Paul Cadmus and Jared French were unusual in that they competed with Abstract Expressionism during this period in the United States, nevertheless their art was for a special defined market of Art Lovers. The use of Egg Tempera because of its quick drying technique was laborious and required concentrated and patient application.
Wikepedia explains the importance of Paul Cadmus.
” (Paul Cadmus) His works combine elements of eroticism and social critique to produce a style often called Magic realism”. .
” Cadmus is ranked by artists trade union of Russia amongst the worlds best artists of the last 4 centuries”. .
Ann Lee Morgan in her Concise Oxford dictionary of American Art and Artists offers her interpretation of Cadmus’s artistic O’euvre.
” Known for meticulous rendered after satirical scenes of contemporary life he derived both his Technique and his interest in narrative themes from old Master paintings”. .
” With Jared French from 1931-33 he travelled to Europe and Majorca , subsequently employed by federal arts project WPA he produced murals as well as easel paintings including the controversial the Fleet’s In”..
Morgan goes onto describe in detail some of the images Cadmus used to paint in Egg Tempera.
” The bawdy undignified atmosphere offended critics as did revealingly tight garments the obvious inebriation of some figures and the depiction of a homosexual pickup”. .
” Cadmus continued to contribute the American Scene movement with vigorously conceived scenes of Urban and suburban Life”..
Morgan now describes when and how Cadmus starting using the egg tempera technique.
” In the 1940’s Cadmus began to work primarily with the painstaking technique of Egg Tempera which suited his interest in accumulated detail but also limited the number of paintings he could produce”. .
Morgan now explains the domination of pure abstraction at this time (Abstract expressionism) and how it dominated the art scene in New York.
” Abstract Expressionism’s domination of the critical discourse in New York marginalised his career but he continued to attract a small circle of admirers. Some of his work related to the magic realism of George Tooker (his gay friend)”. .
Morgan offers her morality tone here by observing that Cadmus often used scenes of depravity.
” Cadmus’s frequent theme of human weakness and depravity ,figures dressed in the symbolic colours of lust , avarice and envy appear within a complexity ordered and dramatically lit space defined by decaying Renaissance architecture”. .
Morgan now moves onto discuss Jared French who as well as being a good friend of Cadmus was also his one time Lover. French’s work is different from Cadmus. Cadmus has his figures animated and relating to one another .French on the other hand has his figures as automatons.
” Jared French , dislocation , irrational behaviour and inscrutability prevail in his enigmatic figurative works enacted by individuals who generally fail to connect with each other psychologically”.
” His scenes emphasize loneliness and alienation. he is often identified as a significant practitioner of Magic Realism (CF Hooker and Cadmus)”. .
” After returning to New York (from Europe Like Cadmus he was employed by the federal arts project WPA ) French simplified and smoothed the surfaces he depicted and began to emphasize pattern over spatial effects”..
Morgan continues to comment on Jared French and his use of Egg Tempera.
” In 1940 French switched from Oil paint to the more painstaking medium of tempera producing enamel like surfaces with the highly calculated quality of early renaissance pieces”. .
” These techniques enhanced the increasingly automaton like nature of his static and self absorbed figures and emphasized the ritualised iconic quality of his compositions”..
Morgan continues to stress in her commentary the dislocated aspect of French’s figurative work.
” In the unsettling state park five figures on a seaside board walk seem isolated not only from each other but from an otherwise deserted vacation spot in which they find no pleasure”..
” Particularly in such beach scenes French drew upon photographs he had taken since 1937 mostly at the shore on Fire Island where he vacationed for several years but also at Province town and Elsewhere”. .
Morgan finally explains the role of Margaret (Wife to Jared French).
” Painter and etcher Margaret (French) and Cadmus also participated in staging and taking these artfully composed psychologically charged scenes of each other and their social circle”. .
This concludes my article on Jared French and Paul Cadmus two intriguing figurative artists who competed with the Abstract Expressionists as did Isabel Bishop , Reginald Marsh and Ben Shahn , but French and Cadmus were out to shock and also to show how the technique of Egg Tempera could highlight and improve a painting with its sharpness and clarity.
- THE CONCISE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN ART AND ARTISTS:ANN LEE MORGAN.PG.70