Bundled up in warm winter clothes, seven people, young and old, are clustered in front of a painting of a sunlit landscape. The rest of the wall is covered with winter landscapes. Two abstract sculptures are also on display.

Oscar Cahén

(Copenhagen 1916 – Oakville, Ontario, 1956)




Watercolour on Hi-Art illustration board

66 x 60.3 cm

Private collection

© The Cahén Archives. Photo: Kenji Photo Design

In this cover illustration for the January 15, 1952, issue of Maclean’s magazine, a group of people stand captivated by a painting of a sun-drenched landscape. They are wearing winter clothes and seem to be warming themselves at the picture, which is surrounded by winter landscapes. In this drawing, Oscar Cahén was poking fun at the way exhibitions at that time over-represented landscapes to the detriment of modern abstract works, such as the sculptures the viewers are ignoring.

Deported from England at the start of World War II because of his German origins, the painter and illustrator Oscar Cahén spent the first two years of his life in Canada in an internment camp. But even as a prisoner, his talent for illustration brought him commissions from the Montréal weekly paper The Standard. Highly regarded for his speed and whimsical humour, Cahén also worked as a freelance illustrator for magazines such as Maclean’s and New Liberty. In the mid-1940s he settled in Toronto, where he met the avant-garde artists with whom he formed Painters Eleven in 1953.

Private collection