Alumin Photo

Rita Briansky (BBHS ’42)

Born: 1925,  Grajewa, Poland

The Briansky family arrived in Quebec from Poland on October 29th, 1929; the day of the stock market crash. Her father had immigrated to Iroquois Falls, Quebec two years prior to the family’s arrival.

Briansky and her family moved to Val d’Or in Northern Quebec in 1939. Although welcomed into their homes she felt like an outsider and spent much time alone. This prompted her to use the name “Rita Brian” in an effort to fit in. It was this period that informed Briansky’s “Zen” approach to life.

In 1941 the Briansky family moved back to Montreal. She wanted to complete her last year of schooling before becoming an artist, however her father could not afford to pay the five-dollar yearly tuition at BBHS. She eventually found a job selling corsets to pay for her tuition with the help of Yiddish poet Ida Massey, who helped many Jewish immigrants get settled in Montreal.

She went on to study art with the famous Jewish painter Alexandre Bercovitch at the École des Beaux Arts de Montreal and the Art Students’ League of New York. She has had over 30 solo exhibitions and has participated in many group shows. Her works are part of over 60 permanent collections including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Mendel Art Gallery, the Musée du Québec and the National Gallery in Ottawa. Briansky illustrated The Pollution Reader, published in 1968. She also did etchings to illustrate a 1972 publication of William Shakespeare’s Sonnets. In addition to her painting, printing making and book illustrations, Briansky taught art in Montreal at the Visual Art Centre and the Saidye Bronfman Centre. Briansky has received numerous awards and grants including the Salon Interntionale Feminin de Vichy Burnaby Art Society and the Canada Council.

In 2011, Briansky collaborated with artist Susan G. Scott to produce an autobiography entitled My Name is Rita Briansky. Her words and Scott’s images combine to tell Rita’s story from her arrival in Canada to her life as a female artist.

Briansky lives and works in Montreal. Click here to see a selection of her works.

You can also hear Rita talk about her days at BBHS in the following video interview


Unger, Christine. “My Name Is Rita Briansky.” Blurb