Intimate Companions

David Leddick, Author, Leddick, Author St. Martin's Press $29.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-312-20898-1
""Ars longa, Vita brevis,"" noted Hippocrates, but time gave art a run for its money in the decades-long careers of the artists, writers, photographers, producers and salon-keepers chronicled in Leddick's group biography of Lynes, Cadmus, Kirstein, Glenway Westcott, Monroe Wheeler, Pavel Tchelitchev, Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler. These artists--all gay men who had significant influence on the New York visual art, theatrical and literary scenes from the 1930s to the '50s--have never received the critical or biographical attention Leddick believes they deserve. In a fresh approach to material he first covered in Naked Men: Pioneering Male Nudes (1997), Leddick charts not only the men's intersecting professional careers but how their personal and sexual lives contributed to their creativity and vision. One of his central narratives details how Kirstein drew upon the creative efforts of Lynes and Cadmus in his American Ballet Company, and how the two visual artists also pursued important careers of their own. By turns compassionate about and amused by the romantic and sexual connections among these men, Leddick is at his best when describing how Kirstein married Cadmus's sister and how Lynes became the lover of Wheeler and, later, the third member of Wheeler's ""marriage"" to Westcott. However, Leddick's history can be sketchy and lacks a sustained view of the artists' broader social context. Often, he mistakes personal detail--such as Westcott's distress over the size of his penis--for insight rather than gossip. Ultimately, however, Leddick makes a strong case for why his subjects remain vital and important American artists. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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