Thomas Nevin Jernegan Dexter
Paul Cadmus (1904–1999)
Crayon, graphite, and ink on paper
Gift of Mrs. Thomas A. Dexter
Thomas Nevin Jernegan Dexter (1906–1936) came from an old Edgartown family. He was proud of his heritage and as a teenager became involved with the new Dukes County Historical Society, the organization that is now the Martha's Vineyard Museum.
As one of the first treasurers of the society, Dexter kept the books as well as historical notes. He also wrote articles about genealogy and Vineyard history. As a young man, Dexter left the Vineyard for New York City, where he attended the choir school of St. Thomas' Church and Columbia. While there, he met a number of artists, some of whom were to become famous. They visited him at his home in Edgartown and occasionally rented their own cottages Up Island in Menemsha. The Museum owns portraits of Dexter made by his friends Edna Reindel and Paul Cadmus.
Dexter kept a scrapbook in which he pasted newspaper clippings about art, poetry, genealogy, and history. Among the clippings are accounts of the work of his artist friends, including Cadmus. Sadly, Thomas Dexter died when he was just twenty-nine years old. He had no brother or sister, so his grandmother donated many of the family heirlooms to the Museum in his memory. These include his portraits, a fine tall case clock, and other artifacts and archives.
Paul Cadmus became infamous in 1934 with Fleet's In!, made for the New Deal Public Works Art Project. The painting showed, in the words of one Island newspaper, "the diversions of sailors ashore" and was quickly removed from exhibition after protests from the navy and the scandalized public. The publicity surrounding the painting helped Cadmus make a name for himself, and he went on to have a long, successful career.