Husband Lincoln Kirstein

Queer Places:
The Art Students League of New York, 215 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019
339 W 20th St, New York, NY 10011
128 E 19th St, New York, NY 10003

Fidelma Cadmus Kirstein | Self Portrait | The Metropolitan Museum of ArtFidelma Cadmus (December 12, 1906 – November 5, 1991) was born in New York the daughter of  Maria Latasa and Egbert Cadmus (1868–1939), artists 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 twenties. Socially, she found herself immersed in the artistic milieu of her brother, who, having returned from Europe in 1931, was gaining notoriety for his paintings in New York. She would occasionally work from the studio Paul shared with his lover, the artist Jared French, on St. Luke’s Place.

In the collaborative atmosphere of the social circle she occupied, she posed for many of her fellow artists, including her brother, French, the painter Pavel Tchelitchew, and the photographer George Platt Lynes. She was also the subject of a number of photographs her brother; French; and French’s new wife, Margaret Hoening, began taking on their summer vacations to Fire Island, Nantucket, and Provincetown—the photos were collectively taken under the moniker PaJaMa, after their first names.

At a party thrown by Lynes in 1939, Cadmus met Lincoln Kirstein, a cultural impresario, who had founded the School of American Ballet (later renamed the New York City Ballet) with choreographer George Balanchine in 1934. He and Cadmus married in April of 1941, though he would continue pursuing male lovers. At several points, some of them lived with the two of them, such as the dancer Pete Martinez and the artist Alexander Jensen Yow. Kirstein, who had suffered from depression in her youth, continued to struggle with breakdowns throughout her life and, though she continued to work on her enigmatic paintings and drawings after their wedding, eventually the pace and volatility of her husband’s personal and professional life overtook her work. They remained married until her death, in 1991.

by George Platt Lynes

George Platt Lynes | Paul Cadmus and his sister, Fidelma Cadmus Kirstein,  the wife of Lincoln Kirstein (Circa 1940) | MutualArt
Paul Cadmus and his sister, Fidelma Cadmus Kirstein, the wife of Lincoln Kirstein, by George Platt Lynes, Circa 1940 silver print Photography 9 1/4 x 7 1/2 in

Fidelma Cadmus Kirstein | Lincoln Kirstein | The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Lincoln Kirstein 1941 Fidelma Cadmus Kirstein On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 901

The work of Fidelma Cadmus Kirstein has been overshadowed by that of her brother, the painter Paul Cadmus, and her husband, the prominent cultural figure Lincoln Kirstein. In her self-portrait she represents herself boldly returning the viewer’s gaze with bare shoulders and plush towel wrapped around her head like a turban. Set against a bright blue ground that suggests a clear sky, she appears to be sunbathing, a possible reference to leisure time she spent with family and friends on New York's Fire Island. Recalling portraits from the Early Renaissance, the detailed egg-tempera technique she employed enhances the self-portrait’s restrained intimacy.

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