Tag Archives: Jared French.

The Young and the Evil: Queer Modernism in New York, 1930-1955, edited by Jarrett Earnest, David Zwirner Books, 2020

Aside from Allan Ellenzweig’s marvellous new biography of George Platt Lynes, my greatest find so far has been THE YOUNG AND THE EVIL, not the notorious novel by Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler, but the catalogue of an exhibition curated by Jarret Earnest that set out to map a milieu, to some extent covered in biography, but largely absent from standard accounts of American modernism and which the exhibition labelled as ‘Queer Modernism in New York 1930-1950’. The show illustrates the ‘gravitational forces of emotional, intellectual, artistic and sexual attraction formed by the group’. It was sparked by death.

George Platt Lynes and Monroe Wheeler, photo by George Platt Lynes

An archeology of how some of the materials landed in the exhibition itself speaks a queer history. When Joseph Scott and Vincent Cianni went through the contents of the estate of their deceased friend, Antole Pohorilenko, they discovered a series of boxes marked ‘MW/ GPL PRIVATE’ and ‘INTIMACIES’. Pohorilenko had been the last lover of Monroe Wheeler who had himself inherited from Glenway Westcott. This plus additions from the heirs of Platt Lynes and Lincoln Kirstein form the basis of the exhibition, and what a find it is: erotic reveries of practically every sex act a homosexual can think of, alone and in groups, rendered explicitly but aimed for private consumption, and in a few cases drawn specifically for Kinsey, presumably it took them a while to suss out that Kinsey already knew more than he let on, and from personal experience. The images are by some major twentieth century artists (Cadmus, Jared French, Pavel Tchelitchew) and includes also explicit photographs, famously an early selfie of Platt Lynes giving Monroe Wheeler a blow job). The drawings are characterised by a longing and desire but also a dreaminess, a personal and idealised fantasy of sexual want, direct and unashamed; some romantically rendered; some evoking a roughness, clearly desired; some longing for the particular other; some for the anonymous group. They simultaneously speak an individual, an era, and a personal instance of a structure of feeling: They are marvellous.

George Platt Lynes giving Monroe Wheelr a blow job


Apart from Jarret Earnest’s excellent introductory essay, the book also includes, and interview with Jason Yow, Leonard Kirstein’s long-time lover and heir, an explanatory linking of the novel of THE YOUNG AND EVIL to the exhibition, and a superb essay on the paintings Paul Cadmus and Jared French both did of the HERRIN MASSACRE OF 1922 where striking miners laid a siege to the mine, fired on strike-breakers and ended up brutally massacring some of the scabs, Kenneth E. Silver’s essay situating the paintings not only in the labour struggles of the early 20th century but also of the anti-gay ‘clean-ups’ of New York City in the lead-up to the 1939 World’s Fair, and how the paintings lend themselves easily to readings of murderous homophobia, and the significance of that possible anti-labour reading combined with that murderous homophobia.

A wonderful book that offers information, sparks thought, and stimulates the senses.

The Lion Boy by Pavel Tchetlichew. It was owned by Glenway Westcott for many years and hung over his bed.

Drawings by Cadmus, French, Tchelitchew

One of six gouaches Tchelitchew drew to illustrate the original novel

José Arroyo


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.

José Arroyo