Artwork by Sorel Etrog,  Manon

Sorel Etrog

stamped signature and edition (4/7) on the base
49.5 x 12.5 x 8.75 ins ( 125.7 x 31.8 x 22.2 cms ) ( overall )

Auction Estimate: $60,000.00$40,000.00 - $60,000.00

Price Realized $102,000.00
Sale date: June 9th 2021

Acquired directly from the artist (1995)
Private Collection, Toronto
Pierre Restany, Sorel Etrog, London/Munich, 2001, pages 32-33
Ihor Holubizky, Sorel Etrog: Five Decades, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 2013, page 13
Following the artist’s Screw and Bolt series, the Hinges period (1973- 1979) emphasized the geometric bare essentials of the figure in a continued pursuit of a simplified sculptural language. Remarking on the inspiration for this new phase in his work, Sorel Etrog explains: “On a vacation in Israel, visiting my family, I picked up a child’s drawing pad and began to draw doodles of flat and organic surfaces connected by hinges. At first, new ideas feel like illegitimate children of the brain. The hinge started to obsess me and so I adopted it.” The hinge, writes Ihor Holubizky, functions both as “a tangible link to the European avant-garde between the wars and a hinge to the past, the Mediterranean world of antiquity and non-Western culture; the hinges, metaphorically, bring the past into direct contact with the present.”

Etrog worked simultaneously in two styles within the Hinges series, which was rare for the artist; these two categories were labelled Introverts and Extroverts. While Introvert sculptures are geometric abstractions that incorporate hinges, “Manon” is categorized as an Extrovert, which is described as “employing hinges as an articulation device”, and resemble active walking figures “concerned with open space and implied movement,” as explained by Etrog. “Manon” stands at over four feet tall, occupying a human-like presence in a space and demanding the viewer’s attention. Its figurative shape and physical presence are well-suited to this category of Extrovert. The most conspicuous hinge in the sculpture is present in the column in the lower portion of the sculpture, alluding to a waistline, mirroring the concept of the human body bending forward at the waist. Unlike many of Etrog’s Extroverts which appear to be in motion, “Manon” is an elegant and stoic sculpture, merely suggesting the capability of movement.

Describing Etrog’s understated yet compelling sculpture, Theodore Allen Heinrich wrote: “[Etrog] has a strongly musical sense for rhythms, balances and silence. He has a profound capacity for experiencing and conveying emotion. His work is imbued with poetic fantasy... Above all he has something to say. The adventurous art of Sorel Etrog is centred on increasingly simple but constantly more meaningful form in conjunction with intricately subtle balances of movement, weight and colour.”

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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.