Artwork by Sorel Etrog,  Embrace

Sorel Etrog

11.25 x 2.5 x 2.25 ins ( 28.6 x 6.4 x 5.7 cms ) ( overall, including base )

Auction Estimate: $12,000.00$9,000.00 - $12,000.00

Price Realized $10,800.00
Sale date: December 1st 2022

The Artist
Gift of the artist to the present Private Collection,Toronto
This intricate bronze sculpture was completed by Sorel Etrog in 1970, which was a period of transition for the artist. After being injured in a serious car accident in 1967, the long recovery led to a period of depression in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Etrog had been immersed in his Links series for several years, but he began a new, short-lived series named the Bulls. During this time he made hundreds of black and white drawings depicting bulls in moments of terror and physical pain, inspired by Picasso’s “Guernica” of 1937. In 1968, as his injuries were still healing, Etrog returned to Italy and opened another studio in Florence where he found new positive energy, as is reflected in his transition from the dark Bulls works to his Screws and Bolts period of the early 1970s. During this time his sculptures were strongly influenced by Surrealist artists such as Jean Arp, Salvador Dalí and Man Ray. Etrog began to experiment with a new interpretation of the theme of attachment and connecting devices, shifting from the link to the screw.

This untitled bronze work showcases the transition from the link to the screw: two vertical, curvilinear forms are intertwined, typical of the Links series. Yet there are also distinct twisting rings around the centre, which suggest the threading of a screw. Furthermore, the rounded edges along the sides of the sculpture recall the organic abstract forms of Surrealist artists such as Arp. The intimate bronze presents a harmonious combination of Etrog’s inspirations at a very particular transitional phase in his career.

This work is a maquette for a 9 foot sculpture in the collection of the Lynden Sculpture Garden in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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 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.