Oscar Cesare

cesare1.jpgOscar Edward Cesare (1885-1948), Untitled [Man sleeping in chair, woman standing beside him], ca. 1926. Watercolor and gouache on board. Signed in ink, l.r.: “For Miss Watson from Cesare ‘26”. Graphic Arts Collection 2013- in process

Do you recognize this scene?

The unidentified illustration is by the Swedish/American artist Oscar Cesare. “Born in Linkoping, Sweden, [Cesare] studied art in Paris before he came to this country when he was 18 years old,” notes the artist’s obituary in The New York Times, July 1948. “He continued his art studies in Buffalo and then went to Chicago, where he worked for many newspapers. He then came to New York, where his first political cartoons appeared in The World. His work also appeared in The Sun and The Post. He became a regular contributor to the Sunday magazine of The New York Times in 1920 …”

But the more interesting article was in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1922 with the headline “O. Henry’s Dearest Romance Goes to Smash: His Own Daughter’s Marriage, for which the Master of the Love Story So Wanted a Happy Ending.” The story chronicles the meeting of Cesare and Margaret Porter, daughter of the novelist O. Henry (William Sydney Porter, 1862-1910), their marriage, and subsequent divorce.

“…her father was about the most retiring literary celebrity America has ever known. His readers were legion, his friends he could number on his fingers. One of these was Oscar Cesare, a young artist but recently come to America from Sweden. Cesare was destined to become almost as famous in art as O. Henry in writing. His war cartoons in New York newspapers were to fire the nation. Critics were to call him “America’s ablest cartoonist,” his work “distinguished by unusual vigor and consummate assurance.”

“European newspapers were to reproduce more of his cartoons than any other artist’s in America. But, when he met Margaret Porter, he was still a struggler drawing sketches and caricatures for this newspaper and that. O. Henry and his daughter, and Oscar Cesare, became a happy trio. O. Henry quietly watched them as he watched Broadway and Bohem’s shopgirls and millionaires and all the seething panorama of New York. As he saw the budding of romance, did he, perhaps, write that charming love-story, A Service of Love?”