Oscar Cahén

Objet d’Art, 1953

oil on masonite
48x36 in.

Private collection, Toronto;
Private collection, Calgary;

Royal Canadian Academy of Art, Art Gallery of Toronto, cat no. 11, Nov. 1953 – Jan. 1954;
Richard Bowman, Oscar Cahén, William McCloy, Cecil Richards (sculptor), Art Gallery of Toronto, May – June, 1954;
Hart House, Toronto, 1954;
The Oscar Cahén Memorial Exhibition, Ontario Society of Artists, Art Gallery of Toronto, 1959;
Oscar Cahén: First American Retrospective, Ringling Museum of Art, Florida, cat. no. 9

Oscar Cahén’s short life – he died tragically at the age of 40 – was filled with drama and intrigue. Escaping from Nazi-occupied Prague, he fled to England in 1939. Considered a German Jew by the British, he was arrested as an enemy alien and interned for 2 years in Quebec. Upon his release, he worked as a successful illustrator in Toronto. In the late 1940s he became involved with avant-garde art and was a founding member of Painters Eleven. Cahén was prolific and versatile, working in different styles and media. This flamboyant painting is an outstanding example of the brilliantly-hued paintings of the 1950s which are considered to be his best work. It is both painterly and graphic. Loosely articulated fields of irregularly shaped colour areas are juxtaposed to a riot of drawn circles and squares compressed within an ascending “tree” shape. This dynamic painting reveals Cahén’s love of luminous colour combinations and forms ultimately abstracted from elements in the natural world.

Oscar Cahén, painter, illustrator (b at Copenhagen, Denmark 8 Feb 1916; d at Oakville, Ont 26 Nov 1956). Trained in Europe, he taught in Prague before escaping the Nazi occupation in 1938. Because he held German citizenship, he was interned in England in 1939 and then shipped to Canada in…