Theresa Bernstein (1890–2002)
Born in Cracow, Poland, an infant Theresa Ferber Bernstein with her parents immigrated to the United State to live in Philadelphia. Her artistic training was at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art) and the Art Students League in New York City after moving there in 1911. Often misrepresented as an Ashcan artist, hopefully art historian Elsie Heung has put this mistake to rest. “Bernstein’s urban vision has a distinct quality to it that operates both within and independently of the Ashcan School. It is only when we challenge her frequent misidentification as an Ashcan painter that we can begin to recognize her as a unique artist in her own right, rather than as a follower of her male contemporaries.” Elsie Heung, Gail Levin, Theresa Bernstein A Century in Art, pages 91 and 92. 2013. New York City was her home from 1911 until her death. She married artist William Meyerowitz in 1919.
Bernstein chronicled urban life in America on canvas for at least 70 years. Her ready response to comments on her change of style was “I didn’t change, the times did.”
The changing times are seen in her paintings In the Elevated, Evening Stroll and her war paintings in the teens; Five Points Laundry Day and Lil Hardin and Louis Armstrong in the 1920s; Madison Square Garden Circus in the 1930s; Madison Square Garden Concert in the 1940s; Judy Garland in the 1950s; Hippies in Central Park in the l960s; Ticket Line in the 1970s; and Smoochathon and Break Dancers in the 1980s.
Bernstein and husband Meyerowitz traveled to Israel almost annually from 1952 until his death in 1981. Her painting Israeli Wedding captures the constant vigilance required in that nation. See the soldier standing guard on the right.
Bernstein returned to their home in Gloucester, Massachusetts summers after Meyerowitz death in 1981 until the late 1990s.