By Darla McCammon
Have you noticed how, thus far in this series, that all the Ashcan artists were male? Enter Theresa Bernstein. Born in 1890, Theresa discovered the challenges of stereotypes that kept many women out of the world of art. It took a lot of courage to go against choosing one of the expected careers for women to become a competitor to the great artists of her day. Fortunately, her parents, Jewish immigrants, recognized her talent and encouraged her art. She won a scholarship to the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. Dealing with the prejudices from those who felt women should be relegated to the home, and with her parents’ blessings, she moved to New York City where she encountered the group of eight and the Ashcan artists. She married a fellow artist, William Meyerowitz, and both became members of the same artists organizations. She was able to exhibit work, such as The Elevated, (photo provided) with the group of eight and other Ashcan artists.
She worked to help the suffrage movement and other women’s rights organizations. She was aware of the prejudices against women and even in some cases signed her work as T. Bernstein to obscure the gender of the artist. Worthy of note is her painting The Elevated in that it includes her father as the newspaper reader, while her mother is painted in her extravagant hat, and is closest to our view. Other members of her family were also included as models in this extraordinary painting. But in defending others against discrimination, she, herself, did become attacked by prejudice. One art group, The Salmagundi Art Club, rescinded their invitation to be a member once they discovered the art work was done by a woman. The painting is now in the collection of The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, Calif., and revered greatly
Like most Ashcan artists, her work was characterized as Urban Realism. Her marriage to William Meyerowitz in 1919, a Russian immigrant, provided some protection and good exposure for her work including an introduction to the most modern trends. Bernstein and Meyerowitz had a non-competitive and comfortable marriage, however; she often put his work and career above her own. She wrote poems to him and created several portraits of her husband, who also supported her art efforts.
Bernstein’s professional career was long-lived. She died in 2002, an incredible 111 years of age. She meant much to the women’s right to vote coalition and other causes that meant the repression of women in the various professions. But most of all, if you can, search the internet and view more of her Ashcan Urban Realism giving us a wonderful view of New York City and its’ environs. She saved many of these views of those times for us to enjoy. She gave us a viewpoint that was unique and continued to paint well into her long, successful lifetime.
FUTURE AND CURRENT EVENTS:
- Christi Ziebarth, Warsaw City Hall, through October, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Oke, Johnson at LAA gallery, Warsaw, Oct. 7 – 30
- LAA Fall member show Nov. 2 – 30
- LAA Christmas Boutique Dec. 1 – 19
- Whiko Art Gallery, Pierceton, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 pm.