A rare Houston showing of work by a great gay artist opens downtown
by Tim Brookover
A collection of drawings by Paul Cadmus (1904–1999) remains on view through March 4 at the O’Kane Gallery at the University of Houston-Downtown. Cadmus’ companion of 35 years, Jon Anderson, modeled for many of the 15 crayon drawings, which the artist created late in life.
Cadmus caused a sensation in 1934, when the Secretary of the Navy ordered his painting The Fleet’s In pulled from an exhibition at the Corcoran in Washington, D.C. The cheeky, brilliantly colored depiction of sailors on leave and hooking up—most with women, but one with another man—proved too much for the government. The debut of the painting “exploded like a bomb in a comedic opera,” wrote Cadmus’ friend and art scholar Philip Eliasoph, who will speak at the university on February 11.
The drawings exhibition, organized by O’Kane Gallery, focuses on the artist’s interest in the male form and physical gesture. Rarely seen in Houston, Cadmus’ work is an integral part of American cultural history. His life, both as an artist and an openly gay man, is a significant legacy for our community.