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Theresa F. Bernstein

(New York, New York 1890 - 2002)

Theresa F. Bernstein was born in Philadelphia in 1895 to cultured, middle-class immigrant parents. Showing artistic talent at an early age, Bernstein studied with Harriet Sartain, Elliott Daingerfield, Henry Snell, Daniel Garber, and Samuel Murray at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. She graduated in 1911 with an award for general achievement. From her most memorable teacher, Daniel Garber, she carried forward a plein-air landscape painting with startling color contrasts and bright accents of light. After a brief enrollment at the Art Students League in New York, where she took life and portraiture classes with William Merritt Chase, she traveled for a second time to Europe with her mother, her first trip abroad having been in 1905.

In 1912, Bernstein settled in New York, and her early work was "Ashcan" School or Social Realist style. Bernstein gravitated to subjects where urban spaces fostered the intersection of citizens from all strata of New York society: scenes commonplace to the waterfront, streets, trolleys, and centers of public recreation ranging from theater lobbies to Coney Island. Her studio was loated near Bryant Park. She was also known for harbors, beaches, children, still-life and fish.

Bernstein was a member of many artists' groups during her long lifetime, including the National Association of Women Artists, North Shore Art Association (last surviving Charter member) and the Philadelphia Ten. She was heavily prized and earned many one-woman shows throughout the country during her lifetime. Bernstein exhibited extensively with the National Academy of Design, (but never was elected a member), the Society of Independent Artists and was a charter member of the New York Society of Women Artists. Her husband was artist William Meyerwitz, and together they summered in Gloucester, where she completed many of her beach scenes.

Theresa Bernstein died on February 12, 2002, possibly the oldest living artist in America. Her career spanned 80 years.

Her work is in the permanent collections of the Chicago Art Institute, Butler Institute of American Art, Dallas Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harvard University, Whitney Museum of American Art, Boston Public Library and N.Y. Historical Society.

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