Artwork by Gershon Iskowitz,  October #2

Gershon Iskowitz
October #2

oil on canvas
signed, titled and dated 1976 on the reverse
55 x 47 ins ( 139.7 x 119.4 cms )

Sold for $48,300.00
Sale date: May 29th 2014

Provenance:
The Collection of Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc.
Literature:
Dennis Reid, “A Concise History of Canadian Painting”, third edition, Toronto, 2012, page 375.
Peter Mellen, “Landmarks of Canadian Art”, Toronto, 1978, page 240.
David Burnett, “Iskowitz”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1982, page 72.
International recognition came for Iskowitz when he was selected to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale in 1972. By 1976, his paintings were comprised of magnificent vivid shapes in contrasting tones, scattered upon laboriously painted surfaces. Dennis Reid describes the artist's process: “Iskowitz worked only at night under artificial light, in oils...He would build up a picture slowly, applying a colour, then when it had dried, applying another over it, leaving only parts of the previous layers exposed, thinly veiling others, or obscuring some parts entirely...”

Iskowitz drew on his personal recollections of experiences with landscape for his work, explaining that he would take “...the experience, out in the field, of looking up in the trees or in the sky, of looking down from the height of a helicopter. So what you try to do is make a composition of all those things, make some kind of reality...That's painting.” The Canadian landscape provided him with striking patterns and vistas which emerged through tiers of scattered clouds below.

“October #2” exemplifies the artist's unique manipulation of colour harmonies, textures and patterns. The painting reveals the moment at which “the landscape, the imagination, and the memory of experiences are united...”


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Gershon Iskowitz
(1920/21 - 1988) RCA

Born in Kielce, Poland, in either 1920 or 1921, Gershon Iskowitz immigrated to Canada in 1948 after surviving three Nazi concentration camps. As a child, Iskowitz had an aptitude for art. He created advertisements for his local movie theatre in a section of his family’s living room that his father portioned off to create a small studio. In 1939, he was accepted into the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw but returned home only a few days after he began due to the Nazi invasion of Poland. Initially placed in the Kielce Ghetto, once liquidated Iskowitz was imprisoned in concentration camps throughout Poland and Germany. While he continued to make drawings during this period only two survive: Condemned (1944-46) and Buchenwald (1944-45). Upon liberation, he lived in the Feldafing Displaced Persons Camp and audited courses at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.

Upon receiving a temporary travel document from the Military Government for Germany, issued to stateless people, Iskowitz traveled to Canada via the United States in 1948 where his extended family greeted him at Union Station in Toronto. Until 1954, Iskowitz’s paintings focused on memories from his imprisonment. In the same year, he was included in the Canadian Society of Graphic Art exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) alongside Painters Eleven artist Oscar Cahén. Iskowitz submitted Barracks (1949) and Buchenwald, both priced at $300––the most expensive in the exhibition. Iskowitz earned his first solo exhibition in 1957 at Hayter Gallery in Toronto, however there is no record of what was shown in the gallery.

By the 1960s Iskowitz’s style transformed from gestural to abstract. He became interested in exploring the Canadian landscape rather than his wartime memories during this period. After exhibiting at Gallery Moos in October 1964, for the first time, Iskowitz formed a close relationship with the owner, Walter Moos. Moos managed Iskowitz’s career and finances from this point forward. Throughout the 1960s, Izkowitz participated in numerous solo shows throughout Ontario at locations such as the University of Waterloo, the Cedarbrae Branch of the Toronto Public Library, and at the University of Toronto. In the late 1960s, Iskowitz held a teaching position at the New School of Art in Toronto. After receiving a Canada Council grant in 1967 he flew to Churchill, Manitoba. Entranced by areal views he saw while in flight, Iskowitz began incorporating this perspective into his art.

Iskowitz was selected to represent Canada alongside Walter Redinger at the Venice Biennale in 1972 where he displayed four of these areal diptychs. In 1982, the AGO put on a retrospective exhibition of Iskowitz’s life work. At the time, it was uncommon for the AGO to show retrospectives of living artists, asserting his prominence as a Canadian artist. The exhibition traveled to Windsor, Montreal, London, Ont., Calgary, and then to Canada House in London, England. After the retrospective exhibition had concluded, Iskowitz set up a foundation that would provide financial support to artists through an annual monetary prize, with assistance from Moos.

Literature Source: Ihor Holubizky, Gershon Iskowitz: Life and Work. Toronto: Art Canada Institute, 2018 (https://aci-iac.ca/art-books/gershon-iskowitz)

We extend our thanks to Danie Klein, York University graduate student in art history, for writing and contributing this artist biography.