The controversial social satires of Paul Cadmus gained wide visibility during the 1930s. More recently his superb academic drawings have garnered wide acclaim. The son of two artists, Cadmus entered the National Academy of Design in 1919. During the 1920s he studied at the Art Students League while supporting himself with illustrations published in the New York Herald-Tribune and used in commercial advertisements. In 1931 he left the United States with his close friend Jared French (born 1905) for a two-year stay in Europe, spending most of his time painting in a fishing village in Majorca. In December 1933 he returned to New York and immediately became involved with the Public Works of Art Project, painting The Fleet’s In!, 1934 (Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C.). This scene of rowdy sailors cavorting with women made Cadmus a celebrity overnight.
Despite the controversies his work provoked, he won commissions from the Treasury Department Relief Art Project and from Life magazine. In 1940 Jared French introduced him to tempera painting, and the following year Cadmus commenced a series of Fire Island beach scenes related to photographs taken by French and his wife. During the 1940s Cadmus created a series of highly erotic, obsessive panels, The Seven Deadly Sins. Afterwards, influenced by the writings of E. M. Forster, he turned to more self-reflective, lyrical expressions. While through the 1950s he continued to make meticulously rendered, symbolic paintings, in 1965 he turned more to drawing, creating sensitive, academic renderings of the nude. In the 1970s he moved to Connecticut.
New York, Midtown Galleries, Paul Cadmus, exh. cat., 1937, with statement by the artist § Harry Salpeter, "Paul Cadmus: Enfant Terrible," Esquire 8 (July 1937): 105-7, 112 § Una E. Johnson with Jo Miller, Paul Cadmus: Prints and Drawings, 1922-1967, American Graphic Artists of the Twentieth Century Monograph no. 6 (Brooklyn: Brooklyn Museum, 1968), with chronology, lists of awards and collections, bibliography § Oxford, Ohio, Miami University Art Museum, and others, Paul Cadmus: Yesterday and Today, exh. cat., 1981, with text by Philip Eliasoph, chronology § Lincoln Kirstein, Paul Cadmus (New York: Imago Imprint, 1984), with catalogue raisonné of paintings, lists of public collections, exhibitions, and awards, bibliography.