Exhibition on View February 6-May 8, 2011



Shira Dicker


New York, NY (February 9, 2011) – Winter-weary New Yorkers will get a much-needed reprieve from relentless grey vistas with an exhibition of vividly-hued work of a 20th century Canadian Expressionist artist, Sam Borenstein and the Colors of Montreal.

There will be an opening reception on Sunday February 27th 2011, from 2 to 4 pm.

From now until May 8th, Yeshiva University Museum will be presenting a rare retrospective of Borenstein’s evocative paintings of Montreal streets and Laurentian villages from his career of over 40 years. Bold colors, dynamic brushwork and ecstatic energy are characteristic features of Borenstein’s paintings, which capture the settings, personalities and life in and around Montreal, the artist’s adopted city.

Borenstein’s work shocked the Canadian art world when it was originally exhibited. 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.

In this exhibition – the first monographic show devoted to the artist outside of Canada – thirty-five of his paintings are displayed, from his portraits and Montreal street scenes of the 1930s and 1940s to his street scenes, village and country landscapes of the 1950s and 1960s.

Dr. Jacob Wisse, director of the YU Museum said that the institution was thrilled to bring the work of Borenstein to an American audience. “While Sam Borenstein is well-known in Montreal and across Canada, his artwork may come as a great revelation to many New Yorkers,” said Wisse, who is from Montreal. “In addition to its aesthetic merit, the exhibition has great historical and cultural value as Borenstein was part of the remarkably vibrant scene of Jewish artists and writers in Montreal between 1930s and 1960s,” he said.

Born in Kalvarija, Lithuania, Borenstein (1908 - 1969) 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.

Sam Borenstein and the Colors of Montreal, organized and presented by Yeshiva University Museum, is a new examination of the artist in the context of his adopted city. It was inspired by the retrospective Sam Borenstein presented in 2005 by The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which toured Canada, and was co-curated by Jacques Des Rochers and Loren Lerner.

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.

For further information on Sam Borenstein and the Colors of Montreal, to arrange a private viewing or to set up an interview with Dr. Wisse, please contact Shira Dicker at 917.403.3989 or

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