Award-winning artist, teacher, and mentor Ghitta Caiserman-Roth was born in Montreal in 1923. Her father, H.M. Caiserman, was a founder and first General Secretary of the Canadian Jewish Congress and also helped found the Montreal Jewish Public Library. Her mother Sarah was a designer. Ghitta’s career as an artist began at a young age and from 1931 to 1933, she took instruction from influential modern artist Alexander Bercovitch. By age 11 she had already made a mark on the Montreal art scene, capturing an honourable mention at the Art Association of Montreal Spring Exhibition.
Wanting to follow in her mother’s footsteps, she attended the Parson’s School of Design in New York City from 1939 to 1943. By 1943 she had decided to become an artist and attended the American Artists’ School, the Art Students’ League where she studied with Harry Sternberg, and the New Art School where she studied with Moses and Raphael Soyer. Her New York experience is said to have influenced her art by providing it with a strong social orientation and an expressionist style.
In the early 1950s she received an O’Keefe Award which allowed her to travel to France and Italy. A year later her talents also won her a scholarship to the Instituto Allendo in Mexico.
Her tutelage under so many important painters and artists of the time may also have inspired Ghitta to share her techniques and ideas with others. Her commitment to the education of young artists came early in her career and remained a part of her life’s work for over five decades. In 1947, Ghitta and her first husband Alfred Pinsky established the Montreal Artists School where she was principal until 1952. Two years later, while residing on Kensington Avenue, Ghitta gave birth to her only daughter, Käthe.
Ghitta quickly became as well-known for her guidance, knowledge and mentorship to other Canadian artists as for her art work. Throughout her life, Ghitta continued to teach in universities and art centres across Canada, including Sir George Williams College, Concordia University, The Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts, The Ontario College of Art, and many more. Beyond communicating through her own art, Ghitta spent much of her life drawing out and encouraging the artistic best in others.
From the 50s to the 60s, Ghitta’s art grew through her exploration of new themes and new mediums from domestic and studio interiors, self-portraits and portraits of models to the harlequin and the exploration of spaces which reemerge in her later landscapes.
She also studied with Albert Dumouchel at the École des Beaux Arts in Montreal from 1961 to 1962, under a Canada Council Senior Fellowship.
1962 was also the year that she would meet and marry her second husband, architect Max Roth. Ghitta and Max would live at 5 Bellevue Avenue in Westmount from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies.
For over six decades, Ghitta relied on a wide variety of mediums to express her artistic spirit. From painting to drawing to etching and lithography, her works convey what art critics and admirers considered personal issues, concerns, and feelings that somehow evoked a larger sense of social consciousness.
Ghitta once said: “My art comes from many sources. It comes from what I see, what I remember, from my dreams, from my memories and my art comes from my imagination and a compulsion to experiment. I often put together ideas, one over the other. Accidental images influence me, my etching and my painting influence each other. Everything influences my work, even my reading and music and nature; nature is a constant focus for me. Politics and psychoanalysis as well as my family move in and out of my art. The symbolization process is always with me. It is around us everywhere, waiting to be discovered.”
The sale of her painting Backyard to A.Y. Jackson, was the one she considered her first major sale. It would be one of many more. Her works can be found in over 100 public collections including the National Gallery of Canada, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and in dozens of corporate collections.
Ghitta also published with Friedhelm Lach “Ghitta Caiserman-Roth: drawings and paintings” in 1988, which provided biographical information, poetry and fine examples of her artistic achievements. This publication was followed, in 1993, by “Insights, Discoveries, Surprises: Drawing from the Model", co-written by Caiserman-Roth and psychoanalyst Rhoda Cohen.
For her work and dedication to her art, she was recognized with many awards and accolades including the Canadian Centennial Medal.
Ghitta once stated that her personal motto was: “With shape and a line and some colour I can go far.” By 2000, the year she received the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts for Painting, nobody could doubt that motto’s truth.