Artwork by Sorel Etrog,  Sadko, circa 1971

Sorel Etrog
Sadko, circa 1971

painted bronze sculpture
signed and numbered 1/7 on the base
23.5 x 15.75 x 15.5 ins ( 59.7 x 40 x 39.4 cms ) ( including base )

Auction Estimate: $35,000.00$25,000.00 - $35,000.00

Price Realized $27,600.00
Sale date: May 25th 2017

Estate of Janice Wolf, Philadelphia
Freeman’s Art & Design Auction, March 2016, Philadelphia
Private Collection, Ontario
Nicole Besharat, “Sorel Etrog : Recollecting things to come,” Nuvo Magazine, Winter 2001
Pierre Restany, Sorel Etrog, London/Munich, 2001, pages 31 and 101
Robert J. Belton, “The Art of Sorel Etrog and His Romanian Background,” Finnish Journal for Romanian Studies, Number 1, 2015, page 18
Ihor Holubizky, Sorel Etrog: Five Decades, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 2013, pages 20-25 for illustrations of castings of “Sadko”

Romanian-born artist Sorel Etrog had his first solo exhibition in Canada in October 1959 at Gallery Moos in Toronto. The artist emigrated to Canada in 1963 and, three years later, represented Canada at the Venice Biennale. Etrog worked with the Michelucci foundry in the 1960s and 1970s during sojourns to Florence. “Sadko” is one of the striking works created during a stay in the early 1970s. Painted in luminous “Ferrari” red, Sadko's bolt-figure is present and proud, demanding the viewer's attention.

In a 2001 interview, Etrog describes how found objects are thought-provoking, seeing in them “potential transformation…not what they are, but what they can become.” An eye screw that Etrog had found on a street in Toronto inspired the “Screws and Bolts” series (1971-73). Belton writes that “by the time [Etrog] arrived at his Florence studio, he was totally absorbed by the possibilities of using nuts, bolts, and screw eyes as a new means of expressing the increasing mechanization of humanity.”

Etrog first exhibited these works at Staempfli Gallery in New York in 1972. The artist recalls how he revelled in the “challenge of their simplicity, the sensual directness of shapes,” telling George Staempfli, “they were fresh, funny, and erotic and that he would like them.” From an exhibition of these striking sculptures, came a commission for the monumental version of “Sadko” located in Bow Valley Square in downtown Calgary.

Writer Nicole Besharat observes that these works “are at once the most mechanical and sensual sculptures of his career, while the bold and good-humoured use of strikingly rich automotive paint reflects not only Etrog’s wit, but also his need to explore the spectrum of colour. When a viewer comments on the direct sexuality of ...[the large] (Bow Valley Square, Calgary), he replies with a mischievous smile and paraphrases Freud: 'A pencil is sometimes just a pencil.'”

This sculpture was acquired by Roger and Janice Wolf of Philadelphia. Roger Wolf was the president of Keystone Screw Corp., a leading manufacturer of screws, nuts and bolts.

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Sorel Etrog
(1933 - 2014) RCA

Based in Toronto for more than fifty years, Sorel Etrog was born in Iasi, Romania, in 1933. He is most well-known as a sculptor, but he also illustrated books, painted, and wrote poetry, plays, and films. His sculptures were influenced by his adolescence spent under Soviet rule and an interest in philosophical writings that questioned the nature of post-war society. He was also inspired by his grandfather who was a carpenter. Etrog, along with his parents and sister attempted to flee Romania in 1946 but were caught. His parents were then imprisoned for several weeks. Finally, Etrog and his family left Romania in 1950 and made it to the Sha’ar Aliyaa refugee camp near Haifa, Israel.

While serving mandatory time in the Israel Defense Forces’ medical corps in 1953 he began studying art at Tel Aviv’s Arts Institute for Painting and Sculpture. Inspired by Cubist collage and modernist music, he created three-dimensional paintings, mimicking constructivist reliefs. In 1958, he received a scholarship to attend school at the Brooklyn Museum of Art School.

Upon arrival in New York City, Etrog became drawn to African and Oceanic art due to their expressive shapes and began incorporating these elements into his work. While trying to find gallery representation in New York City, Samuel J. Zachs purchased one of Etrog’s paintings and invited Etrog to spend the summer of 1959 in Southampton on Lake Huron with him. While in Southampton, Etrog created his first wooden sculptures and gained gallery representation from Gallery Moos in Toronto. This encounter inspired the young artist to apply for Canadian citizenship and eventually move to Toronto in 1963.

In his mature sculptural works, Etrog explores spontaneous symbols, primal elements and the relationship between form and symbol. The artist described his art as "tension created by pulling together and pulling apart, with being stuck and being freed, a world of grabbing and holding on and losing hold...bringing shapes together but at the same time giving each an independence."

After immigrating to Canada, Etrog had his first traveling exhibition in 1965. The show began at Gallery Moos, then traveled to New York City, Los Angeles, and Montreal. In 1966, Etrog, alongside Yves Gaucher and Alex Colville, represented Canada at the Venice Biennale. He later received several important commissions, including those for Expo ’67, Montreal; SunLife Centre, Toronto; Windsor Sculpture Garden, Windsor, Ontario; Los Angeles County Museum, and Olympic Park in Seoul, Korea. Before his death in 2014, Etrog’s art was included in a retrospective at Buschlen Mowatt in Vancouver in 2003.

Literature Sources:
"A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume I: A-F", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1977

Mikulinsky, Alma, “Sorel Etrog: 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.