The Artist and his tools, 1947, woodcut

Yascha Heifetz, c.1968, ink on paper


Louis Kahan grew up with music, attending his first opera at the age of eight. As a very young man he sketched the celebrated musicians who visited his father's bespoke tailoring business in Vienna. He continued the habit of drawing musicians for much of his life, most often depicting them in action and displaying a virtuosity and speed which captures the movement and intensity of performance. These portraits depict many of the greatest musicians, conductors and singers of the twentieth century.

Louis Kahan making a mask for<br>Tales of Hoffman, 1954

Louis Kahan making a mask for
Tales of Hoffman, 1954

In Paris in the 1920s Kahan made the leap from fashion designer with Paul Poiret to designing costumes for Josephine Baker, Mistinguett and Collette in her production La Vagabonde. He also designed for the French film La Châtelaine du Liban in 1926. In 1950 in Melbourne, he met theatrical producer Stephan Haag, a former member of the Viennese boys choir. So began a most fruitful collaboration and Kahan's career as a set and costume designer for opera and theatre in Australia. The comprehensive collections of his portraits of musicians, and set and costume designs can be found at the Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne.