After a dozen years of working in relative obscurity, as a Holocaust survivor and émigré to Canada, Gershon Iskowitz forged a new vision of painting for himself. Beginning in the mid-1960s, his work received critical attention and was shown in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally. Numerous reviews and articles culminated in two major publications at the time of his 1982 Art Gallery of Ontario retrospective. Two rare interviews in 1974 and 1975, plus the only two extant documentary films of Iskowitz, produced by art historian Peter Mellen in the early 1970s, offer an intimate insight into Iskowitz’s thoughts. The earliest of these documentaries includes footage of Iskowitz in his Spadina Avenue neighbourhood and studio.

 

 

Selected Solo Exhibitions

 

Gershon Iskowitz in Feldafing, date unknown, photographer unknown, Gershon Iskowitz Fonds, E.P. Taylor Library and Archives, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.
Gershon Iskowitz in Feldafing verso, date unknown, photographer unknown, Gershon Iskowitz Fonds, E.P. Taylor Library and Archives, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.

 

1957

September 14–28, Paintings by Gershon Iskowitz, The Hayter Gallery, Toronto.

1960

March 4–28, Gershon Iskowitz, Here and Now Gallery, Toronto. Subsequent exhibition, September 15–October 2, 1961, Iskowitz: New Paintings.

 

November 15–December 13, Pictures on View in Alumni Hall, Victoria College: Gershon Iskowitz, University of Toronto.

1961

April 9–23, Gershon Iskowitz, Young Men’s Hebrew Association, Toronto; Bloor Street & Spadina Avenue location.

1963

Gershon Iskowitz, Towne Cinema, Toronto.

 

October 11–31, Survey 1941–1963 of Oils, Drawings and Watercolours by Iskowitz, Dorothy Cameron Gallery, Toronto. 

1964

October 1–14, New Paintings by Iskowitz, Gallery Moos, Toronto. Subsequent gallery exhibitions: 1966, 1967 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979 (Toronto and Calgary), 1981, 1983, 1986, 1988 (posthumous).

1966

Gershon Iskowitz: Retrospective Exhibition, The Gallery of the Theatre of the Arts, University of Waterloo. 

 

November 30, 1966–January 3, 1967, Iskowitz: Oil and Watercolours, Cedarbrae Regional Library, Scarborough, Toronto.

1973

March 24–April 15, Gershon Iskowitz, Hart House Art Gallery, University of Toronto.

 

November 29–December 31, Gershon Iskowitz—Paintings, Rodman Hall Art Centre, St. Catharines.

1974

October 16–November 2, Paintings and Watercolours by Gershon Iskowitz, Galerie Allen, Vancouver.

1975

April 30–May 25, Gershon Iskowitz, Glenbow-Alberta Institute, Calgary.

1976

December 3, 1976–January 4, 1977, Gershon Iskowitz, Owens Art Gallery, Mount Allison University, Sackville. Travelled to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, January 10–February 15, 1977.

1982–83

January 23–March 7, Iskowitz, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Retrospective exhibition that travelled to Art Gallery of Windsor, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, London Regional Art Gallery (now Museum London), Glenbow Museum. Travelled to Canada House Gallery, London, UK (1983).

1983

December 1–31, Gershon Iskowitz: New Paintings: 1981–1983, Marisa del Re Gallery, New York.

1984

December, (exhibition title unknown), Diane Farris Gallery, Vancouver. Inaugural opening exhibition of the Gallery.

1993

June 5–July 7, (exhibition title unknown), The Drabinsky Gallery, Toronto.

1998

June 18–August 22, The Path of Colour: Gershon Iskowitz, University of Lethbridge Art Gallery.

2000

January 6–February 3, Gershon Iskowitz, Galerie René Blouin, Montreal.

2007

November 8–December 29, (an exhibition of watercolours), Galerie Samuel Lallouz, Montreal.

2008

May 10–June 7, Gershon Iskowitz — Rare Paintings from the 1960s and 1970s, Miriam Shiell Fine Art, Toronto. Other solo exhibitions, 2006 and 2015.

Gershon Iskowitz at the Art Gallery of Ontario retrospective, 1982, photograph by Doug Griffin, Toronto Star Archives.

 

Select Group Exhibitions and Two-Person Exhibitions

 

1954

31st Annual Exhibition, Canadian Society of Graphic Art. Art Gallery of Toronto. Also 1958, 1959 in London, Ontario; 1960 in Halifax, Nova Scotia; and 1963 at Toronto Central Library. 

1957

April 5–28, Anniversary Exhibition, Art Gallery of Hamilton. Also, Art Gallery of Hamilton Annual exhibitions in 1961, 1963, 1969, 1970, 1972.

1958

November 28, 1958–January 4, 1959, Annual Exhibition, Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour, Art Gallery of Toronto. Also 1965.

1964

October 4–November 6, Winnipeg Show, Winnipeg Art Gallery. Also 1966 and 1970.

