1933 - 2014
wood panel sculpture with applied relief, 1959 - 1960
43 1/4 x 22 x 1 in, 109.9 x 55.9 x 2.5 cm
Available for post auction sale.
Preview at: Heffel Montreal
Acquired directly from the Artist by architect Fred David Lebensold (1917 - 1985)
By descent to the present Private Collection, Montreal
Theodore Allen Heinrich, The Painted Constructions 1952 - 1960 of Sorel Etrog, 1968, pages 7 and 91, listed page 102 and reproduced page 105, catalogue #63, and White Scaffolding reproduced page 55, catalogue #27
In the introduction to his revelatory 1968 monograph, Theodore Heinrich acknowledges that Sorel Etrog’s bronze and marble sculptures were, at that time, the artist’s most commonly known creations. Heinrich goes on to say: “Etrog’s work in the round must appear to have evolved with extraordinary rapidity…but this was not an instant reputation in the current mode. The story of his artistic development was much longer…and had its foundation in an unusual medium, the painted construction.”
Etrog began to create his painted constructions in 1952, only two years after his family found their way to Israel following their harrowing experiences as inhabitants of wartime Romania. His childhood years, first under German occupation and then the Russians in the post-war period, were to affect his psyche throughout his adult life. Nonetheless, the symbolic elements of his earliest constructions reflect his more optimistic life in Israel: the lively harbours, his growing passion for music, and the scaffolding created to build structures for a new, young society.
While serving in the Israeli army, Etrog was also able to begin more formal art studies. Fully expecting to be a painter, he kept these relief works hidden from instructors and friends alike until 1955, when he was invited to join the Ein Hod artists colony south of Haifa. There, encouraged by his mentors and fellow artists, he continued to work on his innovative and unique painted reliefs. Having sold several privately, in 1958 Etrog mounted his first solo exhibition, in Tel Aviv. That show was critically well received in Israel and, more significantly, the young artist was offered a scholarship to study at the Brooklyn Museum, an opportunity that ultimately led to Etrog’s encounter with Sam and Ayala Zacks in Manhattan. The Zacks soon acquired his 1957 construction White Scaffolding, the first of many Etrog works they were to acquire after inviting him to visit Canada and then becoming his supportive and devoted patrons.
Mask is one of the few larger reliefs by Etrog from this period of his career. Heinrich reports a change in the maker’s aesthetic goals by 1960, explaining, “The painterly attack of surfaces remains consistent to the end, but the tempo of sculpture’s winning battle toward aggressive three-dimensional form…accelerates remarkably in the last group.” One can see how closely the increasingly rough textures on the surface of Mask resemble Etrog’s treatment of bronze at the time.
The prescient private collectors of Mask were Mr. and Mrs. Fred Lebensold. Etrog’s affectionate inscription to them in the Heinrich book that accompanies this lot confirms a close friendship that surpassed a mere commercial relationship. Lebensold’s highly accomplished and extensive career as a celebrated Montreal architect and teacher would account for an added level of communication between artist and patron. In 1950 he was a founding member of the firm now known as Arcop, which oversaw the construction of many landmark buildings, including Montreal’s Place Ville Marie, Place Bonaventure and Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, as well as the National Arts Centre in Ottawa and the Fathers of Confederation Building in Charlottetown. Although we are not witness to their private conversations, one can only assume that Lebensold’s own gifts and experience gave him an added appreciation for Etrog’s mastery of the elements of design, colour and texture in this powerful work.
This lot is accompanied by the following two books: Theodore Allen Heinrich, The Painted Constructions 1952 - 1960 of Sorel Etrog, 1968, and William J. Withrow, Sorel Etrog, 1967. The Withrow book bears the following inscription by the artist: "To my dearest friends Ruth and Fred Lebensold who I admire and their warmth I cherished most. Etrog. Toronto, April 1968."
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