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 Samuel Borenstein  (1908 - 1969)

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Lived/Active: Quebec / Canada      Known for: urban and rural landscape, portrait, figure and still life painting

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Ad Code: 3
Samuel Borenstein
from Auction House Records.
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Samuel Borenstein was a painter who was born in Kalvaria, Lithuania.  His family moved to Suwalki, Poland in 1912, and emigrated to Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1921 where, except for two years in Ottawa (1922-24), he lived for the rest of his life and died.
His mediums were oil, tempera, casein, watercolour, ink and gouache.  His subjects were landscapes, urban streets, rural villages, portraits, figures and still life.  The geographic locations are Montreal, the Laurentians, and the Gaspe Peninsula; all in Quebec.  His styles were Fauvism and Plein-Air.  His oils are recognized by their intense vibrant colour, distorted perspective and heavy impasto, often applied with a palette knife or exuberantly with a brush. Quotes: "... I had one aim, to paint life around me with lots of enthusiasm." and "Art is my religion.  Just as one prays, so does one paint - for spiritual satisfaction." - Sam Borenstein.
He is largely self-taught; not only as a painter but, he apparently had less than one year of any kind of formal schooling.  He taught himself to read and write English well enough to try his hand at poetry, which he abandoned in 1930 when he devoted his artistic talents to painting. His formal art education consisted of a few sculpture classes with Elzear Soucy (see AskART) at the Monument National (Montreal) and Saturday sketch classes at John Young Johnstone's (see AskART) studio.

His fellow artists particularly Alexander Bercovitch (see AskART), Goodridge Roberts (see AskART), Adam Sheriff Scott (see AskART) and Herman Heimlich (1904 - 1986) acted as critics and mentors. Lorne Bouchard, Alexander Young Jackson, Arthur Lismer, Henri Masson, Robert Pilot, Louis Muhlstock, Fritz Brandtner and Ernst Neumann (see all in AskART)  were also friends and associates.  The works of Edouard Manet, Maurice Utrillo, Maurice Vlaminck, Chaim Soutine and Vincent van Gogh are stated and evident influences. Ethnologist Marius Barbeau CC, FRSC (1883-1969), with whom Borenstein shared an interest in Quebec village life and folklore, was also a friend and associate.
His travels included visiting Paris, Douarnenez (Brittany) and London for several months in 1939.  Seventy canvases were painted on the trip.  His lifetime production is estimated at 1,400 works.
He was a member of the Contemporary Arts Society (see AskART glossary).  He also exhibited with the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (1935 - 1964) and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1937 - 1957).  His first solo show was at the Coffee House café in Montreal (1934). Subsequent solo shows were held at the Sidney Carter Art Gallery (1940), Galerie Walter Klinkhoff (1958, 61, 66 and 71) and Sir George Williams University, Montreal (1966). A major retrospective was mounted by the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario in 1974.  The most recent (traveling) exhibition,  "A Passion for Colour: Expressionist Art of Sam Borenstein", was organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2005.
Sam Borenstein's work is in many private and public collections.  Some of the public collections are the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), Concordia University (Montreal), the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), the Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario), the Museum of Quebec (Quebec City), the Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba), the National Portrait Gallery (Ottawa) and the Hirshhorn Collection of the Smithsonian Institution (Washington) which has 15 of his works in its collection.
There have been many newspaper and magazine articles that discuss him and his work; the first was in 1935 (The Canadian Forum, August).  There are two biographies: Sam Borenstein: His Life and Work (1978), by William Kuhns and Leo Rosshandler; and Sam Borenstein (2005), by Jacques Des Rochers, Loren R. Lerner and Justina M. Barnicke, which was published in conjunction with the 2005 Montreal Museum of Fine Arts exhibition.
There is also the 1991 Academy Award nominated movie Colours of My Father: A Portrait of Sam Borenstein, written and directed by his daughter Joyce Borenstein.

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke

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