Performing Arts Collection
Kahan, Louis
Kahan, Louis


Louis Kahan (1905 - 2002) was surrounded by opera and music all his life. Born in 1905 in Vienna, his father had a tailoring business and his clients included many well known musical identities. As a child, Kahan would sketch his father's clients as he fitted them for their suits.

Later in life Louis Kahan worked as a tailor, then a designer and finally an illustrator. He enlisted as a war artist with the French Foreign Legion in 1939 where he recorded battle scenes and sketched portraits with a keen eye. The experience of having to work under this constant pressure helped develop Kahan's keen sense of observation, allowing him to evoke the essence of a subject through minimal representation.

His parents fled Vienna just before the war and settled in Perth where Kahan decided to join them in 1947. By 1950 he had moved to Melbourne where he quickly became a prominent figure on the art scene. Kahan's career blossomed over the next forty years: he had numerous exhibitions and commissions, was collected by the major public galleries and enjoyed a high level of commercial success.

Kahan's drawing style is highly individual and reflects his European heritage. The fluid linework, the allusive mark making, the capacity to capture the essence of his sitter distinguished Kahan's work as that of a highly sophisticated draughtsman.

Collection Holdings

The Performing Arts Collection contains set models, masks and drawings by Kahan, in addition to an extensive collection of designs from productions including Otello (c 1957), Ariadne Auf Naxos (1962), Cosi Fan Tutte (1953), I Lombardi (1957), Il Tritico (1959), Tales of Hoffman (1954), L'Elisir d' Amore (1974), Lucia di Lammermoor (1952), Rigoletto (c 1960) and The Misanthrope.

There are also 105 sketches in the Public Art Collection by Louis Kahan. The collection spans 60 years of drawing and represents masters in every field of musical performance including instrumentalists, composers, conductors and singers.

Opera / Music / Design. Date Range: 1952 - 1974

View a selection of Catalogue records from the Louis Kahan Collections

Works on Paper