PAULCADMUS: Some of these sailors are rather sympathetic, as well as one of the girls—the girl in the ridiculous hat. I don’t know where I invented that hat, where it came from. No milliner that I knew!
NARRATOR: Artist Paul Cadmus. He called this painting Sailors and Floosies. It’s set in Manhattan’s Riverside Park, near a monument called the Sailors and Soldiers Memorial. Richard Meyer.
RICHARDMEYER: One of the things that Cadmus did, which is quite amazing about this painting, is that he created a unique frame. And what he did in the painted frame is, he continued some of the graffiti that is depicted on the [Sailors and Soldiers] Memorial, within the painting, that graffiti continues around the frame of the painting. So he’s sort of bringing a decorative element, but also, some part of the story, of the fiction of the painting, out onto the frame of the painting.
NARRATOR: Notice that the sailors here aren’t really paying attention to the floosies.
MEYER: Cadmus, whenever there is heterosexual pairing in his paintings, something goes wrong. What he seems more interested in is a certain homoeroticism.
NARRATOR: Some critics were upset by this image when it was first shown. They called it tawdry, repulsive, unpatriotic. Ironically, it wasn’t the homoerotic content per se that caused the controversy; rather, critics were offended by the depiction of Navy sailors drunk and carousing on the eve of World War II.
CADMUS: I replied to them, “I think the picture portrays an enjoyable side of Navy life. I think it would make a good recruiting poster. I will raise my prices.”