A bright light nearly went out in November 1956 when Oscar Cahén died suddenly, at the height of his achievements. This book aims to restore this light to a brilliant intensity.
European-born Oscar Cahén (1916-1956) was a founder of Painters Eleven and perhaps its leading sophisticate. Yet at the same time as he was experimenting with colour, form and light, Cahén was also winning Canada’s most prestigious prizes for illustration. His life was as remarkable as his art. Through his adolescence his family kept a step ahead of the Nazis until he and his mother reached England, where he was detained after war broke out. Cahén was shipped to Canada and imprisoned with hundreds of Jewish refugees—to be freed by the efforts of the young woman journalist who interviewed him and fell in love with him.
It is inevitable that a shadow of myth has descended on such a life. The book’s eleven essays confront it in their own ways, casting a light on the dark corners of Cahén’s life with the aid of new research from the Cahén Archives, celebrating the legend, writing of warm friendships with artist colleagues, and exploring the labyrinth of Cahén’s iconography.
Their essays enter into a conversation, and at times a debate, that seeks to return a major artist to the spotlight he deserves.
More than 280 brilliant illustrations and plates, many of them detailing works never before seen in public, make this a book for collectors as well as devotees of Oscar Cahén and the heights of Canadian art.