150 Artists

9/150: Sorel Etrog, Existentialist

Homage to Cimabue (study), 1968 bronze, 15″

Sorel Etrog (1933-2014)  is best known for his abstracted figurative sculpture, some of it currently on exhibition at Winchester Galleries in Victoria, B.C. (above). Etrog was a towering figure in Canadian modern art, as well as an accomplished writer.

Sun Life, northeast corner King St. and University Ave., Toronto

Transplanted from Romania, he adopted Toronto and left a legacy of public sculptures across Canada. He also created a cultural icon with his Genie statuette for the Canadian Film Award (1968-see note at end of post). His huge Sun Life is a Toronto meeting place and other of his works are landmarks. You’ve likely seen them if you’ve walked downtown.


Mount Sinai Hospital filled a new 2,500-sq.ft Wellness Center with his figures (below).

A poet and writer, Etrog was deeply influenced by Surrealism, and known for his existentialism, a hallmark of his approach to all his art.

War Remembrance, 1960-61. Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden, Los Angeles

Across his work, writes art history expert Dr. Robert Belton, Etrog’s imagery “conjures a vision of the artist’s continuing preoccupation with existentialist metaphors of birth/death, joy/sorrow, and muteness.”  Much more information on Etrog is covered in this Art Gallery of Ontario video, produced for a retrospective on his life’s work. .


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Notes for the exhibition at Winchester Galleries, here.

The Art Gallery of Ontario page on Etrog, here.

The Canadian Encyclopedia entry on Sorel Etrog, here.

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**NOTE: The Genies & Geminis have since been merged to create the Canadian Screen Awards.  This is the new statuette, replacing Ertog’s original Genie. Thanks to blogging colleague Resa at Graffiti Lux and Murals for helping me to clarify this.




This is #9 in the series 150 Artists.

9 replies »

  1. Great! #9, and I’m excited every time you feature another artist in you 150 series. I’m starting to guess who might end up on the list! Think I’ll make a list of my faves. I have 30 I can think of off the top of my head.
    As for Etrog, I didn’t know his name, but I have seen his work around Toronto. I’m getting a Giacometti meets Henry Moore vibe.
    Interesting that he designed the Genie statuette! This is now history, as the Genies & Geminis have been replaced by the CSA s with a entirely new statuette. This makes me think that anyone who had ever won a Genie now owns something even more precious.
    Fab work, Art Junkie!


    • I’m so glad you’re involved. Love reading your comments. And yes, you probably are starting to guess. Want to suggest a few to me? Love to have your input. The Henry Moore vibe is palpable, isn’t it. I spent a lot of time in Chicago and when I returned to Toronto, Etrog’s work was a comforting landing. (That was years ago). And BTW, when I have a sec, I will edit the copy about the Genie, because that’s a missing piece of info, that they’ve been replaced. Thanks a lot!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Here’s the new link https://www.academy.ca/ The Genies & Geminis have joined with the on line streaming world to create 1 home. It’s the CSA – Canadian Screen Awards. You can see the statuette on the site, and can see a lot w/o being a member.
        I sort of don’t want to influence your choices…. but Alex Coleville must be on your list. The horse and train painting, which I saw in a show once, mesmerized me and I can’t get it out of my mind.


  2. His work is indeed a feature of Toronto’s visual & spatial vocabulary. One of my favourite pieces is the sculpture outside Hart House at the U of T — not just for its own sake, but also because small birds tuck small nests within its nooks and live there, sheltered. (I like to think that Etrog would be delighted.)

    Liked by 1 person

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