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Bar Italia

1953-1955 Paul Cadmus Born: New York, New York 1904 Died: Weston, Connecticut 1999 tempera on wood 37 1/2 x 45 1/4 in. (95.2 x 115.0 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. 1969.47.54 Not currently on view

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Bar Italia

Luce Center Quote

"Bar Italia was a sort of synthesis of all I knew about Italy . . . I assembled a rather large cast of characters, exposing the worst of everything I could think of." The artist, quoted in Kirstein, Paul Cadmus, 1992

Luce Center Label

Paul Cadmus lived and worked in Italy in the early 1950s. Bar Italia satirizes the crowds of tourists in Europe during the postwar years, when Americans alone had the money to visit a continent devastated by the Second World War. A crowd of people fills an imaginary square cobbled together from different Italian cities. The sidewalk café offers a full range of characters, including argumentative Italians, pudgy clerics, hustlers, old widowed crones, and a group of what the artist called "rather outrageous" gay men. Cadmus also painted himself into the image, quietly taking in the boisterous scene from just beyond a young Italian perched on the wall. (Kirstein, Paul Cadmus, 1992) In the background a large marble monument parodies Italy’s decrepit architectural treasures, currently under repair at the hands of a stonemason at the top right. Cadmus's moony, prying tourists, who scan the sky for masterpieces and search phrase books for "Where is the restroom," say it all. But he included a final indignity: Just to the right of the painting's center, graffiti on the wall spell out "Go Away Americans."


Architecture Exterior - classical

Ethnic - Italian

Figure group

Homage - Veronese

Monument - statue

Recreation - leisure - eating and drinking

Recreation - leisure - smoking


paint - tempera


About Paul Cadmus

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

More works in the collection by
Paul Cadmus