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

The Collection of Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc.
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

Gershon Iskowitz was born in Kielce, Poland, in 1920/21 (art historian Ihor Holubizky notes that there are no legal documents which confirm a birth date of 1921 for the artist). Although he demonstrated a keen interest in the visual arts at a very young age, he received no formal training during his youth. With the outbreak of World War II, his dreams of studying fine art at the Warsaw Academy were never realized. After surviving nearly six years of internment, during which he continued to sketch secretly, his youthful vision bears witness to the brutality of daily life in the concentration camps and the horrors of the Holocaust.

In 1949, Iskowitz immigrated to Toronto. Over the next decade, his artistic vision would evolve from the depiction of bleak images of horrific wartime memories into a new and optimistic expression of his experience in the country. Gradually, the artist’s description of the painful events of his past was transformed into a dynamic representation of the present through landscape. Iskowitz’s unique and personal perception of the Canadian landscape found its expression in an exuberant and joyful use of colour and light.

Beginning in 1964, Iskowitz exhibited his work regularly at Toronto’s Gallery Moos. From 1967-70, he taught at the New School in Toronto, during which time his Spadina Avenue studio was a popular place to visit amongst young artists. The artist received national recognition in 1972, when he was one of two artists chosen to represent Canada at the XXXVI Venice Biennial. An Iskowitz retrospective was held in 1982 at the Art Gallery of Ontario, which travelled throughout Canada, as well as to Canada House in London, England. Each year, the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation, established by the artist in 1985 in association with the Canada Council, awards the Gershon Iskowitz Prize – one of the most important visual arts awards in Canada.