Artist Biography

Gershon Iskowitz (1921-1988) was born in Kielce, Poland and died in Toronto. Iskowitz showed talent in drawing figures at a young age, but his plans to study fine art at the Warsaw Academy were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. For the following four years, he suffered from fear and starvation within the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, where his entire family was murdered by the Nazis. Following the war, Iskowitz received his first formal training at the Munich Academy and under the private instruction of the great Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka.

In 1949, Iskowitz immigrated to Canada where he, at first, painted dark, expressionist depictions of his painful wartime experiences. Gradually, he abandoned these dark images and began to paint landscapes filled with light and brilliant colour. In 1967, Iskowitz took a helicopter ride over Churchill, Manitoba, and was immediately inspired. He began to create abstract aerial perspectives of the landscape, using more intense colour and combining the elements of texture and transparency. By painting irregular forms layer after layer, Iskowitz was able to create the sensation of looking down through the clouds.

Gershon Iskowitz held his first solo exhibition at the Here and Now Gallery (1960) in Toronto. Beginning in 1964, he exhibited his work regularly at the Gallery Moos (Toronto). Iskowitz received national recognition in 1972, when he represented Canada at the Venice Biennale. In 1982, a major retrospective of his work was held by the Art Gallery of Ontario and circulated five major Canadian art centres, as well as the Canada House Gallery in London, England. In 1985, Iskowitz created The Gershon Iskowitz Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to the support and promotion of the visual arts in Canada, which awards the prestigious Gershon Iskowitz prize to visual artists each year.