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 Eli Bornstein  (1922 - )

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Lived/Active: Saskatchewan/Wisconsin / Canada      Known for: painting, constructivist sculpture, teaching

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Ad Code: 3
Eli Bornstein
from Auction House Records.
Structurist Relief No. 1-1
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Eli Bornstein BSc., MSc., D.Litt  (1922)
Eli Bornstein is a painter, sculptor, art theorist and educator.  He is best known for his Constructivist* three-dimensional works called "structurist reliefs" and for founding and editing the journal The Structurist. (1)
He was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; however, his home since 1950 has been Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.  He became a Canadian citizen in 1972. (2)
Bornstein’s primary mediums are wall mounted bas relief* and free standing abstract assemblages* constructed of wood, aluminum, Plexiglas* and painted with enamel or acrylic paint.  There are also works in watercolor, Conte Crayon*, serigraph*, lithograph*, etching* and mixed mediums.  His assemblages are formalist abstractions and as such the subjects are shape, color and texture; their subject has also been described by Bornstein as form, color, space and light inspired by the Saskatchewan countryside and architecture. (3)
A note attached to the Mendel Art Gallery accession record for the Bornstein work Double Plane Structurist Relief No. 8 (1969 – 1973) reads: “According to the artist, the work is a metaphorical abstraction from nature and is part of a Summer Growth series.” (4)
Quote: “Structurist vision finds its primary source in nature – the wild, unspoiled wonder of nature and its processes.” – Eli Bornstein (April 1969) (5)
Quote: “Although this may not be immediately apparent, this work is a continuation of the landscape tradition as transformed by the earliest Impressionists like [Eugene] Boudin.” – Eli Bornstein (6)
Bornstein’s primary styles are Geometric Abstraction* and Constructivism*. AskART have some excellent illustrations of this work. (7)
His formal education includes the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (1941 – 1945) where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree; and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he graduated with a Master of Science degree (1954). He also studied at the Art Institute of Chicago; the University of Chicago (1943); the Académie Montmartre, Paris (1951) under Fernand Leger (8); and at the Académie Julian*, Paris (1952). (9)
His influences include the works of Charles Biederman, whom he visited in 1954; and Jean Gorin, Joost Baljeu, Anthony Hill, Kenneth Martin, Mary Adela Martin, Victor Pasmore and Georges Vantongerloo, all of whom he met while visiting Europe in 1957.  For more examples of this branch of Constructivism*, the reader is encouraged to examine the illustrations of the works by all these artists on their individual AskART pages. (10)
Bornstein’s teaching career began at the Milwaukee School of Arts (1943 – 1947) and the University of Wisconsin, Madison (1949).  He moved to the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon in 1950 and became head of its Department of Art in 1963. He worked in that position until 1971, after which time he continued to serve as an art professor until retirement in 1990. Ronald Kostyniuk (see AskART), now Professor at the University of Calgary, Alberta, was a student. (11)
Bornstein has had retrospective exhibitions at the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatchewan in 1964, 1982 and 1996.  His works were included in the “6th Winnipeg Show”, Winnipeg Art Gallery (1960); “Sixth Biennial Exhibition of Canadian Painting”, National Gallery of Canada (1965); “2nd International  Biennial Exhibition”, Medellin, Colombia (1970); “5 From Saskatchewan”, Canada House, London, England and the Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris (1983); and in “Picasso on the Prairies”, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan 1993. (12)
His works have also been included in other exhibitions at the Mackenzie Art Gallery (1957, 1967 and 1971); Mendel Art Gallery (1965, 1967, 1980, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1998); Kazimir Gallery, Chicago (1965 and 1967); Edmonton Art Gallery, [now Art Gallery of Alberta](1983); Maltwood Art Museum and Gallery, Victoria, B.C. (1988); and the Forum Gallery, New York (group 2005, solo 2007).
According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network*, there are Eli Bornstein works in the permanent collections of the Mendel Art Gallery (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), Nickle Arts Museum (Calgary), Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba), the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), and there are five works in the Saskatchewan Arts Board (Regina) for loan to museums. There is also one work in the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota and one at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal, Québec. (13)
There are Bornstein public space reliefs and sculptures at the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation, Saskatoon; Winnipeg International Airport, Manitoba; Wascana Centre Authority, Regina, Saskatchewan; Canadian Light Source Building, University of Saskatchewan; Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany; and at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg. (14)
His awards and honors include the Allied Arts Medal from the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada (1968); the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal (1977); and a Doctor of Letters degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1990. (15)
(1) Source: Government of Saskatchewan –; and The Canadian Encyclopedia (online) –
Note: “The Structurist” was founded in 1960, its final issue was in 2010. Source: The Structurist –

(2) Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia (online) –
(3) Sources: AskART Images; and museum illustrations and descriptions of mediums in the Canadian Heritage Information Network* data base.
(4) Source: Canadian Heritage Information Network –  MAG Accession Number 1984.16 –
(5) Source: Essay Notes on Structurist Vision by Eli Bornstein in “Canadian Art Today" (1970), by William Townsend (see AskART book references).
(6) Source: Page 292 Abstract Painting in Canada (2008) by Roald Nasgaard (see AskART book references).
(7) “The term Constructivism has frequently been used since the 1920s, in a looser fashion, to evoke a continuing tradition of geometric abstract art that is ‘constructed’ from autonomous visual elements such as lines and planes, and characterized by such qualities as precision, impersonality, a clear formal order, simplicity and economy of organization and the use of contemporary materials such as plastic and metal.” Source: Museum of Modern Art, New York –
(8) All artist teachers and artist associates mentioned in this biography have their own pages in AskART.
(9) Source: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references).

(10) Sources: Ibid; Page 293 Abstract Painting in Canada (2008) by Roald Nasgaard; Page 153 "Contemporary Canadian Art" (1983), by David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff (see AskART book references); Government of Saskatchewan –; and The Canadian Encyclopedia (online) –

(11) Sources: Page 153 Contemporary Canadian Art (1983), by David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff (see AskART book references); and Government of Saskatchewan –
(12) Exhibition sources: Canadian Heritage Information Network*; A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references); and the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Gallery of Ontario, both have extensive archived catalogue summaries online.
(13) Additional sources: Walker Art Center, Minneapolis –; Nickle Arts Museum –; and Canadian Centre for Architecture –
Note: Several sources include the Milwaukee Art Center [now Milwaukee Art Museum] as a collector of Bornstein works, our list only includes museums that we could independently verify on the museum’s website or through the Canadian Heritage Information Network* data base.
(14) Source: Art Saskatchewan –
(15) Sources: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references); and Government of Saskatchewan –
Note: Bornstein is usually referred to as Professor Emeritus; the policy at the University of Saskatchewan for awarding this honor is as follows: “The title Professor Emeritus/Emerita is an honour bestowed by the President upon retiring colleagues. It is given in recognition of retirees’ service to the University of Saskatchewan as teachers and scholars. Award of the title will be automatically conferred on all retiring faculty.”  Source: University of Saskatchewan –

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary
Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.


** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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