Artwork by Gershon Iskowitz,  Variation on Green #1

Gershon Iskowitz
Variation on Green #1

acrylic on canvas
signed, titled and dated 1975 on the reverse
47 x 40 ins ( 119.4 x 101.6 cms )

Auction Estimate: $22,000.00$18,000.00 - $22,000.00

Price Realized $28,800.00
Sale date: December 1st 2022

Private Collection, Toronto
Roald Nasgaard, “Abstract Painting in Canada”, Vancouver/Toronto, 2008, page 244
After immigrating to Canada from Poland in 1949, Gershon Iskowitz started painting landscapes. Previously it was his time at the Dachau concentration camp that had influenced his subject matter. But it would be a trip from Winnipeg to Churchill, Manitoba that would change his work. As Roald Nasgaard writes, “The experience was transforming, revealing grandeurs of space and intensities of colour he had never imagined.” That year he produced the Autumn Landscape series, which would affect his subject matter and style going forward.

Iskowitz would carry this new style into his work in the 1970s. Nasgaard continues, “Before 1972 was over, Iskowitz painted out the last vestiges of direct nature references and let the curtain of dappled paint increasingly fill the expanse of his picture plane, covering it with a pulsating dance of vibrant colour.” In “Variation on Green #1” the artist continues this dance, employing an intense glowing green ground and loosely painted areas of yellow, blue, and orange that poke through and vibrate across the surface.

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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.