Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Paul Cadmus, “The Gay Artist”: Shifting Attitudes toward Fame and Privacy in the Twentieth Century

Dr. Susan J. Baker, William Gilbert.

When in 1934, then Secretary of Navy Swanson demanded Paul Cadmus’ painting The Fleet’s In be removed from a Corcoran exhibition in Washington, D.C., any abhorrence of the homoerotic connotations of the image was never openly admitted. Yet a recent exhibition at UHD of Cadmus’ classical nude drawings of his 30-year companion, Jon Anderson, immediately won Cadmus the label of “The Gay Artist” by a local National Public Radio broadcaster. This new openness regarding Cadmus’s work raises interesting questions about how attitudes toward privacy and fame have shifted during the twentieth century in and beyond the United States. Dr. Baker, curator of the Cadmus show at UHD, will discuss the artist’s work; Dr. Gilbert will investigate the vicissitudes of his reputation. This paper fits the theme of the conference—Future Human—at a juncture when liberalism in sexual mores and acceptance of varied sexual practices and preferences are threatened by newly emboldened conservative attacks. We can learn how to navigate an uncertain future by reviewing a repressive past.


Dr. Susan J. Baker  (United States)
Associate Professor of Art History
Arts and Humanities Department
University of Houston-Downtown

Susan J. Baker is Associate Professor of Art History and Chair of the Department of Arts and Humanities at the University of Houston-Downtown. She earned a Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Kansas in 1994, and is curator of the exhibition, Human in Form: The later drawings of Paul Cadmus, O'Kane Gallery, UH-Downtown, 2004.

William Gilbert  (United States)


  • Cadmus
  • Homosexuality in Art
Person as Subject
  • Cadmus, Paul

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)