Ostrowsky was born at Malin, near Kiev, Russia on May 5, 1885 or 1886. Vladimir Donatovitch Orolovski (1842-1914), a Russian landscapist, was the first to promote a shy country boy named Samuel Ostrowsky, by introducing him to Kiev’s academy. All went smoothly until a fire destroyed the humble home of his parents — the young painter left for Chicago to live with an uncle, who ousted him for not accepting an industrial job (George, n. d., p. 10). After some preliminary training at the Art Institute of Chicago and a period of designing sets in New York, Ostrowsky crossed the Atlantic again to be trained in the Académie Julian and spent three years in France. He exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1914.
Evelyn Marie Stuart’s article in 1916 gives a good idea of Ostrowsky’s early work, which was his impressionist phase. Ostrowsky expressed admiration for Alfred Sisley and Claude Monet, to which the sparkling, broken brushwork of A Silvery Morning on the Hudson near Milton, New York attests. “One feels the very motion of the water,” writes Stuart (1916, p. 419), “the vibration of the air, the agreeable freshness of the early morning light.” During the 1920s, however, Ostrowsky experimented with Cézannesque compositions and street scenes directly influenced by the Ecole de Paris. Une rue à Antony (1928), for example, is very close in style to Maurice Utrillo’s Eglise de la Ferté-Milon (Dalzell Hatfield, Los Angeles), painted around 1910. Ostrowsky stated a few years later that Bonnard and Utrillo were two of his favorite artists (Jacobsen, 1933, p. 101). He prided himself in being a cosmopolitan artist, saying that true artists work “for the whole world and for all time.”
Back in the States, Ostrowsky exhibited his works at the Art Institute of Chicago between 1917 and 1942, at the Society of Independent Artists in the 1920s, and with the Museum of Modern Art’s “Sixteen Cities” show. His Still-life with Fish and Melon (Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago) was shown in Chicago’s Century of Progress Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture in 1933. During World War II, Ostrowsky taught at the Jewish Peoples Institute on Chicago’s West Side and he exhibited with the Chicago Society of Artists. Both of Ostrowsky’s parents were killed by the Nazis, and his palette became darker as the war went on, according to the artist’s son Efrem (Efrem Ostrowsky interviewed by Bruce Bachman, R.H. Love Galleries, Chicago, mid 1970s). Ostrowsky managed to outlive the Third Reich but died in Chicago on December 26, 1946.
George, Waldemar, S. Ostrowsky. Les Artistes Juifs Series. Paris: Editions “Ars”, n.d.; Jacobsen, J. Z., Art of Today: Chicago 1933. Chicago: I. M. Stern, 1933, pp. 100-101, 148; Sparks, Esther, “A Biographical Dictionary of Painters and Sculptors in Illinois, 1808-1945,” Diss., Northwestern University, 1971, vol. 2, p. 539; Yochim, Louise Dunn, Role and Impact: The Chicago Society of Artists. Chicago: 1979, pp. 55, 61, 71, 102.
Submitted by Richard H. Love and Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D.