His work is included in numerous prominent museum collections, including the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX; Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH; Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, TX; Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Boston, MA; Fort Worth Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH; Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN; Library of Congress, Washington, DC; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Morgan Library, New York; Museum of Fine Art, Boston, MA; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; New York Public Library, New York;Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania, PA; Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT.

Cadmus’ work has been included in over thirty-seven Whitney Museum Annual and Biennial exhibitions of contemporary art. He has most recently been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (2019), Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (2019); Whitney Museum of American Art (2019), Brooklyn Museum (2017), Bruce Museum (2015), Smithsonian American Art Museum (2014), Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia (2011), National Portrait Gallery  (2010), National Academy Museum and School of Fine Art (2009), Westmoreland Museum of American Art (2008) and the Rhode Island School of Design (2001).
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