Continuing with my reading of the Platt Lynes Circle, David Leddick’s INTIMATE COMPANIONS: A TRIOGRAPHY OF GEORGE PLATT LYNES, PAUL CADMUS, LINCOLN KIRSTEIN AND THEIR CIRCLE, is a comparatively lighter work, very readable, with a wider scope. I wish I’d read it first. I learned more about the painters in the circle — Paul Cadmus, Pavel Tchelitchev, Jared French, George Tooker — and their inter-personal, sexual and professional relationships. It well illustrates what Gregory Woods in his great book has conceptualised as the or at least a ‘hominterm’, an international network of lesbians and gays that could be seen as a creative force and/ or as a ‘sinister conspiracy against the moral and material interests of the state’.
This particular grouping can certainly be seen as both; all of them ‘discrete’ to greater or lesser degrees; all of them out to their immediate circle and beyond. Working in art, major institutions such as MOMA, or indeed, like with Kirstein, helping to create the American Ballet Theatre but also discretely working for representation and inclusion; Monroe Wheeler through his influence on what MOMA programmed or published; Glenway Westcott through his work with Kinsey; Kirstein through his financial and institutional patronage of painting and ballet; Platt Lynes through his private nudes, circulated underground; Cadmus needed only his painting, where homosexuality seems ever present.
The book is divided into chapters, covering mainly the trio at various stages of their life, but also others who were important to at least one of the trio: Fidelma Cadmus Kirstein (Cadmus’ sister; Kirstein’s wife), Katherine Anne Porter, Jared French etc. My only reservation is that the book is interspersed with first-hand observations, an eye-witness account, of either the people or events such as parties and funerals. In the end it’s revealed that it’s by a certain ‘Sandusky’. But who is this Sandusky? It’s never as clear as it should be whether this is fiction or an eyewitness who wishes to remain anonymous. If it’s a real person it adds insight; if it’s fiction….well it’s interesting but speculative and potentially undermines aspects of the book. I wish this element had been better handled. It brings to mind a niggle with the title: the tension between ‘a triography’ and ‘their circle’. Why not just eliminate triography? Any biographic work would have to deal with ‘their circle’: INTIMATE COMPANIONS: GEORGE PLATT LYNES, PAUL CADMUS, LINCOLN KIRSTEIN AND THEIR CIRCLE.
I’m grateful to Leddick for enhancing my appreciation of Cadmus’ very beautiful drawings more traditional than his paintings, in a ‘classic’ style that reminds one vaguely of Da Vinci; more lifelike. The paintings I also love. But along with the social commentary, they also remind me of more greatly textured 30s cartoons; the drawings are both representational and also idealised, and in a sexual way. Democratic too. How many people have pictured factory workers like this below:
With all the superb visual materials in circulation, someone could make a great documentary on this. It certainly skewers contemporary notions of the rigidity and fixity of sexual identities between Wilde and Stonewall. This particular circle dances all over the Kinsey scale.