Gershon Iskowitz was born in the village of Kielce, Poland in 1921. His family noticed his artistic talent early in life and often traded his drawings of matinee idols for free admission to movie films with a local theatre owner.
In 1939 Iskowitz’s uncle submitted a portfolio of his work to the Warsaw Academy of Fine Art. However, due to Nazi invasion nothing came of it.
Iskowitz and his brother were sent to work in a Nazi operated factory, building wheel spokes for the German Army. In 1942 Iskowitz was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Two years later he was transferred west to the Buchenwald concentration camp. During his time trapped in the Nazi camps Iskowitz would rummage through rubble seeking art supplies to continue drawing and painting. He spent six years in concentration camps.
In 1945 Iskowitz was freed and sent to recuperate at a hospital near Munich. Two years later he began formal art studies at the Munich Academy of Art, as well as private studies with the Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka.
In 1949 Iskowitz immigrated to Canada, settling in Toronto. Post-war Iskowitz’s work was heavy with the memories of his experiences. Later, his work focused on portraiture and figures. Fom the mid 1960’s onwards Iskowitz’s main inspiration was the Canadian landscape.
In 1967 he embarked on a helicopter trip to view Canada’s northern territories. Following this trip many of his paintings developed into topographical abstracts.
Iskowitz taught art classes at the Holy Blossom Temple and then at the New School in Toronto from 1967 – 1970.
In 1972 he represented Canada at the Venice Biennial. In 1974 he was elected a member of the Royal Canadian Academy.
In 1977 he was awarded a medal in honor of the Queen’s silver jubilee. He would go on to establish the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation and the Gershon Iskowitz Prize, in associated with the Canada Council for the Arts.
Iskowitz passed way in 1988.