Artwork by Sorel Etrog,  Sunbird II (1963)
Thumbnail of Artwork by Sorel Etrog,  Sunbird II (1963) Thumbnail of Artwork by Sorel Etrog,  Sunbird II (1963) Thumbnail of Artwork by Sorel Etrog,  Sunbird II (1963) Thumbnail of Artwork by Sorel Etrog,  Sunbird II (1963) Thumbnail of Artwork by Sorel Etrog,  Sunbird II (1963)

Preview this item at:

Cowley Abbott
326 Dundas St West
Toronto ON M5T 1G5
Ph. 1(416)479-9703

Lot #14

Sorel Etrog
Sunbird II (1963)

stamped signature and numbered 3/6
20.5 x 8 x 8.25 ins ( 52.1 x 20.3 x 21 cms ) ( overall )

Estimated: $30,000.00$25,000.00 - $30,000.00

Private Collection, Toronto
Revered as one of Canada’s great multi-faceted artists, Sorel Etrog’s prolific body of work in sculpture has left an indelible mark on the sculptural lexicon within Canadian art history. Having experienced the Holocaust in his youth in his native land, Romania, Etrog later fled with his family to Israel before moving to New York and finally settling in Toronto. Studying and producing early painted wood constructions and wood sculptures, Etrog’s relationship with Sam and Ayala Zacks propelled his career forward. As patrons and collectors of Etrog’s works, they championed the artist’s growth to produce commanding bronzes.

Expanding upon the modern abstract forms, Etrog moved to represent anthropomorphic configurations in his bronze sculptural works of the early 1960s. Produced in 1963, “Sunbird II” typifies two important developments in the artist’s maturation from the late 1950s throughout his most prolific periods. Etrog explains:

“Two important developments were taking place in my sculpture regarding the relationship between mass and weight and the base. I wanted to be free to use large masses or weights without them sinking into or flattening on to the base...The first development was the standing figure...the second development, for the more abstract works, was a ‘wheel’ in contact with the base (”Sunbird”, later “Survivors are Not Heroes”, “Sunlife” etc.). This has a kind of cradle movement, giving the impression of weightlessness, and the optical illusion is that they are balanced and stand on their own, independent of the base.”

With the ‘wheel’ form in contact with the base of the sculpture, a natural tension is developed between the solid undulating form and the delicate rest of the wheel upon the base, taking the weight of the work in its entirety. For Etrog, space and movement was paramount in his works. The eye moves around “Sunbird II”, following the bronze curves and resting in the negative space created between the elements of the sculpture. The work invites the viewer to explore the space in and around the form. To examine the organic and geometric shapes of the work, while considering the point of departure and final return when experiencing the work in the round.
Sale Date: September 24th 2020

Register to Bid

To participate in our auction in person, by phone or to leave an absentee bid, please register below.

Please Note: This auction is currently at full capacity for in-person guests. We are happy to accommodate bidders with absentee, telephone and online bidding options.
Telephone Bid Absentee Bid

Download our bidding form

Already have an account? Sign-In

Register to Bid Online

To bid online during our live auctions via Auction Mobility's software, please register below.

Register to Bid Online

Please Note: All bidding through the Auction Mobility site and apps is subject to a 20% Buyer's Premium

Get updates or additional information on this item
Watch This Item Ask a Question Request Condition Report

Preview this item at:

Cowley Abbott
326 Dundas St West
Toronto ON M5T 1G5
Ph. 1(416)479-9703

Share this item with your friends

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 invented a technique that he called painting constructions, which he practiced from 1952-1960. Etrog’s painting constructions featured two-dimensional paintings that were meant to hang on a wall, but also included three-dimensional elements, such as lines and shapes, mimicking constructivist reliefs. In 1955-56, Etrog lived in an artist’s village in Israel known as Ein Hod. In 1958, he received a scholarship to attend school at the Brooklyn Museum of Art School. Before leaving Israel, public museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in Haifa and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art began collecting his works. He appeared in group shows at the Museum of Modern Art in Haifa and received his first solo show at the Zionists of America House in Tel Aviv.

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. After returning to New York City in the fall of 1959 Etrog began his application to become a Canadian citizen and began practicing molding in plaster and bronze at the Modern Art Foundry. He had his first show at Gallery Moos in October 1959 and his second in 1961. Etrog became a Canadian citizen in 1962 but remained in the United States until 1963 to finish his education in Brooklyn.

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. Etrog’s work in Venice consisted of nineteen bronze sculptures. In 1968, he was commissioned to design the bronze statuette that is presented to the winners of the Canadian Film Awards. Etrog became more adventurous in the 1970s and began using new media. In 1974, Etrog wrote and directed a film, “Spiral”, exploring the life of humans from birth to death. In the 1980s, he opened a studio in Paris and curated two shows in Canada: “25 Canadian Sculptures in Guild Park” (1982) and “Sam Sack’s Paintings” at the Art Gallery of York University (1984). He 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.

In reviewing his sculpture, W. J. Withrow, Director, the Art Gallery of Toronto, noted, “. . . In all his work to this date there had been a tendency to combine free, curving lines with geometric shapes and this uneasy combination continued to challenge him in his sculpture . . .” Using for example Etrog’s “Blossom”, a 42” high work in bronze, Withrow continued, “. . . Blossom . . . is one of his first sculptures to meld successfully the organic and the mathematical. It is also a work which illustrates very well Etrog’s preoccupation with evolution: birth, youth, maturity and constant change . . . In spite of new developments all his 1964 work retains certain familiar continuing qualities: a wonderful sense of mass related to but unburdened by the demands of gravity and that unique and peculiar proclivity to corkscrew the masses in space.”

Sorel Etrog’s work develops a complex visual vocabulary that explores time and the permanent bond between the plastic arts, with architecture on one hand, and society on the other. 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." Etrog continued to develop his new concepts through his personal sculpture and attracted considerable attention in art circles. His work varies in height from half a foot to over six feet.

Before his death in 2014, Etrog’s art was included in a retrospective at Buschlen Mowatt in Vancouver in 2003. The same gallery hosted other exhibitions featuring his work in 2006 and 2008. In 2013, the Art Gallery of Ontario hosted a retrospective for Etrog. It was decided in 2016 that many of Etrog’s paintings and sculptures would be permanently housed in the Hennick Family Wellness Gallery at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto.

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.