Born in Philadelphia in 1890, Theresa Bernstein showed early talent and interest in art. At the age of seventee1n, she won a Board of Education scholarship to attend the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, now the Moore College of Art, studying under Elliott Daingerfield, Daniel Garber, Harriet Sartain, Henry B. Snell and Samuel Murray. After her parents moved to New York City in 1911, she studied with William Merritt Chase at the Art Students League in New York City. In the 1920s, along with John Sloan, she helped form the Society of Independent Artists.
Bernstein was among the youngest of the urban realist painters, later known as the Ashcan School, to embrace what was then a bold modernist subject: city life as she observed it in the streets and public gathering places.
The artist’s first solo exhibition was at the Milch Gallery in New York City in 1919. Bernstein also enjoyed countless exhibitions throughout the United States, and her work is represented in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the National Museum of American Art, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Jewish Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, among others.
Bernstein’s powerfully organized, often monumental canvases of everyday people at concerts, parade or the beach have illuminated each decade of the 20th century and establish her as a unique genre painter with her own style of Modernism.