1965

June 4–August 22, Sixth Biennial Exhibition of Canadian Painting, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

1967–69

September 22–October 15, 1967, The Ontario Centennial Art Exhibition, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Administered by the Art Institute of Ontario for the Province of Ontario Council for the Arts. Travelled through until May 1969 to London Regional Art Gallery (now Museum London) and 20/20 Gallery, London; Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University, Kingston; Lakehead University, Thunder Bay; Laurentian University, Sudbury; Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery; Art Gallery of Windsor; Art Gallery of Hamilton; Belleville Library & Art Gallery; Rodman Hall Art Centre, St. Catharines; Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; and Musée du Québec, Québec City.

1970

November 12–December 12, Eight Artists from Canada, Tel-Aviv Art Museum, Israel.

1972

June 11–October 1, La Biennale di Venizia 36, Venice, Italy. Two-person exhibition with Walter Redinger.

 

September 15–October 15, Toronto Painting 1953–1965, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Travelled to the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, November 10–December 10.

1975–76

The Canadian Canvas: travelling exhibition of 85 recent paintings. An exhibition jointly organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery, Edmonton Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Musée d‘art contemporain de Montréal, and the Anna Leonowens Gallery. Travelled to Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver, Saskatoon, Toronto, Halifax, Calgary, Winnipeg.

1976–77

February 13, 1976–April 17, 1977, Changing Visions, organized by the Edmonton Art Gallery (now Art Gallery of Alberta) and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Travelled to Toronto, Windsor, Montreal, Lincoln (Massachusetts), Edmonton, Winnipeg, Calgary, Burnaby, London.

1977

Canadian Tapestries: an exhibition of 23 tapestries designed by Canadian painters and sculptors. Initiated by Fay Loeb; exhibition organized by Marie Fleming for the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, with four other simultaneous venues: Confederation Centre Art Gallery and Museum, Charlottetown; Glenbow-Alberta Institute, Calgary; Vancouver Art Gallery; Winnipeg Art Gallery (artist design sketches shown only at the Art Gallery of Ontario). Artists: Maxwell Bates, Ronald Bloore, Claude Breeze, Dennis Burton, Jack Bush, Sorel Etrog, Gershon Iskowitz, Dorothy Knowles, William Kurelek, John MacGregor, Toni Onley, William Perehudoff, Christopher Pratt, Don Proch, Gordon Rayner, Otto Rogers, Jack Shadbolt, Gordon Smith, Michael Snow, Jacques de Tonnancour, Harold Town, Joyce Wieland.

1976–78

October –November 7, 1976, Exhibition of Contemporary Paintings by Seven Canadian Painters from the Canada Council Art Bank. Harbourfront Art Gallery, Toronto (later, Art Gallery at Harbourfront). Artists: Claude Breeze, Paterson Ewen, Charles Gagnon, Gershon Iskowitz, Ron Martin, John Meredith, Guido Molinari. New Zealand cities tour, 1977: Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Auckland. Australia cities tour, 1978: Newcastle, Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney, Hobart, Canberra.

1978

February 7–March 19, A Toronto Sensibility, Harbourfront Art Gallery (later, Art Gallery at Harbourfront). Travelled to Cleveland State University, The Canton Art Institute, and Kilcawley Art Center, Ohio.

1979

November 2–14, Gershon Iskowitz and Ron Martin, Harbourfront Art Gallery (later, the Art Gallery at Harbourfront), Toronto. One of four two-person exhibitions for the Compass/8 Painters series held between October 19 and December 10.

2008

June 6–September 7, The 1930s: The Making of “The New Man,” National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

2010

July 9–September 8, Oscar Cahén and Gershon Iskowitz: Artists Caught in Hitler’s Web, Horton Gallery (formerly Sunday L.E.S.), New York.

2015–18

Living Building Thinking: art & expressionism, organized and circulated by the McMaster Museum of Art. Venues: October 24–February 15, 2016, Art Gallery of Alberta; August 31–December 23, 2016, McMaster Museum of Art; March 3–May 21, 2018, Vancouver Art Gallery.

2016–18

April 23, 2016–February 19, 2018, Staging Abstraction: Paintings from the Collection, Art Gallery of Hamilton.

 

 

Selected Monographic Publications and Catalogues

Burnett, David. Iskowitz. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1982.

 

Iskowitz catalogue by David Burnett.

Freedman, Adele. Gershon Iskowitz: Painter of Light. Toronto/Vancouver: Merritt Publishing, 1982.

 

Goodman, Susan Tumarkin. Gershon Iskowitz. New paintings: 1981–1983. New York: Marisa del Re Gallery, 1983. 

 

Malcolmson, Harry. Gershon Iskowitz. Toronto: Gallery Moos, 1966.

 

Weiler, Marike. Iskowitz. Calgary: Glenbow Art Institute, 1975. 

 

 

Articles

Dobbs, Kildare. “From the Ranks of Death, Buchenwald and Auschwitz: The Witness of Gershon Iskowitz.” Saturday Night, March 1966.

 

Freedman, Adele. “Art, Gershon Iskowitz: Colours of Joy from the Heart of Darkness.” Toronto Life Magazine, October 1977
.

 

Heinrich, Theodore Allen. “The Intimate Cartography of Gershon Iskowitz’s Painting.” artscanada, May–June 1977.

