The Young and Evil
David Zwirner is pleased to present The Young and Evil, a group exhibition curated by Jarrett Earnest, at the gallery’s 533 West 19th Street location in New York. The exhibition will feature significant works from the first half of the twentieth century by Paul Cadmus, Fidelma Cadmus Kirstein, Charles Henri Ford, Jared French, Margaret Hoening French, George Platt Lynes, Bernard Perlin, Pavel Tchelitchew, George Tooker, Jensen Yow, and their circle. This group of artists and writers looked away from abstraction toward older sources and models—classical and archaic forms of figuration and Renaissance techniques. What might be seen as a reactionary aesthetic maneuver was made in the service of radical content—endeavoring to depict their own lives.
Drawn from important public and private collections, key works include a painting from Paul Cadmus’s infamous sailor trilogy, Shore Leave (1933), on loan from the Whitney Museum of American Art; a major canvas by Pavel Tchelitchew featuring vignettes of George Platt Lynes at work; rare paintings by Margaret French and works on paper by Fidelma Cadmus Kirstein; and never-before-seen erotic drawings and photographs from the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. On the occasion of the exhibition, a fully illustrated, comprehensive catalogue featuring new scholarship by art historians Ann Reynolds and Kenneth E. Silver is forthcoming from David Zwirner Books.
Kindly note that some material in the exhibition may not be suitable for children.
Image: Installation view, The Young and Evil, David Zwirner, New York, 2019
Singularly influential to subsequent generations of artists, Paul Cadmus (1904–1999) is best known for his lively satirical compositions of American life and social mores as well as his finely rendered drawings of muscular male nudes. Born to artist parents in New York City, Cadmus began his artistic training at the age of fifteen, enrolling in the National Academy of Design. The school’s traditional approach, which required that students first master creating plaster casts before working from live models provided Cadmus with a solid understanding of the human form. Completing his studies in 1926, he supported himself by working for an advertising agency as he continued to develop at the Art Students League. There, he met fellow aspiring artist Jared French and the two soon became lovers.
Fidelma Cadmus Kirstein (1906–1991) was born in New York to artist parents struggling at the edge of poverty. As a teenager, she left home and lived with her two aunts in Greenwich Village. Like her older brother, the artist Paul Cadmus, she studied at the Art Students League, where she won a number of prizes while earning a living designing wallpaper at the Traphagen Studio in the late 1920s. Socially, she found herself immersed in the artistic milieu of her brother, who, having returned from Europe in 1931, was gaining notoriety in New York for his paintings. She would occasionally work from the studio Paul shared with his lover, artist Jared French, on St. Luke’s Place.
Jared French (1905–1988) was known for his psychologically charged compositions painted in the time-intensive medium of egg tempera. Born in New Jersey, in 1925 French graduated from Amherst College, where he studied with the poet Robert Frost. After his relocation to New York, he began working as a clerk at a Wall Street firm while taking classes at the Art Students League, where he met the young artist Paul Cadmus who soon became his lover. In 1931, French and Cadmus embarked on a two-year trip through Europe in search of artistic and sexual freedom, settling in Mallorca, where they began to develop their signature artistic styles.
Born and raised in Mississippi, the ambitious poet, writer, and artist Charles Henri Ford (1908–2002) dropped out of high school and began publishing a literary magazine, Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms, which included work by William Carlos Williams, Gertrude Stein, and Paul Bowles. Before the age of twenty, his first poem appeared in The New Yorker. After a brief stint in New York, where he met writers Parker Tyler and Djuna Barnes, he made his way to Paris. In 1931, associating with Gertrude Stein’s literary and artistic crowd, he met the Russian-born artist and set designer Pavel Tchelitchew, who soon became his life partner. In 1933, a Parisian press published The Young and Evil (1933), a highly experimental novel co-authored by Ford and Tyler that was banned in the United States for its blatant homosexual themes.
Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, Margaret Hoening (1906–1998) was a painter and an etcher perhaps best known for her photographs as part of the PaJaMa photography collective. After attending Smith College, she eventually settled in New York, where she pursued formal artistic training at the Art Students League. There, she met the artist couple Paul Cadmus and Jared French. In 1937, she married French, who had spent the previous decade with Cadmus. The trio formed a tight bond, with Cadmus and French continuing their relationship. Together, the three formed PaJaMa, a mash-up of their first names. Using Hoening’s Leica, they captured themselves, their artist friends, and members of the gay community posing in artful tableaux on the beaches of Fire Island, Provincetown, and Nantucket over the following eight years.
