Artwork by Sorel Etrog,  The Queen II

Sorel Etrog
The Queen II

stamped signature and numbered “1/7” on the base
62 x 18 x 8.75 in ( 157.5 x 45.7 x 22.2 cm ) ( overall )

Auction Estimate: $50,000.00$30,000.00 - $50,000.00

Price Realized $52,800.00
Sale date: May 30th 2024

Private Collection, Toronto
Alma Mikulinsky, "Sorel Etrog: Life & Work" [online publication], Art Canada Institute, Toronto, 2019, page 67
In the early 1960s, while living in New York City and studying at the Brooklyn Museum Art School, Sorel Etrog was fascinated by the museum’s collection of African and Oceanic art. His bronze sculptures of this time were inspired by natural forms and vegetation, aligned with a fascination in the wider art world with biomorphism. While trying to find gallery representation in New York City, Etrog befriended the prominent Jewish-Canadian art collector, Samuel J. Zachs. Etrog was also becoming acquainted with the sculpture of Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Constantin Brancusi–all artists whose works were collected by Sam Zachs. The combination of these new sources of inspiration would influence Etrog’s work in the years to come.

Shortly before moving to Toronto in 1963, Etrog embarked on a trip to Italy, France, Greece, the Netherlands and Israel. In Florence, he encountered Etruscan art for the first time, which would soon inspire the artist’s “Links” period, consisting of sculptures and paintings featuring a motif of two elements connected by a loop. This theme would dominate his art for eight years, during which he used it to articulate the existential contrasts of human life.

Deeply influenced by ancient carving and sculpture techniques, Etrog notes: “I was lucky to have discovered the Etruscan links which showed me how to join the multiple shapes organically. The Link created a tension at the point where they joined, where they pulled together or pulled apart.” As he further explained, “I saw in [the link] a strong device for connecting and creating tension, mirroring the tension in our very existence with and within the outside world.” "The Queen II" shows the early development of this series, as it dates to 1962-63 when Etrog left New York, travelled, and then settled in Toronto. The bronze sculpture is composed of various abstract forms that are simultaneously geometric and organic, linked together at various angles. The three-dimensional artwork can be viewed from all angles, providing multiple perspectives of the twisting and turning forms. The intimate bronze presents a harmonious combination of Etrog’s wide range of influences at a very particular transitional phase in his career.

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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.