"The children looked like flowers to me. I wanted to paint them so."
(Eric Goldberg, 1943, discussing his painting Kindergarten)
Eric Goldberg's romantic paintings of women, harlequins, fishing villages and flowers have a gentle, lyrical quality. Having studied and taught in art schools in Berlin, Paris and Jerusalem, he brought a European eye to Canadian scenes. According to gallerist Max Stern, Goldberg's greatest contribution was his quality as a dreamer, one "who could escape from the raw and rough life, from misery and war, into a dream world of his own." (Max Stern, 1969)
The son of a successful German portrait painter, Goldberg led a nomadic life before settling in Canada. He studied in Berlin, under Lovis Corinth and Hermann Struck, and in Paris at the École des Beaux-Arts and Académie Julian. At the Beaux-Arts, he was given encouragement by Renoir, and at the Julian, where his contemporaries included Canadian students A.Y. Jackson and John Lyman, he studied under Tony Robert-Fleury, Jules Joseph Lefebvre and Jean-Paul Laurens. Upon completing his studies, Goldberg taught for eight years, first at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem, and then at Berlin's Academie der Künste, where he was chosen to succeed Corinth as professor of drawing and painting.
Goldberg left Berlin in 1920, moving first to Chicago, and then Palestine, before returning to Paris in 1926. There, he met his future wife, the Canadian painter Regina Seiden. The couple spent most of the next nine years in Paris, participating in many salons, and befriending writers, poets and artists, including the sculptor Chana Orloff. They made painting trips to Palestine, southern France and Spain, and summers trips to Canada. In 1935, with Europe under threat of war, they moved to Montreal.
Goldberg was immediately immersed in the Montreal art scene, participating that same year in the Spring Exhibition of the Art Association of Montreal. He held his first solo show at the Scott Galleries in 1938, and the same year exhibited as a member of the newly founded Eastern Group of Painters. He was a founding member, in 1939, of the Contemporary Arts Society. In 1949, he and his wife started an art class at the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue, running it together for twenty years.
Goldberg's early subjects include street scenes in Spain and Jerusalem, as well as circus scenes, ballet dancers, jazz bands and children playing. Self-portrait (c.1911-1914) demonstrates the artist's assured technique. Corinth's influence is visible in the broad, spontaneous brushwork, while the soft colours and forms of Figures (c.1942) reflect the influence of Renoir. In Pier, Gaspé Village (c.1948), the artist captures the calm of the fishing village with a style subtly reminiscent of Raoul Dufy.