The Warrior by Oscar Cahén

Portrait of Oscar Cahén in his studio in 1951. Photograph by Pages Toles.

On November 11, 2021, we are very excited to bring to you for the first time ever, the works of Canadian abstract painter and illustrator, Oscar Cahén. In collaboration with our friends at TrépanierBaer Gallery, the exhibition Discovering Oscar Cahén (1916-1956) will showcase a phenomenal selection of paintings and illustrations by the Painters 11 co-founder. Among them will be the rarely-seen masterpiece, The Warrior, completed just before the artist’s untimely death in 1956. Fittingly, the piece was exhibited for the first time in 1957 at the Park Gallery in Toronto, owned by Pat’s father, Budd (M.F.) Feheley. The Warrior now comes full circle for exhibition once more at a Feheley-owned gallery, six decades later.

Photograph of Oscar Cahén taken for an article in the Autumn 1950 issue of Canadian Art magazine, but not used.

In anticipation of the exhibition, we looked to Curator Adam Welch’s fantastic essay “On Ambivalence: The Warrior in Context” from the acclaimed book Oscar Cahén (2017). In this excerpt, Welch eloquently breaks down what Cahén conveys in the highly abstracted masterpiece:

“The warrior himself is an ambivalent, even impossible, creature. First, his torso is massive and his arms are small, almost atrophied. While disproportionate, they are nevertheless muscular and finely wrought. Second, the instrument he brandishes in his left hand could be either deadly or harmless—a weapon or something far more innocent, like a baton. Third, if he is armoured in parts, he is also left exposed. Only his right side is protected by a shield. The main fleshy mass of his body ends in multiple stumpy legs, trailing off unsatisfactorily in abstracted blocks below, while above he appears to be headless. As a warrior, he is ill equipped for battle with all that soft flesh bared. Lastly, the sheer bulk of the figure is such that he elbows out of the scene: he is hardly contained by the frame. The warrior has outgrown the bounds of the picture but somehow remains contained by it.”  (pp. 177)

Mark your calendars!  Discovering Oscar Cahén (1916-1956) opens November 11, 2021 at Feheley Fine Arts, 65 George Street in Toronto.  This collaborative exhibition is the first for Feheley Fine Arts and TrépanierBaer Gallery. A highlight of the exhibition will be Cahén’s rarely-seen masterpiece The Warrior, completed before the artist’s untimely death in 1956.

The above quoted excerpt is from the book Oscar Cahén, available for purchase through Feheley Fine Arts. For more information, contact  

Oscar Cahén, The Warrior, 1956, oil on canvas, 79.4 x 102.6 in.