Parry Sound I 1955

Parry Sound I

Gershon Iskowitz, Parry Sound I, 1955

Watercolour on paper, 22.9 x 30.5 cm

Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

Parry Sound I is a prime example of Iskowitz working away from observed subject matter toward “pure” painting. The upper band—if indeed it is “sky”—could be a setting-sun nocturne, but the foreground is composed of fluid forms in bright, possibly sun-lit, colours. The use of primary greens, reds, yellows, and blues would stay with him throughout his career, and the foliage strands reappear as abstract forms in the early 1980s, such as in Orange Yellow C, 1982.


Art Canada Institute, Gershon Iskowitz, Parry Sound, No. II, 1955
Gershon Iskowitz, Parry Sound II, 1955, watercolour on wove paper, 22.8 x 30.4 cm, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.

Gershon Iskowitz made many trips to the Parry Sound area of Georgian Bay, Ontario, from 1954 to the mid-1960s, and the paintings—both watercolours (possibly done in situ) and oils—that resulted from them mark a critical stage in his artistic development. These breaks from the city offered him inspiration for explorations of space, colour, and light through nature and the landscape. Iskowitz’s Parry Sound oil paintings are literal—trees are trees—but watercolour offered him a route to his own inventions.

Iskowitz’s 1960 solo exhibition at the Here and Now Gallery included a number of Parry Sound works.  In her Hamilton Spectator review of the exhibition, Elizabeth Kilbourn wrote:


[Iskowitz] has painted the Canadian landscape in a way it has seldom been seen before. Out of waves of colour, which . . . convey physical depth and mental agony, the forms of trees and rocks and hills erupt with dramatic inevitability. The earth and sky are painted with an intense, personal and disturbing vision.


Parry Sound I was removed from a spiral sketchbook, as were many other variations, and was included in Iskowitz’s 1982 retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Watercolours remaining in sketchbooks (held at the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation) are similarly signed and dated.

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