In honor of Fleet Week here in NYC, I present to you the painting The Fleet’s In!, by artist Paul Cadmus. Cadmus was born in Manhattan in 1904, and as a gay man he created controversy throughout his career. The scandal that put him on the map was the painting of The Fleet’s In! in 1933.
Cadmus was commissioned by the Public Works of Art Project (later part of the WPA) to paint during the Great Depression. In 1934, The Fleet’s In! was selected to be included in a show at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. The depiction of a homosexual man (on the left with the red tie - a recognized gay “signal” at the time) offering a sailor a cigarette was enough to have it removed from the show, by order of the Navy. Of course the fact that the drunken sailors are cavorting with prostitutes wasn’t a problem at all - but the mere SUGGESTION of homosexuality was enough to have it censored.
Due to the controversy, his first one-man show in Manhattan attracted 7,000 people. “I owe that Admiral a very large sum”, Cadmus remarked decades later.
He met Jon Anderson on a pier in Nantucket in 1964, and Anderson became Cadmus' muse and lover for 34 years - until Cadmus’ death in 1999.