 

Mays, John Bentley. “Iskowitz Works Torn, Discarded.” Globe and Mail, April 16, 1988.

 

Mellen, Peter. “Gershon Iskowitz.” artscanada, October–November 1971.
 

 

Selected Reviews

Bowen, Lisa Balfour. “An Awe-Inspiring Pedestal for a Great Painter.” Globe and Mail, June 1, 1982.

 

Dault, Gary Michael. “Diminished Under the Spotlight.” Maclean’s, February  8, 1982.


 

Eleen, Luba. “Gershon Iskowitz.” Canadian Art, November–December 1963.

 

Freedman, Adele. “Painting the Layers of Life.” Globe and Mail, September 15, 1979.

 

The Gershon Iskowitz Prize: 1986 to 2006 catalogue, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.

---. “A Life of Many Colours.” Globe and Mail, March 5, 1983.

 

Fulford, Robert. “In Cool Maturity.” Toronto Star, September 23, 1961.

 

Gordon, Tom. “Les Paysages de mémoire: Iskowitz/Iskowitz: Landscapes and Memory-escapes.” La Vie des Arts, Autumn 1982.

 

Kritzwiser, Kay. “Canada at the Venice Biennale: Two Artists do Taxpayers Proud.” Globe and Mail, June 10, 1972.

 

Littman, Sol. “Artist Lives, Works in Mean Surroundings.” Toronto Star, March 1, 1974.

 

Lord, Barry. “Color as Proof of Survival.” Toronto Daily Star, February 20, 1970.

 

Mays, John Bentley. “Iskowitz’s Anguish Bursts Into Clement Colour.” Globe and Mail, January 23, 1982.

 

Nasgaard, Roald. “Gershon Iskowitz.” artscanada, August 1973.

 

Purdie, James. “Exploring the Land with the Mind’s Eye.” Globe and Mail, February 21, 1976.

 

Perry, Art. “Gershon Iskowitz.” artscanada, December 1974.

 

Rasky, Harry. “There Are Many ‘Survivors.’” Globe and Mail, April 2, 1988.

 

Ryval, Michael. “Adele Freedman: Illuminating the Painter of Light.” Quill & Quire, April 1982.

 

Sabiston, Colin. “Gershon Iskowitz.” Globe and Mail, March 12, 1960.  

 

Wood, Kay. “Gershon Iskowitz.” artscanada, October–November 1979.

 

Wylie, Liz. “Gershon Iskowitz, Art Gallery of Ontario.” Vanguard, April 1982.

 

 

Further Reading

Balkind, Alvin. Ontario selection in The Canadian Canvas: travelling exhibition of 85 recent paintings, 54–55. Toronto: Time Canada Ltd., 1974.

 

Burnett, David and Marilyn Schiff. Contemporary Canadian Art. Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers Ltd. / Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1983.

 

Fenton, Terry, and Karen Wilkin. Modern Painting in Canada: Major Movements in Twentieth Century Canadian Art. Edmonton: Hurtig Publishing, 1978.

 

Gershon Iskowitz in front of his Tecumseth Street studio, 1981, photographer unknown.

Hale, Barrie and Dennis Reid. Toronto Painting 19531965. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1972.

 

Heath, Terrence. “A Sense of Place” in Visions, Contemporary Art in Canada. Vancouver/Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 1983.

 

Holubizky, Ihor. Living Building Thinking: art and expressionism. Hamilton: McMaster Museum of Art, 2017.

 

Lord, Barry. The History of Painting in Canada: Towards a People’s Art. Toronto: NC Press, 1979.

 

Nasgaard, Roald. Abstract Painting in Canada. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2008.

 

---. “Gershon Iskowitz” in The Gershon Iskowitz Prize 19862006, 8–13. Toronto: The Gershon Iskowitz Foundation, 2009.

 

Reid, Dennis. A Concise History of Canadian Painting. Toronto: Oxford University Press, first edition 1973; second edition 1988; third edition 2012.

 

 

Interviews

Bolduc, David. “Round Midnight, Gershon Iskowitz in conversation with David Bolduc.” Proof Only, January 15, 1974.

 

Weiler, Merike. Iskowitz. Calgary: Glenbow Art Institute, 1975.

 

 

Films

Peter Mellen & France Mellen, Standing Apart, 1973: Examining the participation of Gershon Iskowitz and Walter Redinger at the 1972 Venice Biennale. Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre: http://www.cfmdc.org/film/1233. 

 

Peter Mellen, I Paint What I Know, 1972: Mellen produced an Iskowitz film essay for the Ontario Educational Communications Authority, (now TV Ontario) in 1972. It shows Iskowitz in his Spadina Avenue neighbourhood and studio. A VHS copy can be found in the Iskowitz Fonds at the Art Gallery of Ontario.


Harry Rasky, To Mend the World, 1987: A documentary produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “An attempt to find meaning or perspective in the Holocaust through the painted works of artists who lived through those days of human agony.” 

 

 

Archives

Gershon Iskowitz Fonds, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. 

 

Walter Moos Fonds, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. 

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