Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Fleet's In!


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.

4 comments:

Berry Blog said...

What a romantic story and always apropos. In my last years of teaching out here in the boonies, I am glad to say we were training teachers, tho on a voluntary basis, how to provide safe havens for gay students as low as the midddle school aged kids. In my last year of teaching(2007), several kids in the 8th grade felt safe enough to come out openly with the support of their parents, and I'm proud to say, a large segment of the student/teacher population.

Timmy said...

I had no idea about the red tie.

David Dust said...

Berry Blog/Charlie - That is so encouraging to hear. I graduated from high school in 1985, and there was were NO openly gay students in my class of 400. The students who were suspected of being gay were harassed and ridiculed. Furthermore, I don't EVER remember hearing a teacher even mention the word "gay" or "homosexual". It is so good to hear that even some 8th graders these days feel comfortable in coming out.

Timmy - I had no idea about the "red tie" thing either. It WAS, after all, WAY before our time... :)

Joy said...

I've had students who told me they were gay in the 70's but not until later in the early 90's did I know of but a few who came out publically in school. I was always one of those teachers that students talked to about all kinds of things for some reason. I'm glad they knew they could trust me.

Some of it might have been because it was an English class where we discussed many topics through literature and where I had them write journals even though I told them not to write anything they didn't want me to know because they turned them in for me to read and make comments. Many of them wrote about the topic or safe subjects, but others treated it like an interactive diary.

I noticed during my last few years that it was quite open in that high school and that gay students wanted to have GLB&Friends clubs. I wish this weren't such a big deal to people.

Interesting about Cadmus. I didn't know all that and am glad I do now.

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