Paul Cadmus

Cadmus (1904 - 1999) is one of the most prominent of the artists who exhibited at the American Realists and Magic Realists exhibition held in 1943 at The mus is a sharply-focused realist using tempera colors and controversial subject matter. Also well known as a printmaker and draftsman, his paintings have been in many Museum of Modern Art.

About Paul Cadmus

Cadmus is a sharply-focused realist using tempera colors and controversial subject matter. Also well known as a printmaker and draftsman, his paintings have been in many prominent exhibitions - most notably the American Realists and Magic Realists exhibition held in 1943 at The Museum of Modern Art. His works can be found in U.S. public collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art; National Museum of American Art; Smithsonian Institution; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Cadmus created in his 94 years of life over 120 paintings.

Paul Cadmus was born in New York City on December 17 1904. His father was a commercial lithographer, and his mother illustrated books.

Cadmus achieved renewed appreciation late in life, justly attributed to the greater tolerance about sexual orientation in the last decades of the twentieth century. Though never hiding his homosexuality, Paul was often torn between public and private issues of sexual intimacy versus politics. Also, he fought intolerance by donating his valued drawings to AIDS benefits and by receiving honorary awards on behalf of numerous gay alliances.

While growing up in Manhattan, Cadmus said: I was fascinated by the sailors around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. I was young and was propositioned many times. But I was afraid to go with them, and we just talked while sitting on the benches.

In 1931, abandoning his career in advertising, he traveled throughout Europe with his lover Jared French. They visited Italy to study in the museums, where Cadmus learned the technique of egg tempera, combined with oil, in the Italian Renaissance painting style. Returning to the United States in 1933 Cadmus signed on as an employee of the federally funded Public Works of Art Project.

He believed that "overproduction was the characteristic vice of the modern artist." During a long life of uninterrupted labor, he signed fewer than 130 paintings. After 1941 he employed the painstaking Renaissance painting technique of egg tempera and finished an average of two paintings a year.

While Cadmus spent the summers on Fire Island his winters were spent painting the more surreal 1945-49 series The seven Deadly Sins, influenced by Giotto, Bosch, and Bruegel. These paintings are symbolic representations of lust, pride, sloth, anger, envy, avarice, and gluttony. With their powerful imagery they are considered, in concept and achievement a capstone of Cadmus's career. With hermaphroditic figures to represent Cadmus's belief that these conditions were equal in both sexes, he created a universalized iconography of evil which stands unique in our time. Also, he reduced humanity's malevolence to the seven harrowing panels. These unforgettable paintings symbolically link the fears of the medieval mind with the apocalyptic realities of Auschwitz and Hiroshima.

Just before his 95th birthday on December 17th, more than three hundred friends and colleagues were invited on December 1st to a birthday party at the D. C. Gallery. Eleven days later, and just five days before his actual birthday, after his customary afternoon walk down a country lane in Weston, Connecticut, Paul Cadmus died quietly at home during the evening of December 12th, 1999, while watching television with Jon at their suburban home, without any illness other than advancing age.


Portrait of Monroe Wheeler - 1937 - paul cadmus
Portrait of Monroe Wheeler - 1937
Juan - 1932 - paul cadmus
Juan - 1932








Finisterre - 1952 - paul cadmus
Finisterre - 1952
The Bath - 1951 - paul cadmus
The Bath - 1951








Gilding the Acrobats - 1935 - paul cadmus
Gilding the Acrobats - 1935
Horse Play - 1935 - paul cadmus
Horse Play - 1935








Male Nude - 1981 - paul cadmus
Male Nude - 1981
Going South - 1934 1936 - paul cadmus
Going South - 1934 1936








Playground - 1948 - paul cadmus
Playground - 1948
Manikins - 1951 - paul cadmus
Manikins - 1951







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