b. Ukraine, Russia 1905–d. Islamorada, FL, 1980
Samuel Greenburg was born in the Ukraine and studied at the Académie André Lhote in Paris, Bezalel Art School Jerusalem, and Chicago. He earned his bachelor and master’s degrees at the University of Chicago and took art classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). He presumably came to Chicago during the 1920s.
Greenburg taught in Chicago public high schools from 1932 to 1962; and later served as supervisor of art for the Chicago board of education from 1962 to 1970. He was active in the Chicago art scene as a member of Chicago No-Jury Society of Artists, the Illinois Society of Artists, and Around the Palette (now the American Jewish Artists Club). From 1932–33, Greenburg and A. Raymond Katz owned and operated the Little Gallery in the Auditorium Tower, giving many Chicago artists their first solo shows.
Greenburg understood art as a personal expression: “My aim is to paint my reactions to what is about me. Naturally, I find ‘the subject’ indispensable, but use it just as a point of departure, to give my personal reaction to it. . . . I consciously distort to heighten my description. Everything—color, form, line, and movement—is used to bring out my emotional reaction to the subject.”
His linoleum cut, River Scene, indeed fulfills this description, using exaggeration and abstraction to capture Chicago as a modern metropolis full of engineering feats: a drawbridge opening over the river with skyscrapers towering in the background. The simplified, bold strokes show also, perhaps, an influence of German expressionism. The same quality of gestural expression is seen in Spring in Grant Park, which uses an economy of lines to sympathetically depict a downtrodden figure, hunched against the cold during the Depression. A Breath of Air, another linocut from the same time period, renders a typical Chicago alley, depicting a busy scene filled with lines of laundry and telephone poles connecting the houses. Greenburg used color and line to rhythmic effect in his lithograph of Chassidic Dancers—the men’s golden faces turn up as if toward munificent rays of light.
Greenburg, Samuel. Making Linoleum Cuts. New York: Stephen Daye Press, 1947.
Jacobsen, J. Z. Art of Today: Chicago, 1933. Chicago: L. M. Stein, 1932.
Jewett, Eleanor. "New Chicago Art Gallery to Show Work of Local Artists." Chicago Tribune. September 6, 1931.
Yochim, Louise Dunn. Role and Impact: The Chicago Society of Artists, p. 241. Chicago: Chicago Society of Artists, 1979.