Theresa F. Bernstein (1890-2002)

Theresa F. Bernstein (1890-2002)

No one can do anything to be creative unless they are creative by nature. All they can do is keep their interests alive…The way you can put meaning in your life is to put something out, to keep doing, to make each moment of each day valuable. If you put things off, even writing a letter, the right time will never come. [1]

 -Theresa Bernstein, 1986

[1] Jean Dietz, “Longtime Painter Sketches the Beauty of an Artist’s Life,” Boston Globe. Aug. 3, 1986.

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Theresa Bernstein’s longevity when coupled with her tenacious spirit resulted in an impressively vibrant and noteworthy career in the arts. She was among the youngest generation of urban realists who experimented with what was at the time a modern subject matter, focusing their works on the gritty reality of urban work and leisure.

Bernstein was born in Philadelphia in 1890 and would live to see nearly one hundred and twelve years. As a teen, she received a Board of Education scholarship to attend the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, from which she graduated in 1911. She established the basis of her education in the arts under the tutelage of Elliott Daingerfield, Henry Snell and Daniel Garber, and later studied briefly with William Merritt Chase at the Art Students League. 

In 1916, while she was still a young, budding artist, Bernstein traveled to Massachusetts’ Cape Ann for the first time with an artist friend. That summer, she participated in the first exhibition of the Gallery-on-the-Moors in Gloucester, which would eventually become her summer home and a place at which both she and her husband, artist William Meyerowitz, would create their fondest memories and finest artwork. Both artists taught courses each summer from their studio in East Gloucester, and made their annual pilgrimage back to their home in New York City.

Although she may have struggled to achieve recognition in a man’s world, Theresa Bernstein’s résumé is brimming with accomplishments. She held her first solo exhibition at Milch Gallery in 1919, just three years after participating in a “Women’s Exhibition” at Vose Galleries of Boston.  Bernstein went on to produce a solo-exhibition with Vose in 1933, and contributed to exhibitions with the Art Institute of Chicago, the Society of Independent Artists (which she worked to found alongside John Sloan), the Museum of Modern Art, the Corcoran Gallery, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the National Academy of Design, among countless others. Her long life ended in 2002, but those who admire her life and work are fortunate to have the poetry and memoirs which the artist published beginning in 1981. 

References: Joan Whalen Fine Art exhibition catalog, Theresa Bernstein: An Early Modernist, 2001; Who Was Who in American Art, 1999; Jean Dietz, “Longtime painter sketches the beauty of an artist’s life.” Boston Globe, August 3, 1986; “Bernstein Exhibition Extended.” Antiques and the Arts Weekly, June 23, 2000, p. 76; Who Was Who in American Art; Kristian Davies, Artists of Cape Ann, 2001; Judith Curtis, Rocky Neck Art Colony, 2008.

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