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Aspects of Suburban Life: Public Dock

1936 Paul Cadmus Born: New York, New York 1904 Died: Weston, Connecticut 1999 oil and tempera on fiberboard 31 3/8 x 52 5/8 in. (79.7 x 133.7 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from the U.S. Department of State 1978.76.2 Not currently on view

Luce Center Quote

“I’m called a realist painter, yet I don’t know how realistic I am---sometimes magic realist, sometimes symbolic realist, in any case always representational. I want people to know what I’m saying.” Cadmus, quoted in Kirstein, Paul Cadmus, 1992

Luce Center Label

Public Dock depicts a group of vacationers recoiling from an electric eel that a hapless fisherman has caught. Paul Cadmus conveyed the boisterous atmosphere of an afternoon at the beach: the crush of bodies, the flap of flags on yardarms, the roar of a biplane overhead. A blowsy woman with bottle-blond hair and vivid make-up topples backward with a small child, and a bathing beauty at the lower right realizes what she is swimming with. Cadmus created this as part of his Aspects of Suburban Life series, which was intended for a post office mural. Administrators didn’t appreciate Cadmus’s humor, however, and the project was abandoned.


Animal - fish - eel

Cityscape - wharf

Figure group - male and female

Recreation - sport and play - boating

Recreation - sport and play - fishing

Recreation - sport and play - swimming

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