Oscar Cahén: Life & Work

Before his tragic death at age 40, Oscar Cahén fled Nazi Germany, made his name as a celebrated North American magazine illustrator, and co-founded the Canadian abstract art collective Painters Eleven. Read and download the online art book here: http://www.aci-iac.ca/oscar-cahen
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Members of the Painters Eleven during the Simpson's department store Abstracts at Home display, 1953. From left: Tom Hodgson, Oscar Cahén, Alexandra Luke, Kazuo Nakamura, Ray Mead, Jack Bush, and William Ronald. Photo by Everett Roseborough.

Members of the Painters Eleven during the Simpson's department store Abstracts at Home display, 1953. From left: Tom Hodgson, Oscar Cahén, Alexandra Luke, Kazuo Nakamura, Ray Mead, Jack Bush, and William Ronald. Photo by Everett Roseborough.

Shortly before their formation, the Painter's 11 convinced the Simpson’s department store in Toronto to display some abstract paintings with their sleek post-war modern furniture. Cahén submitted Candy Tree, 1952–53, private collection.

Shortly before their formation, the Painter's 11 convinced the Simpson’s department store in Toronto to display some abstract paintings with their sleek post-war modern furniture.

Success came rapidly for Cahén between 1953 and 1956, and he was frequently invited to exhibit. This painting was included in the 2nd Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil, 1953–54. “Requiem”, c. 1953, current location unknown.

Success came rapidly for Cahén between 1953 and and he was frequently invited to exhibit. This painting was included in the Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil, “Requiem”, c.

This canvas, likely unfinished, was on Cahén’s easel at his time of death in November 1956. Oscar Cahén, “Untitled” (616), 1956, Art Gallery of Ontario.

This canvas, likely unfinished, was on Cahén’s easel at his time of death in November Oscar Cahén, “Untitled” Art Gallery of Ontario.

In late 1944 Oscar Cahén moved to Toronto to become art director for Magazine Digest.  Magazine Digest cover design, c. 1946, printer’s proof, The Cahén Archives.

In late 1944 Oscar Cahén moved to Toronto to become art director for Magazine Digest. Magazine Digest cover design, c. printer’s proof, The Cahén Archives.

Oscar Cahén painting outdoors in King Township, Ontario, c. 1949.

Oscar Cahén painting outdoors in King Township, Ontario, c.

This cartoon drawn by Cahén appeared in the Czech paper Osveny in 1934. The caption reads, “My husband is an angel!” “Rejoice, mine is still alive.”

This cartoon drawn by Cahén appeared in the Czech paper Osveny in The caption reads, “My husband is an angel!” “Rejoice, mine is still alive.

In 1940 Cahén was classed as an enemy alien and shipped from Britain to an internment camp in Quebec on the prisoner ship Ettric. Camp N internment camp in Sherbrooke, Quebec, on November 19, 1945, Library and Archives Canada.

In 1940 Cahén was classed as an enemy alien and shipped from Britain to an internment camp in Quebec on the prisoner ship Ettric. Camp N internment camp in Sherbrooke, Quebec, on November Library and Archives Canada.

Cahén was only forty years old when he was killed in a car accident in 1956. Portrait of Oscar Cahén in his studio in 1951. Photograph by Page Toles.

Cahén was only forty years old when he was killed in a car accident in Portrait of Oscar Cahén in his studio in Photograph by Page Toles.

Only sixteen years old, Cahén faked his date of birth to gain acceptance into Dresden’s State Academy for Applied Arts. Cahén (right) and an unidentified couple visiting Zwinger Palace,  c. 1932.

Only sixteen years old, Cahén faked his date of birth to gain acceptance into Dresden’s State Academy for Applied Arts. Cahén (right) and an unidentified couple visiting Zwinger Palace, c.

A poster design made by Cahén as a student at the State Academy for Applied Arts, Dresden. “Untitled” (559), 1931, The Cahén Archives.

A poster design made by Cahén as a student at the State Academy for Applied Arts, Dresden. “Untitled” The Cahén Archives.

In 1932 Cahén's father joined an underground network collaborating to oppose Hitler. “Men Against Hitler” (1939) by Fritz Max Cahén.

In 1932 Cahén's father joined an underground network collaborating to oppose Hitler. “Men Against Hitler” by Fritz Max Cahén.

Cahén’s cartoons depict Japan’s Emperor Hirohito, Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, German Chancellor Adolph Hitler, and SS leader Heinrich Himmler. “Untitled,” c. 1943, The Cahén Archives.

Cahén’s cartoons depict Japan’s Emperor Hirohito, Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, German Chancellor Adolph Hitler, and SS leader Heinrich Himmler. The Cahén Archives.

In mid-1937 Cahén began working for Vilém Rotter, one of the most progressive graphic designers in Europe. Rotter's poster for the 1934 International Fair in Prague.

In Cahén began working for Vilém Rotter, one of the most progressive graphic designers in Europe. Rotter's poster for the 1934 International Fair in Prague.

An illustration done by Cahén shortly before he and his mother escaped to England, narrowly avoiding the Nazi occupation of Prague twelve days later. “Untitled” (084), 1939, The Cahén Archives.

An illustration done by Cahén shortly before he and his mother escaped to England, narrowly avoiding the Nazi occupation of Prague twelve days later. “Untitled” The Cahén Archives.

Photograph of an internee in a camp uniform at Camp N in Sherbrooke, Quebec, c. 1940–42. Photograph by internee Marcell Seidler who secretly documented camp life using a handmade pinhole camera.

Photograph of an internee in a camp uniform at Camp N in Sherbrooke, Quebec, c. Photograph by internee Marcell Seidler who secretly documented camp life using a handmade pinhole camera.

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