Norman Leibovitch

Born in Montreal in 1913 to an immigrant Jewish family of modest means he developed at an early age an interest in drawing, amusing himself and his school chums with caricatures and other diversions. It was not until the age of twenty however, after a harrowing experience when he drifted through the night in a canoe, that he committed himself to the life of an artist. In 1936 he studied in New York at the American Peoples School, the American Artists School and later in 1937 at the Arts Students League, where he distinguished himself as a scholarship student of the noted sculptor, William Zorach.

His first major exhibition on the international scene was a selection of twenty two oils, shown at the Norlyst Gallery in New York in February 1948. The Herald Tribune’s critic described his work, particularly the landscapes as “forceful and expressive,” noting one Quebec scene as possessing “A poetic quality painted with vivacity and brilliance.” Similarly, the writers of Art News and the Art Digest praised many of his subjects. In order to select the pieces for this New York exhibition, which he considered no small honor, he devised a unique preview of some sixty works and invited Montreal’s art community to comment on them. This period also included exhibitions at the Little Gallery in Winnipeg and group shows in Montreal and Toronto.

In 1948 Leibovitch journeyed to Israel. He described his experience as an “inspiration” and it commenced one of the most fruitful periods of his life. Returning to Montreal with considerable new material, he began to exhibit many of his Israeli subjects, notably his show of 1950 at the Collège Jean de Brébeuf, and in 1951 at the West End Gallery. Both exhibitions were very well received by both critics and the public.

There followed a ten year period in which Leibovitch experimented extensively with figural subjects and various degrees of abstraction, and although this was a productive time, he was reluctant to exhibit. His work of that period ranges from violent impressions to meticulous figures including landscapes, abstract expressionism and Hebraic themes.

Later Years

Leibovitch returned to exhibiting in 1962, with important shows at Toronto ‘s Upstairs Gallery and the Penthouse in Montreal ( Westmount ) – again the Montreal critics were enthusiastic in their praise and encouragement. During the years 1963-1980, Leibovitch took a further hiatus from exhibiting but continued to paint. Leibovitch began to exhibit his works again in the 1980’s and painted until his death in 2002.

Shtetl Life

This painting is included in The Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, v. 9: Catastrophe and Rebirth 1939-1973. The painting currently hangs in the Baycrest Hospital in Toronto, Ontario.

Alexander Bercovitch

The portrait painting of Montreal artist Alexander Bercovitch by Norman Leibovitch now rests in The Portrait Gallery of Canada as part of its permanent art collection. Mr. Bercovitch was a well known Montreal and Quebec artist who influenced many future artists such as Rita Briansky, Ghitta Caiserman Roth and Norman Leibovitch.