Smith-Girard began as SmithGirard Art Brokers at One Strawberry Hill in Stamford, Connecticut in 1975 organized by Pamlyn Smith and Girard Jackson. Jackson met the early modernist American artists Theresa Bernstein (1890–2002) and her husband William Meyerowitz (1887–1981) in 1972. Jackson had purchased Meyerowitz’ String Trio painting in Bar Harbor in 1964 from Long Island artist Joan Purcell. Purcell had rented a barn for the summer to sell her work there as well as the art of other artists.
With an interest in Meyerowitz art, Jackson contacted Meyerowitz and visited him and his wife Theresa Bernstein at their New York studio. Jackson began purchasing Meyerowitz work—oils, etchings and etchings in color (Meyerowitz was a pioneer in the field) and watercolors. Wanting to renew an interest in Meyerowitz’ art, Smith and Jackson established the business and held an exhibition of the artists couples’ work at One Strawberry Hill in September 1976 for the benefit of the Greenwich Philharmonia.
Jackson had seen an acrylic painting of American artist Frederick Terna (1923), in Washington. Jackson met with the artist and his artist wife Stella Horner in 1972 at their studio in Manhattan. Jackson began to purchase Terna’s work. Jackson acquired 2 acrylics of Stella Horner. Both artists had survived Nazis prisons as youths.
Jackson had been shown mostly Meyerowitz art on visits to the couples’ Manhattan studio and their summer home in Gloucester, Massachusetts. On visits to Bernstein after Meyerowitz death in 1981, she would send Jackson to the balcony of the New York studio and the attic of the house in Gloucester to fetch paintings she described. They were her paintings. It didn’t take long for Jackson to realize the extent of Bernstein’s oeuvre.
In 1983, Bernstein called the New-York Historical Society on Central Park West with “Hey—You want to see some pictures of New York.” Historical Society curator Elizabeth Curry was curious and visited Bernstein at her city studio. Curry said to Jackson “Does she realize what she’s got?” Curry and a colleague curated the 1984–85 Society exhibition New York Themes: Paintings and Prints by William Meyerowitz and Theresa Bernstein. Art restorer and conservator Renzo Baldaccini said to Jackson “You should do a catalog of Bernstein’s art.” So Smith-Girard published Theresa Bernstein, its first catalog in 1985.
Patsy Whitman of PMW Gallery in Stamford visited Jackson in 1988 to see Bernstein’s art. Whitman immediately contacted Dorothy Mayhall, Director of Art at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center. Mayhall visited Jackson and Bernstein, then curated the 1989–90 exhibition Theresa Bernstein Expressions of Cape Ann & New York, 1914–1972. Mayhall states in her catalog introduction: “….(T)his will be the first one-person museum showing of her paintings and works on paper since the 1948 exhibition held at the United States National Museum in Washington, D. C.)”
Mayhall continues “Undaunted by discrimination for any reason, the self-assured artist loyally and lovingly took a backseat to her husband’s artistic career which she continues to foster. Even for this exhibition, she has insisted that several examples of his work be included alongside hers.” Mayhall’s show travelled to Simmons College Trustman Art Gallery and The Crane Collection in Boston. Art historian Patricia Burnham introduced the work at the Trustman opening.
Smith-Girard sold the works of the artists along the way to pay for restoration, framing, shipping and purchase expenses.
Art historian Michelle Cohen curated the Museum of the City of New York 1990–91 exhibition Echoes of New York: The Paintings of Theresa Bernstein. Smith-Girard contributed to the funding of the exhibition and Jackson loaned Smith-Girard paintings for the show.
After retiring in 1996, patent lawyer Jackson returned to his native Texas. Smith remains in Manhattan. While Jackson was building a house in Sugar Land, The Jewish Museum in New York borrowed works of Bernstein and Meyerowitz for the Jewish Journey exhibition which included works by Peter Blume.
Instigated by Burnham, Bernstein and Jackson made gifts of Meyerowitz etchings to the University of Texas at Austin and in 1996 curator Jonathan Bober mounted the exhibition The Etchings of William Meyerowitz in the Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery of the College of Fine Arts at Austin. Bober’s erudite essay of the exhibition catalog introduced Meyerowitz’ etchings to Texas. The etchings are in the permanent collection of the Blanton Museum at the Austin campus.
Joan Whalen Fine Art in Manhattan mounted the exhibition Theresa Bernstein (1890) A Seventy-Year Retrospective in 1998 after Joan Whalen visited Jackson in his new home in Sugar Land. Smith-Girard loaned Bernstein works for the show.
At the age of 108 Bernstein traveled to Sugar Land to visit Jackson and see her and her husband’s art in Jackson’s new home. The trip was possible with the help of Bernstein’s long time friends and companions Diane Dawson and Sylvia Selfridge of Rockport, MA.
In 2009 aging Jackson moved to a smaller townhouse in Sugar Land. In 2012 the townhouse was opened for the annual December Child Advocates of Fort Bend house tour. See Kyrie O’Connor, Houston Chronicle Star Section December 12, 2012.
In the fall of 2012, Gail Levin, Distinguished Professor, PhD Program in Art History, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York mounted the exhibition Theresa Bernstein, A Century in Art at the Graduate Center James Gallery. Levin’s book of the same title accompanied the James exhibition. Levin’s research is unequaled. Her exhibition Theresa Bernstein from the Collection of Martin and Edith Stein at the Mishkin Gallery of Baruch College of the City University also accompanied Levin’s James Gallery show. Bernstein art selected from these two Manhattan exhibitions traveled to four venues beginning in February 2013—Phillips Museum, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA; Endicott College Museum, Beverly, MA; Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, PA; and Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FL—where it ended in January 2015.
Smith-Girard sells the art from the townhouse in Sugar Land by appointment. The townhouse is readily accessible off Hwy 59 (exit SW Freeway 59 at Williams Trace) just before Hwy 6.