The Hornsteins created an enduring legacy in arts philanthropy

March 15, 2017
Dutch Master

When two Polish Holocaust survivors arrived in Canada from Rome in 1951, they weren’t planning to become Montreal’s most generous arts benefactors.

After six decades of careful collecting, however, the couple amassed and then donated seventy-seven European masterpieces that were so impressive, they necessitated a new home.

The donation of European art to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts by Michal and Renata Hornstein ranks among the greatest benefactions of art in the history of Canada,” wrote Hillyard T. Goldfarb in a memoir about the couple after they died. “They were very grateful to Canada and to Montreal,” he said in an interview later.

That gratitude, Michal’s strong business acumen and six decades of careful action enabled the Hornsteins to amass the fortune that would allow them to give generously to six major Montreal institutions. The Montreal Museum of Fine Art, the Montreal Heart Institute, the Montreal General Hospital, Hôpital Notre Dame, the Jewish General Hospital and the University of Montreal’s CHUM superhospital have all benefitted from their largesse. Two pavilions at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art and a centre specializing in Parkinson’s disease carry their names.

Michal began his involvement with the Museum in 1969, when he donated the funds needed to purchase two Italian Renaissance Medals. A year later, he joined the Museum of Fine Arts’ board of trustees where he remained until his death. For most of that period, he served as vice-president and he also chaired the Acquisition Committee for International Art before 1900.


Read the rest of the story in the March 2017 issue of the Montrealer.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Tracey Arial

About the Author

Tracey Arial

Tracey Arial helps Canadians grow with notable nonfiction and urban agriculture.

Follow Tracey Arial: