Sam Borenstein – “Flowers in Yellow Vase”
Those of you who have read Reminiscences of an Art Dealer, published by my father in 1993, will recall his enthusiasm for the painterly ability of Sam Borenstein and his frustration at not being able to sell them as he would have wished, especially in his early days and at a time when both he and Sam Borenstein would have benefited morally and financially from the endorsement of sales. At one stage, he wrote that questioning his own confidence in Borenstein’s paintings he walked along Sherbrooke Street to see the important Montreal art gallery owner Mr. William Watson , a gentleman who was somewhat of a mentor back then and asked him outright ” Don’t you think Borenstein is a very good artist? ‘No’ he replied emphatically, ‘he is a great artist.”’ Dad continued: “[Watson] always had some of his paintings in his gallery and told me that two he had at home were among his favourites. At that time in the mid-fifties, the great van Wisselingh firm of Amsterdam held yearly exhibitions at Watson’s, showing Van Goghs, Renoirs and generally great paintings. One of the partners, Mr. de Jong, once challenged me: ‘Do you know who Canada’s best painter is?’ When I hesitated, he said ‘Sam Borenstein, no doubt about it.'”
As a passionate believer in Borenstein’s work my father was also asked to write the catalogue introduction for the 1984 Sam Borenstein exhibition at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. In it, he recounted the opinion of another of the Van Wisselingh partners, Peter Eilers, who often said that had Borenstein lived in Paris he would have won acclaim as a world renowned artist.
We are featuring as our highlight a painting entitled “Flowers in a Yellow Vase”, a most painterly composition of 1958, a favorite composition of Sam Borenstein himself, one he never offered for sale during his lifetime, representative of the artist at the height of his powers and with brushwork that takes a page out of Borduas of the same period.