What I Believe

Maker and role
Artist: Paul Cadmus, American, 1904-1999
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Object detail

Tempera on panel
16 1/4 x 27in (41.3 x 68.6cm)
Credit line
Gift of Robert L. B. Tobin
Accession number
Object type
Further information
Paul Cadmus presents the arts as beacons of good against the violence of war. The painting’s title was taken from English Humanist E. M. Forster’s 1938 essay “What I believe,” which called for goodness and tolerance to prevail over violence and cruelty.

In the foreground, Cadmus used the faces of his friends and family, artists in their own rights, as allegorical figures representing art, music, literature, and architecture. To their left, images of creation and play. To their right, an indifferent and lethargic populous ignores the dark clouds and destructive actions of the military. Death, a gravedigger, looks away in horror.
Paul Cadmus: Yesterday & Today; Philip Eliasoph (b.1951); 1981; p. 17, 34, 55, 73
Modern Art at the McNay: A Brief History and Pictorial Survey of the Collection; William J. Chiego; 2001; p. 182
Naked: The Nude in America; Bram Dijkstra (b.1938); 2010; 316-17, 319; fig. X, 10
Archives of American Art Journal; Vol. 49, No. 3/4 (Fall 2010), p. 26-33
Art in America; Feb 4, 2011
Artforum; Summer 2019, p. 240-41
Signature & date
Signed l.l.: Cadmus
Inscribed on verso: What I Believe/by Paul Cadmus/egg yolk tempera 1948
Subject period
Docent information sheet

V:\Object Documentation\Paintings\1999.86 Cadmus\Cadmus Yesterday and Today 1981.pdf
V:\Object Documentation\Paintings\1999.86 Cadmus\Naked, The Nude in America.pdf
V:\Object Documentation\Paintings\1999.86 Cadmus\AAA Fall 2010.pdf
V:\Object Documentation\Paintings\1999.86 Cadmus\Artforum Summer 2019.pdf
V:\Object Documentation\Paintings\1999.86 Cadmus\Artforum Summer 2019 Print Version.pdf


Public comments

WE thoroughly enjoyed our visit to The McNay, you have a magnificent collection. This piece I find particularly wonderful and thought provoking. I especially like the way the artist has slipped a very subtle question mark into the clouds as if he is asking us, "what choice will you make?".

- James Smith posted 2 years ago.

Obviously on LSD

- Mattie Gilmore posted 3 years ago.

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