The Fleet’s In!

American artist Paul Cadmus became famous overnight in 1934 with his painting, The Fleet’s In!

The depiction of American sailors on shore leave made the Navy angry, and the painting vanished for decades from public view. This particular work, as well as Cadmus’s later paintings,  featured handsome, muscled young men, and Cadmus became one of the first contemporary artists to be recognized as a chronicler of gay life.

A native of New York City, Cadmus grew up on the Upper West Side, near Amsterdam Avenue and 103rd Street. At 14 he enrolled in art classes at the National Academy of Design, where he spent six years, before moving on to the Art Students League of New York City for another two years. In 1931 he went to Europe to live cheaply and paint. When he returned to America, his artistic fame declined. His style was rooted in social realism, and by the early 1950s abstract painting became the rage in American art.

Starting in 1975, Cadmus produced one or two paintings a year, working out of a studio at his home in Weston, given to him by Lincoln Kirstein, who was married to Cadmus’s sister, Fidelma. Kirstein was general director of the New York City Ballet. Through Kirstein, Cadmus became friends with George Balanchine, who lived nearby in Weston, as well as with Alice De Lamar. Cadmus died just shy of 95 on December 12, 1999, in Weston.


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