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Paul Cadmus’ Greenwich Village

This is one in a series of posts marking the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District. Click here to check out our year-long activities and celebrations.

The Greenwich Village Historic District has been home to more artists over the years than one could possibly count; we’ve identified more than one hundred fifty on our Artists Homes and Haunts tour on our Greenwich Village Historic District 50th anniversary map (www.gvshp.org/GVHD50tour), and that is likely just the tip of the iceberg.

Paul Cadmus, 1937. Photo taken by Carl Van Vechten

Many were known for breaking new ground in terms of style, technique, subject matter, or social context.  One, noteworthily, did all of the above.

Paul Cadmus was born on December 17, 1904 in New York City to a father who worked as a commercial lithographer and a mother who illustrated children’s books. He entered the National Academy of Design at the age of 15. In 1928, Cadmus got a job working as an illustrator for a New York advertising agency and simultaneously took life-drawing classes at the Art Students League, where he met Jared French, who encouraged him to quit making commercial art. The two became lovers and traveled to Europe from 1931 until 1932, living in a Mallorcan fishing village and learning and refining the egg tempera technique for which Cadmus became known. When the two returned home, Cadmus became one of the first artists to work on a New Deal Art program, painting post office murals. During the 1930s, he lived at 54 Morton Street, and after 1934 he and French lived together at 5 St. Luke’s Place.

54 Morton Street
5 St. Lukes Place

In 1934, Cadmus was caught up in what became a national scandal when his painting, The Fleet’s In!, was featured in the Washington Evening Star as part of an article about the art exhibit it was to be included at Washington’s Corcoran Gallery. The painting depicted uniformed sailors, prostitutes, and a gay pick-up scene. Members of the Navy were outraged, including retired naval Admiral Hugh Rodman who demanded it be withdrawn from the gallery. The painting was removed by Henry L. Roosevelt, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time, who kept it at this house until his death in 1936; ironically it eventually found a home at the Naval Historical Center.

The Fleet’s In, 1934 by Paul Cadmus

This controversy and the ensuing publicity pushed Cadmus into the spotlight and effectively launched his career. Throughout it, Cadmus explored a mix of satire, magical realism, eroticism, and homoeroticism in his paintings, splitting from the art world after the rise of abstract expressionism in the 1940s. He was a meticulous and stylistically consistent artist who took his time completing each of his individual works, creating an average of two paintings a year. Cadmus died just before his 95th birthday in 1999.

Greenwich Village Cafeteria, 1934
The Bath, 1951 by Paul Cadmus
Bar Italia, 1953-55

In April of 2019, we launched our new interactive map, Greenwich Village Historic District, 1969-2019: Photos and Tours, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Greenwich Village Historic District. In the months since we have been expanding the map, both adding new tours and adding new entries to existing tours. In addition to showing images of every one of the over 2,200 buildings in the Greenwich Village Historic District as they looked in 1969 and today, we now have over 800 sites that appear on various tours exploring the architecture, history, and culture of New York City’s largest historic district.

To learn more about other artists from the Greenwich Village Historic District and to see our other tours, go to our maps and tours page.

Our current tours include:

  • Immigration Landmarks
  • Course of History Changed
  • Transformative Women
  • Most Charming Spots
  • Social Change Champions
  • Artists’ Homes
  • Churches
  • Homes and Haunts of Great Writers
  • Theaters
  • Houses with Dormers
  • Buildings Designed by George Frederick Pelham
  • Street Name Origins
  • Edward Hopper’s Greenwich Village
  • Mid-Century Modern
  • Music Venues
  • African-American History
  • LGBTQ Sites
  • Pineapples, Pinecones, and Acorns of the Village
  • Musicians’ Homes
  • Movie and TV Show Locations
  • Wood Frame Houses
  • Buildings Designed by Emery Roth (& Sons)
  • Little Flatirons of the Village
  • Homes of Preservationists
  • Daytonian in Manhattan
  • Firehouses
  • Jewish History

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