Before his double play in Masculin / Masculin, Paul Cadmus was part of Hide/Seek with his epic "What I Believe," (above, titled after E.M. Forster's 1938 essay, available in his thumping Two Cheers For Democracy). Cadmus's 1947 heavy-handed painting depicts happy gay life on the left and miserable heteros on the right. (So yet again let's eradicate the falsehood that there was no gay identity before Stonewall.) On the bright gay side, lush fecund green grass supports loving couples and great artists like Forster and Kirstein. On the dark straight side, there is no grass at all, only bleakness, horror, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and, terribly, miscegenation. It's from the Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas.
Although the controversy over his 1934 WPA painting The Fleet's In! was sparked by homophobia and led Henry Latrobe Roosevelt to remove it from the Corcoran show, Cadmus was always aware that the outcry helped establish him. For the rest of his life, he said he was grateful for it. By 1937 his paintings at the Midtown Galleries in New York attracted more than 7,000 visitors. He had grown up in Manhattan and was fascinated by sailors, frequently hanging out at the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Riverside Park, where he was often propositioned by navy men on leave but was too shy to go with them, preferring instead to sit on the benches with them and talk. By his twenties, he was over his shyness and traveled through Europe for three years with his lover Jared French, who urged him to quit advertising and paint fulltime. Back in New York, they formed a circle of prominent gay artists including George Platt Lynes, who used Cadmus as a model, and Lincoln Kirstein, who married his sister, Fidelma Cadmus, and fifty years later wrote the catalog as Cadmus was being rediscovered. He enjoyed more than a decade of increasing interest in his work before he died, eleven days after 300 friends had gathered to celebrate his 95th birthday. He was survived by Jon Anderson, his partner of more than thirty-five years.