Theresa Bernstein: Discovering American Modernism
The George Krevsky Gallery is proud to present the first exhibition on the West Coast devoted to Theresa Bernstein (1890-2002), an extraordinary figure in American Art, opening Thursday, September 18th, and running through Saturday, October 11th.
This exhibition presents Bernstein's participation in key movements in 20th century American art – Modernism, the Ashcan School, and the progressive artist societies that advanced our visual culture. These were rare achievements for any artist, and especially significant for a woman.
In 1908 when Bernstein was a young art student, few would have envisioned her future. Art schools were open to women, and some women artists were enjoying success. Yet, on the whole, the art world was a male domain. Her talents – and her commitment to her profession – would play a role in changing American art and American attitudes toward women in the arts.
Bernstein's distinctive style becomes apparent in even the earliest works on exhibition – two still lives from 1911 that reveal her free approach toward academic subject matter. By the 1914 painting "Merry-Go-Round," Bernstein has already embraced the scenes of everyday life favored by the controversial Ashcan artists. One critic would ultimately liken her technique to "drawing with paint."
In 1917 Bernstein was a founding member of the Philadelphia Ten, a pioneering group of women painters and sculptors. She had her first solo show in 1919 at the Milch Gallery in New York (then exhibiting Robert Henri, among others). She exhibited with the Society of Independent Artists through the 1920s and 30s. Theresa and her husband, artist William Meyerowitz, interacted with colleagues in New York City and, during summers, in Gloucester, Massachusetts. "Circus," a New York painting from 1936, and "Drying the Nets," a Gloucester painting from 1938, are among the bold, complex compositions Theresa would have shown.
Through the years, Bernstein never ceased to create, exhibit, and sell her artwork. The most recent painting in the exhibition – "Boston Tea" from 1960 – shows her full confidence and maturity. With changing trends however, Theresa had begun to seem "old-fashioned." She would wait until the 1990s to again find herself a center of attention.
Public collections holding Bernstein's work include the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (both Washington, D.C.), the Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, Mass.), the Butler Institute of American Art (Youngstown, Ohio), and the Jewish Museum (New York City).
Theresa Bernstein died in 2002, at the age of 111. She is now highly regarded as a unique and important American Modernist.