Modern & Contemporary Art

Works by Paul Cadmus from a New England Collector

Born in New York in 1904, Paul Cadmus began honing his artistic talents at an early age. When he was fifteen he left high school to attend classes at the National Academy of Design. He worked as a commercial artist as he continued his studies taking life drawing classes at the Art Students League. While at the League he met fellow artist Jared French, with whom he began a relationship. French was a strong influence of Cadmus and encouraged him to pursue a career as an artist.

French and Cadmus travelled to Europe in 1931, settling in Mallorca for the next two years. This was a rich time of growth for both artists. The May 3 auction offers a marvelous self-portrait in oil from this period, Self Portrait, Mallorca (lot 111). He also drew Jared French, and future auctions will offer two such works, in addition to a sketch that both artists created depicting a Mallorcan fisherman.

The two artists returned to New York in 1933 when Cadmus’ sister, Fidelma informed them of a federal program that was employing artists, the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration. Cadmus applied and was accepted into the program. The works he created were controversial, and the resulting attention launched his career. Fidelma continued being an active part of Cadmus’ artistic and personal life. She would later marry Lincoln Kirstein, co-founder of New York City Ballet, and the pair championed the art of Paul Cadmus.  Kirstein wrote several books about Cadmus’ art.

Cadmus summered on Fire Island and spent time with Jared French and artist George Tooker. The three gained inspiration from their stays on the island, and these idyllic times found their way into their works. The April 25 auction offers an etching by Cadmus titled Two Boys on a Beach, No. 1 (lot 40). The ink drawing for this etching will be offered in the May 3 auction under the title, Idle Afternoon (lot 115).

In the 1940s Paul Cadmus began working on the series, The Seven Deadly Sins. Three studies for this important body of work will be offered on May 3: Sin of the Second Circle, Lust (lot 113), Envy #1 (lot 112) and Pride (lot 114).

Constant in Cadmus’ life’s work is his admiration for and love of drafting the human form. In 1965 he met dancer Jon Anderson, who became his model, muse and life partner until the artist’s death in 1999. The May 10 auction features an exquisite male nude drawing from 1968, possibly of Anderson (lot 84). The same sale offers a self-portrait rendered in colored chalks depicting the artist with a nude Anderson standing behind him, back turned and viewing the artist from a mirror (lot 85).

This collection of sixty-four works represents the largest collection of works by Paul Cadmus to come to auction. It offers a rare opportunity for collectors, curators and dealers to view and acquire a wide range of works by this remarkable 20th century artist.

Prints by Paul Cadmus will be auctioned in the sale of Prints & Multiples on Monday, April 25 at 10am. Paintings and drawings will be offered in the auctions of Impressionist & Modern Art on Tuesday, May 3 at 11am and Post-War & Contemporary Art on Tuesday, May 10 at 11am. Further examples will be offered in select sales next fall.  

Portrait of specialist Harold E.  Porcher
VP/Director, Modern & Post-War Art
Modern & Contemporary Art
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