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Paul Cadmus: The Male Nude


One of the most accomplished artists of the twentieth century, Paul Cadmus is best known for his provocative satires of American life. He first gained national recognition in 1934 when his bawdy painting The Fleet's In! was barred from a Public Works of Art exhibition in Washington, D.C. For more than six decades following, Cadmus led a career as a meticulous craftsman devoted to Renaissance-era traditions of figurative realism. But his ...
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One of the most accomplished artists of the twentieth century, Paul Cadmus is best known for his provocative satires of American life. He first gained national recognition in 1934 when his bawdy painting The Fleet's In! was barred from a Public Works of Art exhibition in Washington, D.C. For more than six decades following, Cadmus led a career as a meticulous craftsman devoted to Renaissance-era traditions of figurative realism. But his drawings of the male nude, which always formed the heart of his work, were often overlooked.

Here for the first time in one volume are seventy of Cadmus's most stunning tributes to the male form. Cadmus continued to produce these works up until his death at age ninety-four, and this volume includes many drawings that have never been seen before. The artist's most frequent model was his lifelong partner Jon Anderson, and the drawings offer up not just an elegant fluency and technical virtuosity but also a tender emotional resonance. Introducing each era of the artist's career is an illustrated essay by respected critic and writer Justin Spring, placing Cadmus in the context of the rich history of the male nude.

Paul Cadmus reminds us--poignantly, eloquently, humbly--of the sincere beauty of the male form and of humanity itself with each masterful rendering. As Guy Davenport wrote in The Drawings of Paul Cadmus, "His drawings of male nudes are of bodies, but of achieved, perfected bodies that serve as symbols, as in ancient Greece, of a perfect unity of spirit and flesh, mind and body. For Cadmus the body is the person."

2002 Lambda Literary Award Finalist, Visual Arts.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Coming off the success of Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art, a wonderfully judicious biography of the iconoclastic mid-20th century figurative painter, Spring, a critic and journalist, returns to introduce six decades of determined realist Cadmus's Apollonian drawings, comprising a recent exhibition at New York's DC Moore gallery. Cadmus, who died in 1999 at 94, studied academic drawing beginning at age 15, and Spring convincingly links him to artists ranging from Carracci and Ingres to Alta-Tadema, Eakins and Cadmus's contemporary and lover Jared French. In a biographical narrative drawing on Cadmus's letters, artist's statements and unpublished interviews, Spring does an excellent job in delineating the context Cadmus created for himself, as an artist not so much opposed to the abstraction dominant for most of his career as indifferent to it. The 70 drawings here-done in chalk, crayon, pencil and watercolor, pencil and charcoal, and egg tempera, and often on hand-toned paper-speak for themselves: their lines are classically confident and fluid in a way that acknowledges but does not seek to stress the figures' homoerotic allure, and their depiction of well-sculpted men in a variety of poses reveals a variety of affects, from contemplative to fearful to exultant. Many of the post-1962 drawings feature Cadmus's life partner Jon Anderson, whose gaze at the viewer in a 1967 drawing is even and open. Spring's care and feeling in presenting the drawings for the first time as a coherent body of work (apart from Cadmus's paintings) will make this book attractive to anyone with an interest in 20th century art and culture. 120 illustrations, 70 in full color. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
A brilliant draftsman whose conservative, traditional style belied a flair for the erotic and outrageous, virtuosic American artist Paul Cadmus (1904-99) has received scant attention from scholars and museums. The author of an acclaimed biography of painter Fairfield Porter, Spring changes this with his beautifully produced and intelligent study. He traces Cadmus's artistic growth from the early encouragement by his parents-both commercial artists-to his fame late in life under the misnomer "gay artist," a label he rejected. Spring describes how Cadmus's youthful travels brought him into direct contact with the forthrightly erotic male bodies in Italian Renaissance paintings, impressing him deeply and permanently affecting his sensibility. Spring carefully points out artistic antecedents from Mantegna to Thomas Eakins and gives an entertaining account of Cadmus's early succes de scandale with his WPA-sponsored canvas The Fleet's In, a Breughelian scene depicting uniformed sailors picking up prostitutes. Useful to art students as well as readers who will appreciate the beautifully drawn male nude, this book should attract a deservingly wide audience. Highly recommended.-Douglas F. Smith, Oakland P.L., CA Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780789305893
  • Publisher: Rizzoli
  • Publication date: 11/28/2002
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 10.80 (w) x 11.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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  • Posted September 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Paul Cadmus: Homage to a Brilliant Draughtsman

    Reading one book by the art critic and historian Justin Spring is like having a taste of a newly opened box of caramels. His style of writing is so completely relaxed and obsessively documented that each of his books reads as well as a novel (refer to THE SECRET HISTORIAN, his most recent survey of the life and work of Samuel Steward). Here his subject is not an unknown artist by any means, but one who is under-appreciated to say the least. Paul Cadmus (December 17, 1904 - December 12, 1999) was an American artist who unfortunately was born in a time before his art could be fully appreciated. He is best known for his paintings and drawings of nude male figures, either drawn or rendered in egg tempura. Combining elements of eroticism and social critique to produce a style often called magic realism, he was an openly but rather private homosexual, and his paintings dealt with this fact. One of his most famous paintings, 'The Fleet's In', painted in 1934 as part of the WPA Public Works of Art Project, and while admired for the quality of painting, the public had difficulty with the subject matter: carousing sailors, women, and a homosexual couple, and the painting was removed from exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery due to negative public response. The positive aspect of this notorious gesture proved very much in Cadmus' favor as it brought him notoriety and subsequently fame. His works very frequently included male nudes, and often the model was Jon Andersson, Cadmus' longtime companion of 35 years. Another important influence on the success of Cadmus' art was his fellow artist and sometimes lover Jared French. Together these two men did more for establishing the validity of the male nude as a subject in a rather homophobic atmosphere. Cadmus' drawings are reminiscent of the Renaissance nudes of Michelangelo and Caravaggio, his emphasis being on the defined muscular forms of his models. While they were infrequently frontal in pose they were without exception sensuous. Spring tells us the whys of Cadmus' choices and offers us one of the most generous volumes of images of the works of this fine artist available today. Spring focuses on his images of the male nude, finding this aspect of Cadmus' output his most impressively executed and in the end the reason his work will be remembered. Justin Spring has the gift of a well-trained discerning eye for art and yet for all the historical brilliance of his writing, the reader is left with the feeling that reading this book has been a chat with a close friend of the artist. It is a pleasure to read - and learn - from him in this very fine book. Grady Harp

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