October 3, 2023

Discovering Oscar Cahen: The Warrior – Film Premiere at Contemporary Calgary

Canadian Premiere Screening
Discovering Oscar Cahén: The Warrior

A documentary film by Howard Brull

Tuesday, October 10, 2023
Contemporary Calgary Theater (formally the Pleiades Theatre)

701-11 Street SW

Doors: 6:00 p.m.
Screening: 7:00 p.m.
Q & A: 8:00 p.m.

To RSVP for this event, please click here. 

TrépanierBaer in collaboration with the Cahén Archives and Feheley Fine Arts is pleased to present the Canadian premiere of Discovering Oscar Cahén: The Warrior, a documentary film by Howard Brull.  Over two years in the making, this documentary presents insightful and relevant observations on the life and career of the prolific artist Oscar Cahén and his pivotal painting, The Warrior (1956).

The documentary features commentaries by Sarah Milroy (Chief Curator, McMichael Canadian Collection); Dr. Jaleen Grove (Assistant Professor Rhode Island School of Design and author Oscar Cahén, Life & Work), Dr. Sara Angel: Art Canada Institute (ACI); Michael Cahén (The Cahén Archives); Yves Trépanier (TrépanierBaer Gallery) and artist David Urban, among others.

After Oscar Cahén’s untimely death at the age of 40 in 1956, the vast majority of his work was out of view, and seldom seen by the public. His works remained in storage for more than six decades; exhibitions and discussion about his work were intermittent.

In recent years, however, a renewed interest in Oscar Cahén has inspired exhibitions and accompanying scholarly publications, namely Oscar Cahén published in 2017 to accompany the eponymous solo exhibition curated by the late Jeffrey Spalding and organized by the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

Through this new documentary, Oscar Cahén’s life and career are succinctly presented to a new generation of audiences, along with his pivotal painting, The Warrior, the largest and one of Cahén’s most remarkable paintings.


Oscar Cahén was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1916. He studied art during his teens, in Dresden Paris, and Berlin and by 1937, worked and taught at the Rotter School of Advertising and Art in Prague, Czech Republic.

Several days before the Nazi occupation of Prague in 1939 Oscar and his mother Eugenie made a narrow escape to England. He arrived in Québec from England in 1940, as an unwilling refugee and interned in a prisoner of war camp near Sherbrooke, Québec. Released in 1942, Oscar worked for the Montréal Standard. In 1944 he moved to Toronto, where he began his career as an illustrator. In just a few short years, Oscar made a name for himself as an art director, cutting-edge illustrator, and painter.

Oscar’s graphic flair made him one of Canada’s most celebrated and sought-after illustrators. His CV lists no less than 37 Maclean’s magazine cover illustrations, and his illustrations appeared in 140 of their 192 issues.In 1953, he co-founded the renowned artists’ collective Painters Eleven alongside some of the most significant names in Canadian art: Jack Bush, Ray Mead, Harold Town, Alexandra Luke and Kazuo Nakamura, to name a few.

The list of exhibitions between 1953 and 1954 is astounding. Oscar’s work was featured in over twenty-two (22) exhibitions including the Canadian representation of the 2nd Biennale de São Paulo Brazil (1953-54). His influence was widespread. At the height of it all, Oscar’s career was cut short; he tragically passed away in an automobile accident in 1956. Almost all his work completely disappeared from public view.

“Never is it easy to explain the complexities that nurture the sudden emergence of an art movement which breaks abruptly with the restrictive pressures of its past. However, there is no question whatsoever that Oscar Cahén had a notably significant impact upon the development of the young men who were to group together as Painters Eleven. He was, after all, a worldly experienced man whose technical facility as an artist was surpassed, if possible, by his vitality as a companion. For a young Canadian dealing with the conflict of breaking with the literal representational traditions of his immediate past, Oscar Cahén’s agility in moving back and forth between literal drawings and bold abstract paintings must have been a consolation as well as an example.Who could doubt the strength of his abstract compositions in which form, and space were dealt with in new terms even as colour was handled with a flamboyance that must have almost seemed, at times, a joyful scandal. This new Canadian indeed made a great contribution to his new home…

No-one can deny that the art historical fact of the importance of his influence being put aside, Oscar Cahén was essentially a splendid imaginative figure.”

Dr. Evan H. Turner, Director
Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1968

We look forward to seeing you at this screening.

Oscar Cahén
The Warrior, 1956
Oil on canvas / 80″ x 102.5″