Theresa Bernstein (1890-2012), The Readers, 1914

Theresa Bernstein, The Readers, 1914. Oil on canvas, 40 x 50 inches. Martin and Edith Stein Collection.

Theresa Bernstein, The Readers, 1914. Oil on canvas, 40 x 50 inches. Martin and Edith Stein Collection.

 An artistic career lasting over ninety years and spanning the twentieth century might seem a worthwhile achievement in itself, but to Theresa Bernstein, longevity was just “an accident of nature.” Only art mattered. Painter, printmaker, teacher, poet, celebrated raconteur, and art activist, Bernstein was an enduring fixture in the art worlds of New York and the summer colony at Gloucester, Massachusetts….

As a woman crossing the gender threshold at the beginning of the new century, Bernstein experienced the excitement of that moment but was not spared the indignity of discrimination. Either paying a reluctant compliment or implying criticism, reviewers often described her work as having a “masculine” style. Whatever the gender construction of her style, she saw as a woman, incorporating into her art types and activities ignored by others, such as women at work, women artists, and suffragist parades.

(excerpt by Patricia M. Burnham of the Jewish Women’s Archive)