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Hilda Goldblatt Gorenstein (1905–1998) was an American oil painter and watercolorist.[1]


Early yearsEdit

A native of Montreal, Quebec who grew up in Portland, Oregon, Gorenstein started painting as a teenager at a time when women artists weren't very well received.[2] A reflection of the times in which she lived, she signed her work "Hilgos", an androgynous professional working name.[3]


A graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the early 1930s, she produced more than 1,500 artworks in about 70 years including paintings in oil and acrylic, watercolors, drawings and sculpture. Hilgos pieces have been exhibited in cities across the United States and her artwork is part of private collections in the U.S. and abroad.[4]

She was a marine artist who was selected to paint twelve murals for the U. S. Navy's exhibit in the Federal Building for the 1933-1934 International Exhibition Century of Progress, a World's Fair held in Chicago. Her frieze was composed of twelve murals depicting the influence of sea power on America, beginning with the settlement of Jamestown in 1607 when sea power first reached America and carrying through World War I.[5]

Later yearsEdit

In her later years while struggling with Alzheimer's, she stated "I remember better when I paint". With students from the Art Institute of Chicago facilitating, Hilgos began painting again. Painting allowed Hilgos to maintain, and even regain, some of her core identity, and her extraordinary enthusiasm and energy, in the face of her affliction. Many of these late-in-life pictures, most of which are watercolors, are exceptional. Her daughter, Berna Huebner, has written a book based on Hilgos describing how some people affected with dementia can be reconnected to themselves and their pasts with the help of art students who work with them in creating art.[6] The Hilgos Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports the artistic creation for people who have Alzheimer’s was founded in her memory.[7]


An international documentary film, I Remember Better When I Paint, inspired by Hilgos,[8] focuses on how the creative arts can help Alzheimer's patients re-engage in life, not only through creation and performance of art and music but also from exposure to the arts around the world, such as the Louvre museum. It also shares findings by leading neurologists offering scientific support regarding the transforming power of the arts for Alzheimer's victims.[9] The film includes an emotional interview with Yasmin Aga Khan, movie star Rita Hayworth‘s daughter; Hayworth developed early-onset Alzheimer’s and also painted.[10]

A French version of the film Je me souviens mieux quand je peins[11] was released in September 2009 as part of the French Alzheimer Association's activities on World Alzheimer's Day. The film is co-directed by Berna Huebner and Eric Ellena.[12] Extracts from the documentary were featured on the France 2 Telematin television program.[13]


  1. ^ "National Museum of Women in the Arts".
  2. ^ McSherry Breslin, Meg (February 7, 1998). "Hilda Gorenstein". Chicago Tribune.
  3. ^ Barcus, Robin. "Hilda: A Jewel Distilled". The Providence Journal.
  4. ^ Little, Anne (March 27, 1997). "Sketches From a Life". Chicago Tribune.
  5. ^ McDowell, Malcolm (6 May 1933). "University of Illinois at Chicago, archive, "U.S. Navy Exhibits Arrive for Fair; Models to Show Sea's Influence on Nation"". Chicago Daily News. Archived from the original on 27 June 2009.
  6. ^ Whitcomb, Robert (September 14, 2007). "Aging with the Arts". The Providence Journal.
  7. ^ Long, Mary C. (January 25, 2013). "Fight Alzheimers With Art". Media Bistro.
  8. ^ Paige E. Reddinger (October 29, 2009). "Paint to Preserve Memory". Scallywag & Vagabond.
  9. ^ "Hilgos Foundation".
  10. ^ "How the life and death of the Chicago painter known as Hilgos helped bring art — and a better quality of life — to Alzheimer's patients". Miller-Mccune magazine. December 21, 2010. Archived from the original on January 22, 2011.
  11. ^ "Alzheimer les therapies non-medicamenteuses, French Connection Films" (in French). Archived from the original on 2009-12-15.
  12. ^ "Le Bien Public newspaper Journée mondiale de la maladie d'Alzheimer : sélection d'évènements en France, September 8, 2009" (in French). Archived from the original on June 13, 2011.
  13. ^ "France 2 Télématin, Health Rubrique, "Création artistique et Alzheimer"" (in French).