Samuel Borenstein

Samuel Borenstein

1908 - 1969
CAS QMG

The Canadian Expressionist painter Samuel Borenstein has been compared to Marc Chagall and Vincent Van Gogh, with occasional touches of surrealism appearing in his work. Born in Lithuania in 1908, Borenstein immigrated to Canada in 1921 and lived all his life in Montreal. From his beloved home, he painted the people and places of his world with joyous exuberance, wild brushwork, bold colours and an ability to capture movement and feeling in his subjects. He was a gestural painter, and a master of working directly with a palette knife heavily laden with paint. He painted landscapes, cityscapes and street scenes, florals and still life, as well as portraiture and figurative works, working directly from his subjects. He sought to paint the feelings of things, responding to weather, personal relationships and emotions in a palpable way. His work is personal but not private, humanist and universal. Self-taught, he overcame poverty and a disapproving father to become a dedicated painter who produced hundreds of works in his forty-year career. He was a member of the Society of Independent Artists, with whom he exhibited.
Borenstein did not find critical or monetary success during his lifetime, but since his death he has been widely collected and is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Hamilton and the National Portrait Gallery. In his home province, he is represented in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Museé du Quebec. His life and work was the subject of a touring retrospective organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2005, which brought him a much wider scope of attention. He is the subject of two books: Borenstein: His Life and Work by William Kuhns and Leo Rosshandler, and Sam Borenstein by Loren Lerner. His daughter Joyce Borenstein, a filmmaker and artist, created an animated short film on his life in 1991 titled Colours of my Father: A Portrait of Sam Borenstein. The film won nine international awards including a Genie Award and was nominated for an Academy Award.