AN INTIMATE CIRCLE:
Paul Cadmus, Jared French, Margaret French, George Platt Lynes, and George Tooker
June 9 – August 5, 2011
An Intimate Circle presents drawings and photographs by George Tooker’s close friends Paul Cadmus, Jared French, and Margaret French, as well as by George Platt Lynes, who was part of their wider circle in New York City. Complementing the memorial exhibition George Tooker: Reality Returns as a Dream, the works reflect the creative environment that these artists cultivated, which was largely independent of an art world increasingly dominated by abstraction.
Tooker met Cadmus in 1944, when he was a young art student and monitor in Reginald Marsh’s drawing class at the Art Students League in New York. Cadmus was sixteen years older and already well established in the art world, having burst upon the scene in the 1930s with raucous works of social satire featuring sailors and prostitutes that provoked great controversy. It was Cadmus who encouraged Tooker to experiment with egg tempera, which soon became his principal medium. He also introduced Tooker to his good friends Jared and Margaret French, as well as to an accomplished group of writers, composers, dancers, and artists, including Lincoln Kirstein, W.H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Monroe Wheeler, and Lynes.
Works by Cadmus and Jared French share affinities with Tooker’s paintings in their beautifully rendered, often mysterious imagery and their commitment to figurative art and traditional techniques. The three artists were last exhibited together over twenty years ago, at the Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris in 1990.
Cadmus’ drawings, which range from male nudes to preparatory studies for paintings, are remarkably fluent and sensual, bringing to mind the work of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, an artist whom he greatly admired. French’s drawings, on the other hand, have a more archaic feel of the ancient world and early Renaissance masters, which gives them an elusive quality of myth and allegory. They were also inspired by Carl Jung’s concepts of the archetype and the collective unconscious, ideas that had a profound impact on the artist.
Enigmatic photographs by PaJaMa, the collaborative comprised of Cadmus and Jared and Margaret French, also share the aesthetic of Tooker’s paintings. Beginning in 1937 and continuing into the 1950s, the three began taking carefully conceived photographs that echo the imagery and intent of their paintings and drawings. Boldly dramatic or lightened with an almost surrealistic sense of humor, the photographs were often set amongst the dunes and beaches of Fire Island, NY, and Provincetown, MA, where the three artists spent many summers together. Printed in very small numbers and kept in albums, they circulated only between friends until the 1980s.
Lynes’ intimate photographic portraits capture the spirit of this closely-knit group. A celebrated portrait and fashion photographer in the 1930s and 40s, he is probably best known today for his striking male nudes and images of the ballet, which he executed with technical precision and theatrical flair. He also frequently focused his lens on artist friends like Cadmus, French, and Tooker, creating expressive images that are both compelling portraits and visual records of their vibrant artistic community.
Gallery Talk Thursday, June 9, 6:30 pm: Curators Robert Cozzolino (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts) and Marshall Price (National Academy Museum), organizers of George Tooker: A Retrospective (2009), discuss Tooker’s art and life. Artist Kurt Kauper will moderate the discussion.