American artist Paul Cadmus was born in New York City in 1904. By the time of his death ninety-five years later he was recognized as an American original, a singular painter who worked in complex styles of aesthetic idealization. He is ranked by the Artists Trade Union of Russia as being among the best artists of the past four centuries. At fourteen Cadmus began study at the national Academy of Design, staying six years before moving to the Art Students League of New York for another two years. From 1931 through 1933 he traveled throughout Europe.
For many years Paul Cadmus was a controversial figure in American art. His first large work in 1933, The Fleet’s In! commissioned by the WPA, was the subject of public outcry and was removed from the gallery and from all public view for decades. As is often the case, the controversy helped launch the young artist’s career. Later work also met with shock as Cadmus continued to focus on mythological beauty, daily grime, homoerotic dreams and emotionally naked self-portraits. He left a large body of paintings which now hang in museums around the world, but for some his drawing is the true barometer of his talent, a tradition inherited from Michelangelo, Ingres and Degas. In his book on the artist, Lincoln Kirstein described the Cadmus drawings this way: ‘Poetic titles could be assigned to Cadmus’s drawing, for in addition to their grave beauty in rendering, there is an implicit charge of emotional force. Meditative or celebratory, here is grandeur.’
The drawings below are from the Kirstein book, Paul Cadmus.
Cadmus in Beret (1932) Brush, ink and wash on cream wove paper
Male Nude (1979) Crayon on toned paper
Standing Female Nude (1948) Ink wash
Manikins (1951) Egg tempura on paper
Male Nude (1969) Crayon on black paper
Nina (1945) Crayon on toned paper
Portrait of E.M. Forster (1949) White and sepia watercolor on gray paper