The fleet is coming!
The fleet is inside is the artist’s most famous and controversial work. cadmus painted it for the public works of art project (which later became part of the wpa). the pwap provided a weekly income for artists who painted American landscapes for public buildings. Taking inspiration from the views of Riverside Drive in Manhattan, where sailors docked, Cadmus decided to portray drunken sailors mixing with prostitutes. The painting was selected for a 1934 exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Prior to the inauguration, however, it was removed by Henry Latrobe Roosevelt, the Under Secretary of the Navy after it was publicly denounced by retired Navy Admiral General Hugh Rodman. For Rodman, Cadmus’s artwork directly insulted the Navy and its personnel. he described the painting as “a most disgraceful, sordid, disreputable, drunken brawl, in which apparently several enlisted men consort with a group of bystanders and red-light district dwellers.” The censorship of the painting garnered national press coverage, and soon Cadmus was appearing and being quoted in newspapers across the country. the controversy ultimately benefited the young artist, serving as free publicity. He mused: “So I was all on the front pages and that was the best luck an artist could have had. Luckily I was able to back it up later with paintings that weren’t inferior, let’s say though, it wasn’t just the depiction of public drunkenness by the sailors leading to a vehement response from the navy the queer subtext of the painting might have played a role neither cadmus nor contemporary media ever explicitly addressed this issue art historian jonathan weinberg argued, however, that the encoded meaning would have been clear to the navy, though general viewers might not have picked it up.queer art scholar richard meyer recognized in the blond man in the red tie (third figure from left) a 1930s stereotype of a “fairy”, an effeminate gay man. the red tie, moreover, was a strange visual code indicating availability. in the painting, the male sailor accepts with en enthusiastically a cigarette offered to him by the “fairy,” suggesting same-sex desire (the cigarette is possibly a play on the word “faggot,” a pejorative term for gay men that had been in use since the early 1900s). twentieth century). the depictions of bulging bodies beneath tight clothing, including the prominent bulge of the sailor reclining next to the blond cigarette smoker, add to the image’s sexual atmosphere. in this sense, the censorship and media attention arguably helped it attract viewers and queer supporters, especially. upon seeing the work being reproduced, they would have immediately understood the subtext of it and found the work to be a daring expression of same-sex desire. After its removal from the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1934, no public information about the painting’s whereabouts was known until 1980, when it was discovered hanging at the Alibi Club, an exclusive men’s club in Washington, DC. the painting was subsequently returned to the navy. a year later, it was shown to the public for the first time in 47 years at the cadmus retrospective exhibition.
Tempera on canvas – Naval Art Collection, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, DC.