Isaac Witkin:The South African Mozart

of Bronze - 4

Over the years, critics such as Kay Larsen have described Isaac Witkin as 'an old master'. The renowned New York Times art critic Hilton Kramer once called Isaac Witkin's 'Wallenberg Gate' (a tribute to Raoul Wallenberg) a 'masterpiece', and art historian and critic John T. Spike (former director of the Florence Biennale, who is currently writing the definitive biography on Michelangelo) recently described Witkin as one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th Century. 

Isaac Witkin passed away on April 23, 2006. Obituaries in The Times of London described him as an abstract sculptor who moved from the exhilaration of sixties London. The late critic Neil Marshall described him as one of the few genuine artists in the self interested and corrupt art industry. 'In a succession of masterworks, Witkin found that fusion of tradition and the new that makes for major art. That his rivals took pains to attack it was the highest compliment. Its emotive force a profound threat to their own lifeless creations.' The New York Times called Isaac Witkin an 'Innovator'who helped shake up the art world, and described his works as Lyrical Sculpture. 

Yet I am amazed that the South African news media never even mentioned Isaac Witkin's passing. It is disheartening that the achievements of this great South African artist did not merit even a small blurb from either the mainstream or alternative press. Yet Isaac Witkin always believed in the great potential of South Africa, and, through his character and his art, brought honor to his native land. In response to my query, Nadine Witkin, who lives in America, confirmed that nobody in the South African press, government or cultural institutions has ever contacted her, let alone Isaac's remaining family in Johannesburg, in the two and a half years since her father passed away.

It is high time that the South African Government give a fitting recognition albeit posthumously, to one of its sons, a sculptor and a educator whose humanity touched so many people, and whose work and generosity of spirit promoted racial harmony, respect for African culture and the very highest level of artistic integrity and achievement. 200 years after Amadeus' death, Mozart's place in history is now assured. I hope it will not take 200 years for South Africa to embrace its very own 'Mozart of Bronze'- Isaac Witkin. 

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More by :  Dr. Amitabh Mitra

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