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Aspects of Suburban Life: Polo

1936 Paul Cadmus Born: New York, New York 1904 Died: Weston, Connecticut 1999 oil and tempera on fiberboard 31 5/8 x 45 3/4 in. (80.3 x 116.2 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from the U.S. Department of State 1978.76.3 Not currently on view

Luce Center Quote

“I believe in exaggeration, because if things are not exaggerated people pass them by, and people’s noses should be rubbed in all sorts of things, pleasant and unpleasant.” Cadmus, quoted in Kirstein, Paul Cadmus, 1992

Luce Center Label

This painting is from Paul Cadmus’s Aspects of Suburban Life series and shows wealthy Long Islanders watching a game of polo. The series was commissioned by the Treasury Relief Art Project for a post office mural. Cadmus’s supervisors found the images offensive, however, and the project was never completed. In Polo, a photographer from a society magazine eagerly snaps a collision of horses on the field while glamorous women gasp and clutch their pearls. The exaggerated reactions of the idlers suggest that the accident offered more excitement than the game itself. The tiny, swirling brushstrokes capture the sheen on luxurious furs and the furrowed veins in a player’s brawny arms, creating an almost uneasy closeness between the viewer and the scene. Cadmus turned the same scrutiny that his technique required to the subjects of his paintings, revealing the theatrics that underlay the rituals of everyday life.


Animal - horse

Figure group

Recreation - sport and play - polo

State of being - other - accident

New Deal - Works Progress Administration, Federal Art Project - New York City


paint - oil

paint - tempera


About Paul Cadmus

Born: New York, New York 1904 Died: Weston, Connecticut 1999

More works in the collection by
Paul Cadmus