Bar Italia

Media - 1969.47.54 - SAAM-1969.47.54_1 - 3478
Copied Paul Cadmus, Bar Italia, 1953-1955, tempera on wood, 37 1245 14 in. (95.2115.0 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., 1969.47.54

Artwork Details

Bar Italia
Not on view
37 1245 14 in. (95.2115.0 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.
Mediums Description
tempera on wood
  • Italian
  • Monument — statue
  • Figure group
  • Recreation — leisure — smoking
  • Architecture Exterior — classical
Object Number

Artwork Description

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."

Luce Object 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