Artwork by Gershon Iskowitz,  Blue Violet - A

Gershon Iskowitz
Blue Violet - A

acrylic on canvas
signed, titled, dated 1983 with the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation stamp (Inventory #B48) on the reverse
24 x 39 ins ( 61 x 99.1 cms )

Auction Estimate: $12,000.00$8,000.00 - $12,000.00

Price Realized $13,200.00
Sale date: June 9th 2021

Collection of the artist
Gershon Iskowitz Foundation
In 1983, Gershon Iskowitz developed bold ovoid elements on a “monochromatic” ground that characterize “Blue Violet – A”, and which he continued through to his last paintings in 1987. The ovoid forms first appeared in his 1967 seasons-titled paintings: one example is “Autumn Landscape #2”, in the collection of the Art Gallery at York University, Toronto. Landscape in this titling is not literal but refers to his observations and impressions of nature in a non-objective way: the painting becomes “nature.” The turning point was Iskowitz’s 1969-70 “Lowlands” paintings, the first done after his oft-cited and “near-mythic” trip to northern Manitoba in 1967. Iskowitz charted an aircraft (most likely a bush plane) to view the estuary of the Churchill River at Hudson’s Bay. In the “Lowlands” paintings he first devised bold contour ovoids in single, two and three cluster combinations of colours, and then appearing in the first of the celebrated Uplands paintings, a 1969- 70 triptych in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada.

The ground for “Blue Violet – A”, as with all his mature period painting, is layered and subtly modulated. Although the ovoids appear to be figure on ground, Iskowitz painted the ground to the ovoid and sometimes adjusting the contour edges. This compositional approach continued in his titled “Northern Lights” and “Sunlight” paintings in 1984, and for the six (known) ambitious polyptych “Northern Lights Septets” in 1984-85. Paintings of this period are in the collections of the Musée des beaux- arts de Montréal, Musée d’art de Joliette, the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Guelph and The Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa. Iskowitz’s only two prints are related compositions, “Yellow Variations” (1983) and “Midnight #2” (1987).

We extend our thanks to Dr. Ihor Holubizky for researching this artwork and for contributing the above essay.

Proceeds from this sale will benefit the charitable not-for-profit Gershon Iskowitz Foundation, which awards an annual prize to a professional Canadian visual artist for their ongoing research and artistic production.

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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.