Because of his experience as a refugee, Cahén was often asked to illustrate war-related stories such as journalist John Hersey’s recounting of Hiroshima’s obliteration by nuclear attack on August 6, 1945. Here Cahén portrays realistically proportioned figures free of caricature, rendered only in black line. The cover shows vulnerable people: an elderly man, hat respectfully held in his hand; and foraging women and children dwarfed by a wasted landscape. The menacing, abstract shape of twisted wreckage in the foreground not only indicates the force of the blast but also nods to Japanese woodcut design, where refined use of asymmetrical shapes to frame a scene and make an interesting formal composition is esteemed. Similar devices appear later in Cahén’s abstract works.
Double Vision: The Twin Talents of Oscar Cahén
Oscar Cahén, Cover illustration for Hiroshima by John Hersey, published in The Standard magazine, September 28, 1946
Tearsheet, 40 x 30 cm, location of original art unknown