Among the greatest photographers of the twentieth century, George Platt Lynes (1907–1955) developed a uniquely elegant and distinctive style of portraiture alongside innovative investigations of the erotic and formal qualities of the male nude body. Born and raised in New Jersey with his brother Russell, who would go on to become a managing editor at Harper’s Magazine, Lynes entertained literary ambitions in his youth. While at prep school in Massachusetts—where he studied beside future collaborator and New York City Ballet founder Lincoln Kirstein—Lynes began a correspondence with the American writer Gertrude Stein in Paris. Through a series of successive visits to Paris, he met Stein and her partner Alice B. Toklas, who integrated him into their creative milieu. At their salons, he met figures such as the painter Pavel Tchelitchew, French writer André Gide, and dancer Isadora Duncan.
PaJaMa—a mash-up of the names Paul, Jared, and Margaret—was a photography collective formed by the artists Paul Cadmus, Jared French, and Margaret Hoening French. In 1937, the same year French and Hoening married, they rented a summer cottage in Saltaire, Fire Island, where they were joined by Cadmus, French’s partner of ten years. Using Hoening’s Leica, they began to experiment with photographing one another on the beach. Under the moniker PaJaMa, the trio would go on to photograph themselves, their friends, and members of the gay community artfully posed on the beaches of Fire Island, Provincetown, and Nantucket, as well as in New York through the 1940s.
In addition to his successful career as a commercial artist and as an artist correspondent during World War II, Bernard Perlin (1918–2014) is best known for his postwar social realist canvases documenting New York City’s street life and his fine-line silverpoint portraits. Born in Virginia to Jewish immigrants from Russia, Perlin moved to New York in 1934 to enroll in the New York School of Design. Upon completing his studies in 1936, he continued his training at the National Academy of Design and the Arts Student League. He quickly fell in with the social network of the writer Glenway Wescott, who was introduced to Perlin by the artist Paul Cadmus, and the two became romantically involved, despite the ongoing relationship between Wescott and his longtime partner Monroe Wheeler, then a new curator at the Museum of Modern Art.
The Russian-born painter and set designer Pavel Tchelitchew (1898–1957) combined abstraction and symbolism to create enigmatic, metaphysical, colorful compositions that investigated perspective and ways of seeing. Born near Moscow into an aristocratic family, Tchelitchew grew up studying painting and ballet, but during the Russian Revolution in 1918 his family fled to the Ukraine after the Soviet government confiscated their property and money. In Kiev, he studied with artists working in the Cubo-Constructivist manner and took classes at the newly opened Ukrainian State Academy of Arts. Then, living in Berlin from 1921 through 1923, Tchelitchew joined the ranks of many other Russian émigré artists and established himself as a highly successful and sought-after set designer.
George Tooker (1920–2011) is best known for his use of the traditional, painstaking medium of egg tempera in compositions reflecting urban life in American postwar society. Born in Brooklyn, Tooker received a degree in English from Harvard University before beginning his studies at the Art Students League in 1943, where he worked under the regionalist painter Reginald Marsh. In 1944, Tooker met the artist Paul Cadmus, and they soon became lovers. Cadmus, sixteen years his senior, introduced Tooker to the artist Jared French, with whom he was romantically involved, and French’s wife Margaret Hoening French, and the four of them traveled extensively throughout Europe, vacationing regularly together.
Alexander Jensen Yow (b. 1925) left his home in North Carolina to study art at Cooper Union and the Art Students League in New York in 1946. There he met the painter Paul Cadmus, who introduced him to his sister, Fidelma, and her husband, Lincoln Kirstein, the co-founder of the School of American Ballet (later renamed the New York City Ballet) with choreographer George Balanchine. Eventually, Kirstein and Yow became lovers, with Yow moving into the home Kirstein shared with his wife. Kirstein integrated Yow into his extensive creative social network and helped him get a job at Pippen Press, a fine-silk-screening press he had founded that made prints for artists such as Ben Shahn, Pablo Picasso, and Cadmus.