Review of Oscar Cahén Book
The Globe & Mail – May 11, 2011
Special to The Globe & Mail
May 11, 2018
In a poem called Can Lit published in 1962, Earle Birney lamented that in Canada, “it’s only by our lack of ghosts we’re haunted.” As it went for our writers, so it has gone for our painters. It’s hard to figure out why this has been the case. It may be some combination of indifference, hostility or willful cultural amnesia, but the result has been that our significant artists have ended up being ignored or underappreciated.
Oscar Cahén is a case in point. Cahén was a prodigiously gifted illustrator and artist who in 1953 was the catalyst behind the formation of Painters Eleven in Toronto, and who died tragically three years later in a car accident at the age of 40. At the time of his death he was fast becoming one of the most admired painters in the country and was making inroads in his painting and drawing that promised international recognition.
A major step has just been made in understanding his achievement with the publication of an elegantly designed and printed monograph simply called Oscar Cahén. (The monograph is a collaborative publishing venture between the Cahén Archives and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton). In addition to a rich selection of coloured reproductions that considers his magazine work as well as his fine art production, the book contains contributions from 11 art historians, critics and conservators that, taken together, provide a compelling and layered perspective on the artist’s life and work.
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