Artwork by Gershon Iskowitz,  Sketch for Tapestry

Gershon Iskowitz
Sketch for Tapestry

oil on canvas board
signed and dated 1976 lower right
20 x 16 ins ( 50.8 x 40.6 cms )

Auction Estimate: $15,000.00$10,000.00 - $15,000.00

Price Realized $10,800.00
Sale date: June 9th 2021

Miriam Shiell Fine Art, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto
Marie Fleming, Canadian Tapestries, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1977, pages 5 and 7, listed page 8
Adele Freedman, Gershon Iskowitz: Painter of Light, Toronto/ Vancouver, 1982, page 132
Gershon Iskowitz remains one of the most unique post-war artists in Canadian art. With works inspired by the landscape, but executed in a distinctly complex abstract style, the artist is an enduring tour de force and was a natural selection for the 1977 Tapestry Project. Spearheaded by Fay Loeb of Toronto, the project sought a Canada- wide representation of painters and sculptors in the form of tapestry editions. Positioned to be affordable, accessible and distinctly modern in aesthetic, the works were meant to represent leading Canadian artists of the time.

Over the course of two years, twenty-three artists from across Canada were invited to create small scale ‘cartoons’ of their proposed tapestry work, which were then transformed by skilled artisans in a workshop. It is important to note that the tapestries were not just an existing painting transposed, but rather intentionally designed works mindful of the fibre materials used for the final tapestry. Iskowitz’s “Sketch for Tapestry” was designed to translate seamlessly into the textile medium, exemplified by the large and clearly defined signature and date at the lower right and generously spaced colour forms. The artist’s sketch is duplicated with exacting precision in the final tapestry work - every colour form expertly scaled and matched.

The work is also an excellent example of the artist’s evolution in 1976 to a new set of Variations. Throughout his Seasons series of 1975, the artist had fused some of the best elements of this practice with bold colour, dramatic use of space and produced tension within the abstracted works. Having met his limit with this exploration, the artist turned to an even deeper exploration of form by reducing the number of dots on the canvas “from tumultuous torrents to minor flurries—a veritable nature in close-up. Then he turned to an investigation of light using deep bold reds and blues as his matrixes and devoted a series to each colour.” This intimate work is a testament to this period of the artist’s practice in the mid-1970s and is a strong example of Iskowitz’s distinctive style.

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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.