Dedicated Dealer Promotes Notable NDG Artists

By Nancy Snipper ( The Monitor April 23 , 2001)

Behind every great artist lies a great dealer, a great critic and a great collector. It is every artist’s dream: to meet a dealer whose business acumen matches his passion for art. This dream naturally begins with the artist’s talent and ability to create a piece so enticing that the dealer cannot resist extolling its beauty to the public. The dealer feels compelled to represent the artist and the relationship begins with his careful selection of the perfect place to hang the work where the colour and lines of the image can be fully appreciated.

The collector of artwork must be so inspired by what he sees that he yearns to possess the piece. It is the role of the dealer to help reveal those inspirational elements of the artist’s work. From the artist’s studio, to the gallery, the objective of the dealer is to find a home for the piece. Thus a purchased piece ends up in a private residence, a public place or a place of business where it can be appreciated by all who behold it.

David Astrof is a man whose mission has taken him into the studios of many NDG artists. “I met a lot of NDG artists when my wife (artist Victoria Block whose studio is in NDG) and I lived in the neighborhood. There is an abundance of talent here,” added Astrof who has tapped into our artists in a big way. NDG artists whose works are displayed include: Evelyn Dufour, Monique Parizeau, Dorothy Grostern, Claudine Ascher, Victoria Wonnacott, Noreen Mallory, Sylvia Mendel, Katherine Huet-Measroch and Chery Holmes.

“In choosing a piece of art, I have to connect with it. I have to feel intuitively good about the piece. Very often when I visit a studio, the artist is surprised by what I end up choosing. Art touches all people differently and tastes are varied,” said Astrof who has been setting the ambiance of Thomson House at McGill University with an eclectic display of art. NDG artists have contributed to this prestigious venue with exciting paintings, etchings and sculptures.

“What I like about Thomson House is the fact that people come here to eat, drink, discuss the merits of Chaucer, play billiards - even dance - while enjoying the beauty of the surrounding art which enhances the features of this architecturally beautiful setting,” said Astrof. Thomson House consists of four floors beginning with a restaurant on the first, ascending to sitting rooms and a bar on the second, a ballroom on the third and meeting rooms (including billiard room with a lovely antique snooker table) on the fourth. All the artwork that hangs on the walls of the high-ceilinged rooms at Thomson House (over 100 pieces) is for sale.

There is a definite salon feeling to the place, with the fireplaces, wrought-iron banisters, comfy couches, antique tables, and chairs that are positioned in ways so the eye always meets a piece of art. Astrof pointed out that unlike other gallery spaces, Thomson House boasts a living environment. In the first floor restaurant, where Astrof hangs his printmakers, most of the artists are from Evelyn Dufour’s studio located above D.A.D.S Bagels in NDG. What a splendid collection of etchings and monoprints. Judith Klugerman’s “Meditation” presents brilliant blues with earth tones that truly set you in a meditative mood. Her robe series of three etchings, cloaks you in colours that have a soothing effect. We feel protected and secure. Many of the etchings are mysterious. Evelyn Dufour’s “Corolles” hints at calligraphy. Her flowers are blooming beautifully in ocher and turquoise. The Dufour Studio artists, so prominently displayed by Astrof, attracts a group of etchers that includes her famous mother, Marcelle Dufour. Marcelle’s “Monday Morning” perfectly depicts a typical NDG backyard in the days of yore when full lines of clothes could be seen drying. Her “Pigeons sur Rue” is a mizzotinti masterpiece.

Another fine artist is Dorothy Grostern. Take a look at the shimmering charcoal blue, weaving patterns on black paper in “Lifeline”. Her “Family Portrait” is a humorous piece with a couple and their cat done in Grostern’s unique style of shadowed characters which are left to the viewers eye to interpret. Upstairs on the main (2nd) floor, search for Grostern’s Fear of Depth. Her work invokes secrets, shadowy figures and illusions. Grostern’s work is grand. She is a powerful pastel painter.

Victoria Block’s enormous pastel landscapes create a stunning mirage of floral meadow splendour or water so rapturously blue and real that you seem to see your own reflection. Her pots, sporting Navajo motifs appear on mantles beside two wildly sculpted low-fire ceramic busts of women with strike features - masterpieces of femme fatale faces by Claudine Ascher. Chery Holmes’ painting, “Nobody Speaks For Me” is fearsome. Measuring 36 x 48", the canvas offers a frightening man sitting glowering over his raised coffee cup with his two wild-dogs - one on either side of him.

I have given you a mere glimpse into the fine art awaiting you. Why not take a real tour with David Astrof. You will feel quite special inside Thomson House with your own private tour. As a guide, Astrof puts his own spin on artistic flare. He is utterly engaging. You can book your tour by calling: 514-286-2476. For a preview check out his website at