Theresa Bernstein: A Century in Art

University of Nebraska Press  2013


Theresa Bernstein, a nearly unknown Jewish-American impressionist and realist painter, now has a handsome book devoted to her. Though public appreciation for her century-spanning career was long stultified by the male domination of the art world—and, partially, by her devoted marriage of sixty-two years to fellow artist William Meyerowitz— Bernstein’s life and works are now brought to light by Gail Levin, Professor of Art at City University of New York.

In her favored styles of realism and expres­sionism, Bernstein painted contemporary themes of World War I, suffrage, Jewish life, and the Great Depression. She struggled openly against female discrimination in the gallery system and awards, supporting artist-run, female group associations. Critics praised her luminous landscapes, portraits of Einstein and Jazz figures, rural scenes, cityscapes, and parades. She co-exhibited with Chase, Davis, Henri, Sloan, Bellows; though she included her husband in her exhibitions, Meyerowitz discouraged her participation in any of his own showings. Nevertheless, Bernstein continued to paint, only taking a “time-out” after Meyerowitz’s death in 1981.

Widowhood was the last of three water­sheds that greatly influenced Bernstein’s career, including the loss of her three-month-old daughter and World War II, which extend­ed her Jewish sensibility and overwhelmed the art world with abstract expressionism—a movement which Bernstein rejected.

Filled with nearly two hundred reproduc­tions and enriched by documentary photo­graphs, A Century in Art also features essays by the editor, Gail Levin, and others. Levin—who first encountered Bernstein’s name while researching her book on Edward Hopper—has rendered an intriguing biography out of wonderful artwork and a provocative life story. Appendices, chronology, index.

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