Artwork by Gershon Iskowitz,  Violet - A

Gershon Iskowitz
Violet - A

oil on canvas
signed, titled and dated 1979 on the reverse
38 x 33 ins ( 96.5 x 83.8 cms )

Auction Estimate: $30,000.00$20,000.00 - $30,000.00

Price Realized $21,850.00
Sale date: November 25th 2015

Gallery Moos, Calgary
Private Collection, Saskatoon
“Gershon Iskowitz”, Gallery Moos, April 5th - May 8th, 1979
Peter Mellen, “Landmarks of Canadian Art”, Toronto, 1978, page 240
Dennis Reid, “A Concise History of Canadian Painting” (third edition), Toronto, 2012, page 375
Adele Freedman, “Gershon Iskowitz: Painter of Light”, Toronto/ Vancouver, 1982, pages 132 and 148
Iskowitz drew on his personal recollections of experiences with landscape for his work, describing how 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 northern Canadian landscape provided him with striking patterns which emerged through tiers of scattered clouds below.

After his flight to Yellowknife in 1977, Iskowitz “felt confident enough to begin using deep purple and green matrixes.” By 1979, his palette evolved further and his shapes became elongated. “Violet - A” is composed of brilliant forms in contrasting blue, violet, green and yellow tones, which develop upon an energetically painted surface. 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.”

In 1982, Freedman writes how over the past decade of his artistic production, Iskowitz's accents “have become more marked and their tone more confident and direct. They are about his excitement of discovering a new blue...a fresh nuance or shape.” His dealer, Walter Moos, expressed that, during the 1970s, Iskowitz was “propelled into a fresh gust of activity”, demonstrating that his much-celebrated inclusion in the 1972 Venice Biennale “had by no means quenched his thirst for self-discovery.”

“Violet - A” underscores the artist's remarkable handling of colour harmonies, textures and patterns. This painting was selected as the cover image of the exhibition invitation for the artist's spring 1979 show at Gallery Moos, Calgary. A copy of the invitation accompanies this lot.

Share this item with your friends

Gershon Iskowitz
(1919 - 1988) RCA

Born in Kielce, Poland, in 1919, Gershon Iskowitz immigrated to Canada in 1948 after surviving two Nazi concentration camps (Auschwitz labour camp in Poland and later Buchenwald, near Weimar, Germany). 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.

Following the Nazi occupation of Poland, Iskowitz was placed in the Kielce Ghetto. Once liquidated, Iskowitz was imprisoned in concentration camps in 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.

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. After receiving a Canada Council grant in 1967 he flew to Churchill, Manitoba. Entranced by aerial 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. 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 (

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