Samuel Borenstein, self-portrait, 1946
Born in Kalvarija, Lithuania, Samuel Borenstein was a painter, a draughtsman, a watercolourist and a sculptor. He immigrated in 1921 with his father and a sister to Montreal, where four of his brothers were already living. They were part of a massive wave of eastern European immigration to Canada in the early decades of the twentieth century – especially in the wake of WWI, when the US began cracking down on immigration of Jews and other east Europeans. The period of Borenstein’s activity in Montreal mirrors a period of blossoming among Jewish institutions and other Jewish artists in the city.
After apprenticing with a furrier and working as a cutter in a garment factory, Borenstein focused full-time on painting.With only minimal formal training, he approached painting with a distinctively modernist sensibility, rejecting traditional narrative, romantic subject matter and academic technique in favor of direct observation of the world and a free and expressive use of paint and color. He also took inspiration from the works of avant-garde European artists, which he saw and admired in museums and galleries.Then, he studied with Ezéar Soucy, John Y. Johnstone, and Alfred Laliberté at the Council of Arts and Manufactures in Montreal around 1926-29. He briefly frequented the Académie André Lhote in Paris in 1939. He was affiliated to the Contemporary Arts Society around 1939-42.
He painted portraits and Montreal street scenes in the 1930s and 1940s to street scenes, village and country landscapes in the 1950s and 1960s. He painted frequently in the Laurentians; Paris and Britanny, in France in 1939; and then in New England coast in 1968.
A practitioner of plein air painting, his intense and colorful canvases stand apart from those of his contemporaries, who responded to modernism from a formalist perspective. In his approach to landscape, as well as in his portrait and flower paintings, Borenstein explored the expressive properties of nature through art.
Borenstein has paintings in numerous permanent collections across Canada, such as the National Gallery of Canada, Musée du Quebec, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the National Portrait Gallery, the Winnipeg Museum, and the Art Gallery of Ontario, as well as the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C.
Source: Canadian Art, volume one/A-F, Catalogue of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1988 et www.samborenstein.com