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 Oscar Cahen  (1916 - 1956)

About: Oscar Cahen
 

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Lived/Active: Ontario/Quebec / Canada/Czech Republic      Known for: abstract painting, illustration and murals

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
Austin Healey 100 Engine, oil on board, 36" x 48", signed
Courtesy of  The Cahen Archives
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Oscar Cahen was a painter, illustrator and muralist who was born in Copenhagen, Denmark.  He lived in Prague (Czechoslovakia); London (England/ 1938); Montreal  (Quebec, Canada/1940 – 1943); and Toronto (Ontario/1943), where he lived the rest of his life.  He died in a car accident in Oakville, Ontario (about 20 miles west of downtown Toronto and one mile from his home).
 
His mediums were oil, watercolour, pastel, casein, ink, gouache, conte (chalk) and mixed mediums.  His subjects are abstracts, figures, landscape, social commentary and magazine illustration.  His styles are abstract expressionism*, lyrical abstraction* and expressionism*.  His works are identified by superior draughtsmanship, advanced technical skill with mixed mediums, colour harmony and serious dramatic effect (even with the most abstract of works).
 
He studied design, illustration and painting in Germany, Italy, France, Sweden and Czechoslovakia.  He earned a Masters Degree in Fine Art from the Kunstakadamie in Dresden; and was a professor of design, illustration and painting at the Rotter School in Prague until 1938.
 
He was a member of the Art Directors Club of Toronto* (1951), the Canadian Society of Graphic Art* (c. 1952); the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour* (1953); the Canadian Group of Painters* (1955), the Ontario Society of Artists* and Painters Eleven* (1953).
 
Even though his solo accomplishments would rank him among the great Canadian artists, his greatest claim to fame would have to be his contribution as one of the most influential  and capable members of the Painters Eleven (see AskART glossary).  They were a group of Canadian abstract painters who took their cue from artists such as Jackson Pollock (see AskART) and de Kooning (see AskART), members of the New York School (see AskART glossary) of abstract expressionists. The purpose of P11 was to promote abstract art in English Canada, primarily through joint exhibitions. They formed in 1953 and seven of them, including Cahen, had a show in October of that year at The Robert Simpson Company Limited (a Toronto department store) titled “Abstracts at Home”. In February of 1954 all eleven combined for their first show at Roberts Gallery (Toronto). By the time they disbanded in 1960, the Eleven were a major force in establishing modern art in Canada, and almost half a century later they are still having a profound effect on the form and character of art in Canada. Their works are now prized and prominent features in many private, corporate and public collections throughout Canada. The last living member Tom Hodgson (see AskArt) died in 2006.
 
In addition to showing with the above groups he also exhibited  in numerous other solo and group shows such as “Hauswand”, Kunstakadame( Dresden/ 1931); “Oscar Cahen”, Ole Haslunds Hus ( Copenhagen/ 1934), the “Second Biennial”, Museu de Arte Moderna (Sao Paulo, Brazil/ 1953); “Oscar Cahén”, Hart House (Toronto/1954); “Paul-Émile Borduas, Jack Bush, Oscar Cahén & Jacques de Tonnancour”, London Public Library & Art Museum (Ontario/1955) and “Canadian Abstract Painters” Smithsonian Institution (Washington/ 1956). After his death there have been several retrospectives and memorial exhibitions dedicated to his work, their venues include the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto,1958), the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1960), the Ringling Museum (Sarasota, Florida/ 1968) and a travelling exhibition organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1983 and 1984.
 
His works are in many private, Corporate and public Collections.  Some of the public collections are the the Art Gallery of Ontario,the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), the British Museum (London),the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art (Sarasota, Florida), the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), the Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.) and the London Public Library & Art Museum (Ontario).
 
Cahen won numerous awards during his life, several from the Art Directors Club alone. He was also posthumously honoured by the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts with the RCA Medal in 1975 and in 1988 by the Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators in Communications with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
 
As a very prominent artist his work is discussed in many books about Canadian art history and modern art, there are also numerous magazine and newspaper articles.  He is listed in  A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald; The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar; and in The Canadian Encyclopedia (1985), Hurtig Publishers.

His work is also illustrated and discussed in Art Gallery of Ontario – The Canadian Collection (1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield; in Contemporary Canadian Art (1983), by David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff; in Visions – Contemporary Art in Canada (1983), various authors and editors; in The History of Painting in Canada - Toward A Peoples Art (1974) by Barry Lord; in A Concise History of Canadian Painting (1973), by Dennis Reid; in Great Canadian Painting – A Century of Art (1966), by Elizabeth Kilbourn; in Four Decades (1972) by Paul Duval; in “Painting in Canada: A History” (1966) by J. Russell Harper; in Landmarks of Canadian Art (1978), by Peter Mellen (pg 45); and in Documents in Canadian Art (1987), edited by Douglas Fetherling.
 

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART.com Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx


 

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