MONTREAL — The paintings of the late Montreal Jewish artist Sam Borenstein (1908-1969) are being exhibited for the first time in the United States, in the heart of New York City.
Sam Borenstein and the Colours of Montreal is on exhibit at Yeshiva University Museum until May.
It’s a slightly abridged version of the retrospective Sam Borenstein and the Colours of Montreal, which was first exhibited at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2005, and then toured the University of Toronto’s Hart House and Mount Allison University’s Owens Gallery in Sackville, N.B.
The American exposure is a dream come true for Borenstein’s twin daughters, Erin and Joyce Borenstein, the latter of whom made the 1991 Oscar-nominated, Genie Award-winning animated film Colours of My Father: A Portrait of Sam Borenstein.
Born in Lithuania, Borenstein immigrated to Montreal in 1921. He was a clothing factory worker who liked to write poetry. Then he turned to visual art and, although virtually self-taught, he became a master of a style called Canadian Expressionism.
Over a 40-year career, he mainly painted scenes of Montreal and the Laurentians in vibrant hues and with exuberant brushwork, as well as still lifes and portraits.
“Through his paintings, he captures the movement of the wind, the heat of summer, and the many colours of snow,” said Concordia University art history professor Loren Lerner, who curated the MMFA show.
“He captures the personality behind the face, and the fragrance of flowers. He is able to make the invisible visible.”
Borenstein loved to paint outdoors and was inspired by nature, but his landscapes are bustling with people as well, even if sometimes they are just abstract squiggles of paint.
The Borenstein sisters will be present for the exhibition’s vernissage Feb. 27 from 2 to 4 p.m., and Joyce’s film will be screened.
Most of the paintings are the family’s possessions, and some are on loan from private collections.
The MMFA and now the New York show are part of their tireless efforts to make their father’s work better known, a mission they have carried on from their late mother, Judith Aron, who died in 2003.
They found a sympathetic audience at YUM, whose director, former Montrealer Jacob Wisse, likes Borenstein’s art.