Important Artist Sam Borenstein Honoured with Street Name

Place Sam-Borenstein

A street in one of Montreal’s residential developments has been named after the important Canadian artist Sam Borenstein.  Place Sam-Borenstein is in the borough of Ville St. Laurent.

Borenstein is one of Canada’s foremost post-war artists and the market for his work continues to soar.  Recognition did not come easily for the self-taught master.  His radical manner of expressionism was an extreme challenge for the market of the 1950s, when buyers were still acclimating to the Group of Seven and Borenstein often resorted to selling paintings by other artists to supplement his income.

Sam Borenstein, Prevost, QC, 1960

While some Canadian art buyers struggled to understand his emotionally charged work, connoisseurs recognized the compelling quality of Borenstein’s painting.  He had commercial exhibitions during his lifetime at the venerable Watson Galleries and at Galerie Walter Klinkhoff.   William Watson confided to Walter Klinkhoff that the two Borensteins he had in his personal collection were among his favourite paintings.  At this time, in the 1950s, the “great” Dutch art dealing firm Van Wisselingh held annual exhibitions at Watson Galleries, featuring great works by Van Gogh, Renoir and others.  One of the partners, Mr. de Jong, considered Borenstein to be Canada’s best artist.  John MacAulay, who then had Canada’s finest collection, purchased numerous Borenstein paintings from us.

Borenstein died prematurely in 1969, largely unappreciated in Canada, but his legacy has grown formidably in years since.  We paid hommage to him with a non-selling retrospective exhibition in 1978. Borenstein’s daughter, Joyce, produced an outstanding documentary called “The Colours of My Father” (1993), which was nominated for an Academy Award in Hollywood.  Borenstein has subsequently been celebrated with a one man retrospective at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (2005-2006), an exhibition that traveled to three provinces and included stops in Toronto and Sackville, New Brunswick. His paintings also featured prominently in the Jewish Painters of Montreal exhibition (McCord Museum/Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec) in 2008.  Most recently, he was also honoured with a solo retrospective at the Yeshiva University Museum (2011) in New York City.

The market for Borenstein paintings has grown rapidly over the last ten years and those fortunate enough to have acquired them in the 1950s or 60s have seen handsome returns. Place Sam-Borenstein is the latest addition to the legacy of one of Canada’s great artists.

Copyright © Jonathan Klinkhoff

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