Gershon Iskowitz was born in Kielce, Poland, in 1921. Although he demonstrated a keen interest in the visual arts at a very young age, he received no formal training during his youth. With the outbreak of World War II, his dreams of studying fine art at the Warsaw Academy could not be realized. After surviving nearly six years of internment in concentration camps during World War II, he received his first formal art training at the Munich Academy in 1947.
In 1949, Iskowitz immigrated to Toronto. Over the next decade, his artistic vision would evolve from bleak portrayals of horrific wartime memories into a new, optimistic expression of his experience in this country. Thus, the artist’s depiction of the painful events of his past was gradually transformed, through landscape, into a dynamic representation of the present. Iskowitz’s unique, personal vision of the Canadian landscape found its expression in an exuberant and joyful use of colour and light. From the mid-1960s onward, the northern Canadian landscape would become the painter’s primary inspiration, while the dynamism and immediacy of colour would become his principal mode of self-expression.
Beginning in 1964, Iskowitz exhibited his work regularly at Toronto’s Gallery Moos. He received national recognition in 1972, when he was one of two artists chosen to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale’s thirty-sixth edition. An Iskowitz retrospective, held in 1984 at the Art Gallery of Ontario, travelled throughout Canada, as well as to Canada House in London, England. The Gershon Iskowitz Foundation, together with the AGO, gives out a prize in his name each year.